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Cork Forest Rally PREVIEW

With three exciting events in the bag, the 2023 Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship has been chock full of drama so far this year as we head to this weekend fourth round, the Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally.

At the head of the Championship, the battle for the Irish Forest title is razor sharp with just a single point separating Mark Donnelly and Ryan Caldwell, with both having tasted success already this year. For Donnelly, he started his campaign perfectly by claiming victory on the Killarney Forest Rally and the Sean Conlon Tipperary Forest Rally.

An off-day on Round 3, the Moonraker Forest Rally, saw Donnelly bring his Ford Fiesta R5 home in 5th place, allowing rivals to claw some of his point advantage back. Chief among them was Ryan Caldwell, the Motorsport Ireland Academy driver racing to a dominant victory on what was only his third appearance on Gravel in the R317 Motorsport run Skoda Fabia R5.

Right behind the leading pair are last year’s Championship runner-up Jordan Hone, who’s season was boosted by a strong 2nd place finish in Tipperary, while Vivian Hamill, Niall McCullagh and championship debutant Stevi McCann all remain in with a chance having finished in the podium places so far this season.

In the 2WD battle, each of our three rounds so far have seen a different winner crowned, but its Shane McGirr in the incredible Lada VFTS that holds a single point advantage over long-time rival Mickey Conlon in his Ford Escort Mk2, while Killarney 2WD winner Hugh McQuaid is four points adrift having not competed on the Moonraker.

Alongside the Sligo Pallets Irish Forest Rally Championship, this weekend is a vitally important round of the 2023 Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series (MIJRS). Irelands national Mixed-Surface rally series catering to aspiring talent under the age of 25, the marquee Rally4/R2 Class has seen incredibl battles played out across both Tarmac and Gravel all year, and with only a pair of events left on the calendar we are truly at the crunch point.

With this weekend in Cork and one final Tarmac round, its Cian Caldwell who currently leads the way, holding a two-point advantage over Dylan Eves and Keelan Grogan sits third. In the J1600 class, its been a year of utter domination by Jack McKenna, with a 100% win rate on Tarmac backed up by a really strong showing on his first ever Gravel Rally at the Moonraker.

Of all the battles though, the tightest of all looks set to be played out in the J1000 series, where some of the true stars of tomorrow are tied in a pair of truly captivating battles. In the Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship, Tommy Moffett leads the way in Class 21 but he has Ross Ryan only three points behind, while Kallum Graffin sits in third in a remarkable rookie season.

In the MIJRS battle though, its truly a two-horse race between Moffett and Tommy Cronin, with the latter knowing anything less than victory on the final two rounds of the series will see the title slip agonisingly away.

The action kicks off Sunday Morning with the first car set to leave the Mallow Autograss complex at 9am with an 8-stage, 76km route laid on by Cork Motor Club in store.



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

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