The competitors headed north for round five of the 2015 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forestry Championship, for the Enniskillen Motor Club’s Lakeland Stages Rally, where they were greeted with good weather, an entry of over one hundred cars and eight stages in good condition.
It was to be a dramatic day, not least for championship leader Mick O’Brien in his Focus WRC. It was his first visit to the Fermanagh forests, and he found the car weaving on the fast sections- but more worrying was a two minute time loss with a puncture on stage three, dropping him into the thirties. He resurrected seventeen place by the finish. “I just drove to get some points” said Mick.” I think we were back in thirty-first after six stages, so we climbed a bit. Owen didn’t show today, so Josh would be the main contender now. He would need to score well on the final two rounds, as he has no more scores to drop, but certainly the title race is still on. It just wasn’t a great day for us today, although we enjoyed the rally.” Josh Moffett in his Group A Evo 9, took a fine second place, no major dramas, just a fan to be replaced at service and a clip with a chicane. “It was a great event, great stages. We weren’t going to race Sam today, but I’m happy enough, as we could relax a bit and enjoy the final stages” said Josh. An added bonus is that he claims maximum Valvoline points.
It was a day of some drama, as the first loop claimed a few victims. Niall Henry retired with a transmission noise in the S9 Impreza, whilst brother Desi put the Skoda S2000 off the road for over two minutes on stage two. “She just locked up on a square left over crest and nosed into the ditch” said Desi, who eventually climbed back to ninth. Andrew Purcell who jointly led after two stages, retired with rear diff failure on the third Ballintempo stage. Gerard Lucey had lost time with a puncture on stage one, but was enjoying the stages, as was Andrew Fanning. “Great rally, very challenging, and it worked well for us for championship points finishing ahead of Gerard and Micky today. I was a bit cautious this morning, also knowing that we had no reverse gear if I over-shot, but it went much better this afternoon.”
It was Frank Kelly nine seconds in front of Shane McGirr in the two wheel drive race. “I think I’m losing a bit on the high speed bumps” said Shane. “The Starlet is a fair bit shorter and I feel that’s where I’m backing off, but it’s still brilliant out there!” An early retirement with electrical failure was David Crossen, which left the way clear for Micky Conlon to wrap up the Valvoline 2wd title. He initially felt he was “tiddling”, but was set to pick up the pace, overtaking a hard trying John Gordon in the afternoon. It looks like Micky he claimed the championship spoils, with scores on each of the five rounds.
Junior leader Patrick O’Brien had made a rapid start in his C2 R2, but slid off on stage three losing two minutes. However he lead the Junior race into the final stage, when a more serious off, took a wheel off and left Ian Downey in his Corsa the delighted recipient of the two Kumho Tyres from Ears Motorsport Ireland. Second placed Alan Moran in his 206 Cup Car now moves into the coveted Junior series lead, after another consistent showing.
The two wheel drive battle was won by Frank Kelly in fourth overall. Fourteen seconds behind in fifth was top Valvoline two wheel drive scorer Shane McGirr. “More speed needed maybe!” said Shane. “No it was a great event, one the best rallies I have ever done in fact. That long Ballintempo stage was one of the best in Ireland.” Just three seconds back in an amazing sixth was Paul Barrett in his Pinto MK2 Historic Escort, with Jon Armstrong seventh in his 208 R2. Hugh McQuaid had a great run to fourteenth and first in class five.
The winners however after a faultless showing where Sam Moffett and James Fulton in the Fiesta WRC. “It was class today” said Sam. “That Big Dog stage was class, with those high speed jumps. A great event and no problems to report.”
Next on the calendar is the Mayo Forest Rally on the 18th October, before the season finale in November on the Glens of Antrim event.
2015 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forestry Rally Championship- Round Five
1st Sam Moffett James Fulton Ford Fiesta WRC 37m 52.0s
2nd Josh Moffett Jason McKenna Mitsubishi Evo 9 +21s
3rd Jonny Greer Kirsty Riddick Citroen DS3 R5 +1m 01s
4th Frank Kelly David Vance Ford Escort MK2 +1m 56s
5th Shane McGirr Jackie Elliott Toyota Starlet +2m10s
6th Paul Barrett Glenn Alcorn Ford Escort MK2 +2m13s
7th Jon Armstrong Noel O’Sullivan Jnr Peugeot 208 R2 +2m39s
8th Jonny Leonard Niall Burns Mitsubishi Evo 6 +2m43s
9th Desi Henry Liam Moynihan Skoda Fabia S2000 +2m48s
10th Niall McCullagh Ryan McCloskey Mitsubishi Evo 6 +2m52s
Provisional Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forestry Rally Championship Points
after Round Five:
1 Michael O’Brien 91pts
2 Michael Conlon 78
3 Gerard Lucey 64
4 John Gordon 60
= Josh Moffett 60
6 Andrew Fanning 53
7 Niall Henry 52
8 Hugh McQuaid 43
9 Owen Murphy 42
10 Ian Graham 41
For more information including registration details for the series visit- http://www.irishforestrally.com
F: Irish Forestry Championship T:@IrlForestchamp
Main Image “Josh Moffett & Jason McKenna- 2nd overall & top Valvoline points scorers”- Image from Barron Pix