The 2023 Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship bangs right back into gear this weekend as we head for Round 3 and and to what has been a long-time competitor favourite on the Irish Forestry calendar, the Moonraker Forest Rally! Based out of Ballvourney, the Munster Car Club event returns on Sunday following a last-minute postponement in April due to the tragic passing of Craig Breen.
A bumper entry, many of whom have been added to what was already set to be a cracker of days rallying is testament to the regard in which the event is held but crews right through the field, and chatting to a lot of the registered Championship competitors there is a real buzz of excitement to leave for Sunday morning’s opening 5.2km test.
In most cases, the pre-event chatter would have been dominated by Mark Donnelly & Sean Ferris as the pair head South once more looking to maintain the form that has seen them claim victory on both opening rounds of the 2023 season, but the late entry of 2022 Champions Patrick O’Brien & Stephen O’Brien has really caused a stir.
Donnelly & O’Brien will likely be looking to benchmark themselves against each other, but they have plenty more crews aiming to make a mark on proceedings. Vivian Hamill & Andrew Grennan will be buoyed by a podium finish at Round 2 in Tipperary, as will Jordan Hone & Paul Hone who beat Hamill to the 2nd step of the podium in Cahir.
The podium pair alongside Donnelly from Round 1 are also headed to the Moonraker, with the remarkably quick learning Ryan Caldwell & Arthur Kierans alongside Stevie McCann & Tommy Hayes amongst the leading seeds, as well as previous double champion Owen Murphy & Anthony Nestor and Championship regulars Conor McCourt & Caolan McKenna.
With eight stages in prospect, the battles right across the field are set to be razor sharp with every tenth of a second vital in claiming Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship points. In the 2WD section, Mickey Conlon & Paul McPhillips lead the seedings, but should expect so incredible battles across the stages with Shane McGirr & Denver Rafferty boosted by a win in Tipperary, while Mike O’Connor Jr. & Barry Attridge will be looking to avenge a mechanical issue laden event last time out.
The Junior 1000 field is once more absolutely brimming with young talent, with 18 crews entered for what’s set to be a thrilling battle in the Forestry surrounding Ballyvourney. All eyes will be on the times being set by Jack Kennedy & Colin O’Toole and Tommy Moffett & Domhnall Lennon with the pair of crews both tasting victory this season.
Behind them, Jack Harris & Aaron O’Regan, Ross Ryan & Peter Keohane and Tommy Cronin & Karl Egan will all look to build on podium finishes achieved so far this year as they aim to build a points tally, while another to look out for is the late entrant Kallum Graffin & Richard Morton Crozier, the newcomer this year showing some real pace on the opening events.
The action kicks off early Sunday morning, with the first of the J1000 crews leaving the Naomh Aban GAA complex at 8am with a 66.9km route, over 8 high-speed loose surface stages, being the longest of the season to date.
The 2023 Sligo Pallets Irish Forest Rally Championship Calendar:
Round 1 – 19th Feb – Killarney Forest Rally
Round 2 – 14th May – Tipperary Sean Conlon Forest Rally
Round 3 – 25th June – Moonraker Forest Rally
Round 4 – 20th Aug – Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally
Round 5 – 2nd Sep – Lakelands Forest Rally
Round 6 – 16th Sep – The Bushwhacker Rally
Round 7 – 8th Oct – Willie Loughman Carrick-on-Suir Forest Rally