Monaghan drivers leading way at weekend

Monaghan drivers dominate the weekend’s rallying landscape with the Moffett brothers Sam (25) and Josh (22) competing in tomorrow’s Plains Rally in Wales while Stephen Wright contests the Sezoens Rally in Belgium.

Monaghan drivers leading way at weekend

In the last four years, the Drumlin county has proved a hotbed of rallying talent with both Sam Moffett and Wright along with Daniel McKenna all winning the Billy Coleman award.

For good measure, Josh Moffett has been a finalist in the last two years.

Tomorrow’s Plains Rally, a round of the popular BTRDA championship, has attracted a whopping 170 entries headed by last year’s winner Eaun Thorburn (Ford Focus WRC) and followed by the Subaru WRC pair of Dave Weston and Hugh Hunter.

The Moffett’s — Josh and Sam — are next off the start-line in what is their first outing on a gravel rally in their identical Ford Fiesta WRC’s. They are using the Welsh event as a shakedown for next month’s Rally Acores, round four of the European Rally Championship.

Sam dismissed the suggestion that they are competing in events outside of Ireland because of the power difference between their cars and the Subaru and Ford Focus WRC’s.

“We want to rally abroad while we are young, we can compete in the Irish Tarmac championship at any age. I have no problem racing anyone in the current car here at home, if the date suits us, we will do it.

“We will not be doing Donegal as the cars will be on their way to the Ypres Rally.”

With his current car up for sale, he admitted he looked at the R5 route. “It seems to be where things are going, there is good interest in my car, but we will wait until after Acores to see what happens.” Sam will be co-driven by Cork’s Karl Atkinson.

Meanwhile Josh, who beat his older brother in the recent Monaghan Rally, reckons the experience of the Welsh stages will be highly beneficial if they decide to contest Rally GB. Competing against his brother adds that extra bit of spice, “Oh, definitely, the competition between us is always very competitive.”

Both are intent on a strong programme of events in the ERC, Josh added, “We are also hoping to make it to a round of the WRC, which one is undecided yet.”

On tomorrow’s rally the younger Moffett said, “It’s hard to know what we can achieve. I suppose if we can get close to the times of the local drivers by the end of the day it would be a great achievement due to the fact we have never driven these cars on gravel.”

In Belgium, Stephen Wright (Ford Fiesta R5) will have the vastly experienced Belgian co-pilot, Eddy Smeets calling the pacenotes. “I teamed up with Eddy last year for a pre-event shakedown and I was very impressed with his knowledge and ability to adapt quickly to my style of pacenotes.”

Last year Wright competed in six events in the R2 category of the Belgian Championship but this will be his first outing in the Sezoens Rally that consists of 15 stages – a quarter of which are on gravel surface. The entry includes top Belgian aces, Freddy Loix, Kris Princen and Vincent Verschuren.

In motor racing, Cork’s Matt Griffin and his British teammates Duncan Cameron and Aron Scott compete in Sunday’s LMGTE category of the 4 Hours of Imola, round two of the European Le Mans Series. The track seems to be a happy hunting ground for Griffin. “I have a good history at Imola, it really is a great driver’s track and rewards you for being really aggressive. The plan is to go back and repeat what I did in 2013 (winning the category) but the competition will be fierce.” It’s one of the few major circuits to run in an anti-clockwise direction and is renowned for its high-speed straights and technical corners, including the infamous Tamburello Curve. Tomorrow’s itinerary features two practice sessions, qualifying takes place on Sunday morning with the race starting at 2pm.

Elsewhere, thousands of spectators are expected at tomorrow’s North West 200 motorcycle races over the 8.9-mile triangular circuit connecting Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart. The Dunlop brothers, Michael and Robert and Alastair Seeley, who dominated the practice sessions earlier this week, will all be chasing victories in Superbike races.

Motorsport Ireland will host a seminar for their senior officials at their headquarters in Dawson Street, Dublin on Sunday.

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