The third round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship, the Moonraker Forest Rally run by the Munster Car Club, will have added spice this weekend with the addition of Keith Cronin in his Citroen DS3 R5 and Daragh O’Riordan in his Fiesta WRC to a quality entry list. For former British Champion- Cronin it’s an outing before Rally Portugal to acclimatise to the new car on gravel and for Daragh it’s a chance for the former Killarney and Cork 20 International winner to take to the loose, for sixty-four kilometres of forestry rallying. Also returning to the forests is the 2014 Valvoline champion, Owen Murphy in his Evo 9, all giving the series regulars something to think about.
Indeed championship leaders Mick O’Brien and co-driver James O’Brien in their Ford Focus WRC ended up third on round two in Donegal, but won the opening round in Carrick on Suir, and Mick is looking forward to the rally. “It’s great to see Keith Cronin out and I’m sure he will be going at some pace, as indeed will the likes of Andrew Purcell and Josh Moffett, who really showed what they could do in Donegal. We are hoping that the Moonraker stages will be flowing type of roads, to suit us and the car better, but I believe that there are big ditches, a bit like Kielder forest in England that can swallow up a rally car! We need to keep it clean, but go as hard as we can, not easy! I’m looking forward to it though, it’s a great championship this year, with great competition” said Mick from his London plant hire business. Donegal winner Andrew Purcell, and Josh Moffett fresh from a superb third place on the Circuit of Ireland are both Evo 9 mounted as is Niall Henry, who now lies second in the driver’s series after two good showings. His brother Desi has suffered car problems on both opening rounds in his S9 Impreza, and is eager to score well this Sunday over the eight stages, whilst local driver Gerard Lucey could spring a surprise in his Evo 8, especially after a well-deserved third place on round one. A fine fourth in the series standings is Tipperary’s Andrew Fanning on his first season in a four wheel drive Evo. Another contender for overall honours will be Martin Cairns in his S14 WRC Impreza.
The two-wheel drive championship is being led convincingly by Micky Conlon in his 2 litre Escort after two maximum scores which actually leaves the Castleblayney driver third overall in the points. He was under pressure from similarly mounted David Crossen in Donegal, before gearbox trouble struck to County Down driver, and that battle will be joined by James Coleman in his 2.5 MK2 Escort who showed well on the opening stages in Carrick. MK2 mounted are John Gordon, Alan Atcheson, David Condell and former Junior champion Dean Raftery brings his R2 Fiesta, to further add to the two wheel drive race. In the Junior section round two winner Patrick O’Brien in his C2 R2 is the top seed, with round one winner Kevin Eves not starting. Shane Kennelly from Waterford and Monaghan’s Derek Mackrel will also be fighting for that prize of two Kumho tyres from Ears Motorsport Ireland for the top registered crew. Indeed registrations are still open at this event for the Valvoline championship which takes a break until August after this round.
The Moonraker event has attracted sixty-three crews a significant improvement on last season’s forty-nine starters and with dedicated TV coverage the sideways action will be captured once again.
2015 Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Calendar
Round 1 – Willie Loughman Carrick on Suir Forest Rally (1st March)
Round 2 – Donegal Forest Rally (21st March)
Round 3 – Munster CC Moonraker Forest Rally (12th April)
Round 4 – Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally (23rd August)
Round 5 – Enniskillen Lakelands Forest Rally (5th September)
Round 6 – Mayo Forest Rally (18th October)
Round 7 – Glens of Antrim Forest Rally (7th November)
Image from www.barronpix.com