Following on from a superb third overall in the Circuit of Ireland, Josh Moffett took his first win in a WRC car when he finished the Monaghan Stages just over five seconds ahead of his older brother Sam, both in identical Fiesta WRC cars. This feat came just two years after Sam took his first win in a WRC car on the same event. There had been talk of a three in a row, where Sam, the current leader of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship would be the dominant force on his home event yet again, but it was Josh who took the victory in the 2015 Hillgrove Hotel Monaghan Stages Rally. Before the event, both drivers said that there were no team orders in place and it would be a straight battle from start to end.
Josh, who has been twice nominated for the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year award, was seeded fifth on the road in his Fiesta WRC, four places behind the other Combilift Fiesta of Sam who led the cars out onto the stages. Donagh Kelly was fresh from a victory in the Lark in the Park/Border
Hoppers Rally in Donegal the day before and started second in his Focus WRC. With Declan Boyle a non-starter at three, seven time winner Niall Maguire was next and speaking to Motorsport.ie before the event he said that the starting order reminds him of the Monaghan Stages Rally thirty years ago, where just like today he started between two Moffetts; Robert, Sam and Josh’s father, and Maurice, their uncle. Peadar Hurson was sixth in a Subaru having come close last year in an Escort WRC. Stephen Wright started seventh in his Fiesta R5+, with series sponsor Kevin Barrett, Alan Ring, John Stone and Frank Wray rounding off the WRC entries.
Based out of Monaghan town, the rally was made up of a compact route that saw competitors tackle three loops of three stages. A funeral midway through the second stage saw it’s distance cut by over half which made for a rally where being awake from the off was key.
It was Sam Moffett who was quickest out of the blocks on the opening stage by two tenths, but an overshoot at the start of the second stage dropped him down to third by the first service. Josh admitted that he wasn’t as fast as he could have went on Stage Two but arrived in service 3.7 seconds ahead of Donagh Kelly.
On the second loop of stages, Josh increased his lead despite having a collision with a hedge. Sam climbed back to second and was determined to make back some of the time he lost in the first part of the morning. Kelly in third was quick to praise the speed of the Moffett brothers but with less than two seconds between him and Sam, he said he hadn’t given up just yet. Peadar Hurson tweaked the suspension of his Subaru and was beginning to feel more comfortable in fourth. Having not driven a car in anger since last year’s Monaghan Stages Rally, Hurson was pleased with his performance.
Like he had promised, Sam wasn’t ready to quit and a fastest time on Stage Seven saw the deficit halved. It wasn’t enough however; as Josh held on to take the win. Donagh Kelly was almost eight seconds further back, with Peadar Hurson finishing fourth. Stephen Wright took fifth in his R5+ Fiesta, and speaking after the event he said he was very happy with his performance throughout the day and the extra miles with the “Plus Kit” has given him a boost in confidence of the car for the next events. Gary McPhillips and Declan Gallagher were in battle all day for the top two wheel drive honours. McPhillips had been leading through the day but his engine gave up in the closing part of the final stage to give Gallagher the victory. Gallagher was meant to compete in the Toyota GT86 for the event, but it wasn’t ready in time so he graced the stages in his famous Starlet.
The Moffett brothers now get a break before they pack their cars off to the Azores Rally for the next round of the European Rally Championship, while back at home the next round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship is the Circuit of Munster at the end of May.
Below is a link to my interviews, beginning with Josh Moffett pre event:
until the next time,