Following an exciting first round of the 2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship on the Willie Loughman Memorial Forest Rally, where just 0.6 of a second separated the winner Josh Moffett and brother Sam Moffett in their R5 Fiestas, round two is shaping up to be just as exciting. Saturday will see the forest rally crews tackle the classic Moonraker Rally stages as Clerk of the course Ger Seaman and his team from the Munster Car Club have assembled an eight stage event which has attracted an impressive entry.
Many are making the journey for the Ballyvourney start and the four wheel drive field is bulging. Round one winner Josh Moffett is returning from a truly heroic performance on the European Rally Championship Rally Azores event, where he finished an excellent third overall and with this sort of match fitness and pace in his R5 Fiesta, he will be very difficult for anyone to beat. However his brother Sam will be looking to avenge the round one result, and the older of the two Monaghan siblings has often come out on top, and he has entered in their WRC Fiesta, and the advantage in power could be a help on the fast sections. It’s a fabulous Fabia R5 starting at number one however, as 2016 Valvoline champion, and winner of last year’s Moonraker – Desi Henry will lead the field away. The Skoda R5 ranks are backed up by Marty McCormack’s appearance in his R5 Fabia, and he is becoming more used to his new mount, a big change from last year’s Super 2000. Four wheel drive technology of a different era in the shape of the Toyota Corolla WRC is being represented by Adrian Hetherington – eager for his first 4wd win and John Reid’s example, but can these cars of the 90’s compete with the modern R5 machines? The Mitsubishi Evo brigade is being led away by local hero Ger Lucey in his venerable Evo 8, and Ger is never to be discounted. Jonny Leonard, Conor McCourt and Dermot Kelly are amongst the other Evo runners who could throw a cat amongst the pigeons, whilst Belfast’s Liam Regan is back in the series with the Evo engined Peugeot 206 4×4.
The Valvoline two-wheel drive battle started off with Comber’s David Crossen in the MK2 Escort as victor on round one, staving off a challenge from John Gordon and Shane McGirr who broke down on the third stage. So far on this round, his main challenge looks to be coming from former champion Micky Conlon, as John Gordon is away on holiday, and Shane McGirr has yet to enter. Shane used the Toyota Starlet successfully last weekend on a forest event in the Isle of Man finishing third overall and first two wheel drive.
The Valvoline Junior section in the main field is shaping up to be a titanic race, as they chase that Billy Coleman Award nomination. Round one victor Shane Kenneally in his Honda Civic will be a key runner, as will Stephen Dickson in the R2 Fiesta. However the ever rapid Derek Mackeral needs points on the board after a first round non-finish in his Vauxhall Nova, and adding to the class sixteen mix are the entries of David Beamish in his Vauxhall Corsa and William Creighton in the Peugeot 208 R2.
The new M. O’Brien Plant Hire Junior 1000 class for 16-18 year olds, made it’s debut on the Carrick On Suir Forest event, and Jason Murphy took victory in his Peugeot 107 ahead of the similar C-Sport machine of Alex Byrne. Both are competing again and looking forward to have a real go on the Moonraker stages. The possible rally stars of the future will be watching with interest the fortunes of WRC driver’s Craig Breen and Kris Meeke on the tarmac of Corsica this weekend, as the Junior 1000 class enables young rally driver’s to gain a real head start for their future rallying careers. With a fabulous prize of a drive in an R2 car on a 2018 Irish Forest Rally round, entry vouchers for the top three on each round: €200 euro to first place, €125 euro to 2nd place and €75 euro to third place and Ears Motorsport putting up tyres as prizes, it’s a very inviting class which is set to grow during it’s induction year.
Once again we would like to give special thanks to all our sponsors – Valvoline, Andrew Fanning Motor Factors, M. O’Brien Plant Hire, Suirway Group Forklifts & Farm Machinery, Jelf Motorsport Insurance, Exact Signs & Graphics, Pottinger Machinery, Ears Motorsport / Kumho Tyres, Colton Pump & Heating Services, Coillte, Concept Fire Services Ltd, Gordon Automotive Services, Barron Pix & SVS Incar Cameras.
2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship-Round 2- Top Ten Seeds
1 Desi Henry/Liam Moynihan (Skoda Fabia R5)
2 Sam Moffett/Karl Atkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC)
3 Josh Moffett/Stephen Tornton (Ford Fiesta R5)
4 Marty McCormick/David Moynihan (Skoda Fabia R5)
5 Gerard Lucey/JJ Cremin (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8)
6 Adrian Hetherington/Gary Nolan (Toyota Corolla WRC)
7 Darren McKelvey/Aaron Johnson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9)
8 Johnny Leonard/Niall Burns (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo)
9 Liam Regan/David McElroy (Peugeot 206 4×4)
10 John Reid/Enda Shiels (Toyota Corolla WRC)
2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship- Points After Round 1
1 Josh Moffett 21 pts
2 Sam Moffett 19
3 Desi Henry 18
4 Marty McCormack 17
5 Adrian Hetherington 16
6 Pat O’Connell 15
7 Jonny Leonard 14
8 Ger Lucey 13
9 Martin Cairns 12
10 Liam Regan 11
2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship-Rounds
Round 1 – 12th February- Carrick on Suir Forest Rally
Round 2 – 8th April- Moonraker Forest Rally
Round 3 – 13th May- Donegal Forest Rally
Round 4 – 30th July-Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally
Round 5 – 2nd September-Enniskillen Lakeland Stages Rally
Round 6 – 14th October-Rathfriland MC Down Forest Rally
Image from www.barronpix.com