Murphy’s Moonraker as O’Brien Strengthens Valvoline Series Lead!
Round three of the 2015 Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship, was the Munster Car Club’s Moonraker Forest Rally, based in Ballyvourney. It was a wet start for the eight stage event, and occasional slippery patches made conditions difficult to read initially.
As many expected it was Keith Cronin who took the early advantage. The former British Rally Champion had Shane Buckley on the notes in the Citroen DS3 R5. It was not a case of dominance as after three tests, they had a slim three second over last year’s Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Champion, Owen Murphy. His Evo 9 was handling well, but things were getting a little heated as the water temperature was starting to go off the clock! Both Donegal Forest winner Andrew Purcell and Josh Moffett in similar cars were very close behind, and both moved ahead when Murphy lost thirty seconds nursing his car through the fourth test as a loose turbo pipe added to the woes. Although Murphy continued after service, Purcell was in bigger trouble, missing three gears by this stage, and he retired before stage five. That left Josh Moffett in second but now over twenty-five seconds behind Cronin who was finding his feet with the DS3 on gravel, and survived a major moment on stage three. That learning curve was made easier as conditions dried up and his lead over Josh was extended to forty-four seconds after stage six, but that was the end of Moffett’s challenge retiring in service. Owen Murphy was over one minute twenty seconds back with two stages remaining, but there was further mechanical mayhem as Keith Cronin’s pretty DS3 broke down on the penultimate stage, handing Owen Murphy a nineteen second lead over Daragh O’Riordan in his WRC Fiesta. Amidst all the drama Mick O’Brien would climb to third in the Focus WRC, and more importantly retain his series lead. Mick picked up second placed points, as O’Riordan elected not to register. Mick’s third place was far from easy however, as an inspired run by Gerard Lucey and JJ Cremin in their Evo 8, had them in third going into the final stage. Just five seconds decided it in O’Brien’s favour, and it could be critical manoeuvre in the championship. In a distant fifth was Martin Cairns in his Subaru Impreza WRC, feeling he was a little out of practice. Micky Conlon’s sixth place in his MK2 Escort leaves him a superb second overall in the Valvoline series, with three top two wheel drive finishes, but he has to work hard for this one. Fastest two wheel drive on the first test was David Crossen but
he slid on a muddy braking area, clouted a chicane on stage two, and went OTL as an electrical wire popped off. That left Micky holding the lead, but James Coleman, who had suffered a sticking throttle on the first stage put in a mighty charge to close to within three seconds of Micky by stage six. It was top Junior Dean Raftery in his R2 Fiesta who would prove to be the real threat on the final loop as he slipped ahead of Coleman, snatching seventh place with just eight seconds covering the top three two wheel drive runners! In ninth place was Tipperary’s Andrew Fanning, and this was significant as now lies third in the championship. Stephen Cullen rounded off the top ten and won Group N in his Impreza. Other class winners included John Gordon (MK2 Escort)- class 12, Michael Fitzgibbon (MK2 Escort)-class 11F, Mike Garahy (MK2 Escort)-class 10, Emmet Lyons- (Honda Integra)-class3 and Neil Phelan (MK2 Escort)- class 9. Alan Moran in his Peugeot 206 was the top registered Valvoline Junior in eighteen place scooping two Kumho Tyres from Ears Motorsport Ireland. Round two Junior winner Patrick O’Brien retired his Citroen C2 on stage four with a broken engine mounting. It was Owen Murphy and Anthony Nestor’s day however as the failing head-gasket held out on their Evo and they scooped maximum Valvoline points with the overall win. Now there is a gap in the series, allowing the crews a break to re-fettle their machines until round four- the Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally on 23rd August.
Motorsport Ireland 2015 Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship- Round Three Results
1 Owen Murphy/Anthony Nestor Mitsubishi Evo 9 42:38.4
2 Daragh O’Riordan/Sean McCarthy Ford Fiesta WRC +0:21.8
3 Michael O’Brien/James O’Brien Ford Focus WRC +0:29.8
4 Gerard Lucey/Jj Cremin Mitsubishi Evo 8 +0:35.1
5 Martin Cairns/Gary McElhinney Subaru Impreza S14 +2:18.5
6 Michael Conlon/Ciaran McPhillips Ford Escort Mk2 +3:03.7
7 Dean Raftery/John Higgins Ford Fiesta R2 +3:07.7
8 James Coleman/Pierce (Jnr) Doheny Ford Escort Mk2 +3:11.8
9 Andrew Fanning/Derek Gibbs Mitsubishi Evo +3:21.4
10 Stephen Cullen/Seamus O’Grady Subaru Impreza +4:24.0
Provisional Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship Points after Round Three:
1 Michael O’Brien 58pts
2 Michael Conlon 49
3 Andrew Fanning 39
4 Gerard Lucey 37
5 Niall Henry 34
= John Gordon 34
Images from www.barronpix.com