Last weekend was an important one for twenty-two-year-old Jordan Hone, from Claudy, Co. Derry, as he guided his Opel Adam R2 to a superb Junior category victory on the two-day Jim Walsh Cork Forestry Rally.
“It was a magnificent event, excellent stages so flowing and a superb battle on both days, and that’s why we enjoy this sport so much! It was also extremely important to clock up those two maximum championship points scores to put our title chase back on track again” said the young Development Engineer.
The Cork event was double-points scoring round in the prestigious Valvoline Motorsport Ireland Irish National Forest Championship, a series in which Jordan took the Group N title last year, and is aiming for the coveted Junior title this year. “We knew before the Cork event that we had to produce two top scores after our troubled start to the season, and we will need two top scores on the final two Lakeland and Bushwhacker rounds also. A win in the category would also mean an automatic nomination to the Billy Coleman Award, and that is a goal for us, as that award would help us next season to attack the British Rally Championship and maybe some foreign events.”
Indeed, the Cork event saw quite a race for Junior honours with Derek Mackeral taking the initial lead in his Nova, before Jordan got in front on stage three. When Mackeral had his issues on stage five Jordan had a clear run to the finish ahead of James Wilson in his Peugeot 208 R2 by over twenty five seconds. It was Wilson however who was fastest out of the blocks on Sunday morning, and so intense was the battle that 0.9 of a second separated the drivers on a fifteen-kilometre stage. On stage ten Jordan took back time, and on the next test Jordan took the fastest two-wheel drive time and eleven vital seconds of Wilson, ending the day just six seconds in front.
“We changed to a new Kumho tyre at first service on Sunday morning and that helped. In addition to our sponsors there’s been excellent product support from Dave Moynihan at Ears Motorsport which has been useful, and we got the act together in the afternoon. It’s been a substantial change this year to the front wheel drive Opel Adam R2 from the Evo 9, and additional support from TOC Utilities this year was welcome as the team have had to do a lot of sorting out with the car, particularly to get it to work well on the gravel.”
With his father Paul in the co-driver’s seat the pair started the year in the Premier Car Parts Opel with high hopes, but a broken suspension arm resulted in retirement on the first round in Carrick-on-Suir. That was followed by fourth in class on the next Limerick round, with several fastest class times already illustrating the teams progress. On the third Moonraker round they led after stage one, but a puncture on stage two and broken drive-shaft soon after resulted in another retirement. “The start of the year wasn’t the easiest, but we were making progress with the pace, and Raymond and Matthew at Rallyhire were making great strides with the car. We switched to tarmac for the Carlow Mini Stages and took first in class. It was also the first time I had made my own pace-notes for an event. That was a real turning point in the year for us”
For the Cavan Stages, a new co-driver Aileen Kelly stepped in and the pair had a tough start with a puncture on stage one but got back on the pace for the rest of the day.
“We were happy then as we were on the pace of William Creighton, Jason Black and James Wilson so we felt good going into the Donegal Junior event. We had a titanic battle with Jason Black in the Starlet all day and entered the last stage five seconds in front, only for Jason to pip us by two seconds in the end. It was a great day’s rallying and we were setting times within the top ten of the two-wheel drive boys in the main field so that was a good buzz!”
Now the team are focused on the Ulster International Rally, where the best of the British and Irish Tarmac Championship R2 competitors will cross the Antrim start-line on 17th August for two days on classic closed roads. “We are just looking forward to see what we can do and it’s shaping up to be a superb rally. Hopefully we can continue the run of good form and continue to develop in the sport.”