The withdrawal of top seed and last year’s winner Darragh O’Riordan due to business commitments means that Josh Moffett’s Ford Fiesta WRC will run first on the road. The younger of the Monaghan brothers had his first taste of a WR car on last year’s Sligo Rally and capped it with a fine win in dry conditions.
His second outing in very different weather conditions was on the Fastnet Rally in Bantry and he opted for safety to secure third overall.
This year’s highlights include a fine third overall on the European Rally Championship Circuit of Ireland and a few weeks later, on his home event, he edged out his older brother Sam in a thrilling battle. Both brothers enjoy a healthy rivalry and that should ensure a good contest over the nine stages in Clonmel.
Last June, both competed in a round of the European Rally Championship in Ypres, where Josh had a spectacular roll and hasn’t competed since.
“I want to finish an event again, the accident in Ypres affected my confidence and I can’t afford to do that again. I really just want to get a good finish.”
Time on-board the Ford Fiesta WRCs is running out for the Moffett pair as they will switch to R5 cars for the 2016 season. Josh remains undecided as to what car he will drive — a Fiesta, Citroen or a Skoda are all in the mix.
“I haven’t made up my mind which one, but the Skoda will not be available until mid season.”
On the subject of the Tarmac Rally Organisers Association (TROA) banning WR cars from winning the series, Josh is aware it has caused a rift within the sport.
“Without a doubt, I don’t know what they (TROA) could have done, but they still allow WR cars to win the rallies.”
For the moment, that issue will be parked up, as he will also use Sunday’s event as a shakedown for next week’s Todd’s Leap Ulster Rally.
Meanwhile, Sam will be in shakedown mode as well as having another reason for competing in Clonmel.
“We need to sort the set-up as we have a few problems. Josh is going very well at the moment, I enjoy any rivalry, but with Josh there it adds a spark.”
On the subject of the R5 cars he added: “Whatever it is, it will be the same for both of us.”
Welsh driver Steve Wood (Subaru WRC), who was third in last year’s rally, will find it hard to beat the Moffett pair. London-based Cork driver Michael O’Brien makes another trip across the Irish Sea, his last journey to the Waterford based Raven’s Rock Rally last June was very productive.
With Cork’s Liam Brennan calling the notes, O’Brien guided his Ford Focus WRC home in fourth place. West Cork driver Daniel Cronin has abandoned his plan to contest the rally, as the rear differential of his Subaru WRC will not be ready in time.
Having acquired a Skoda Fabia S2000 in recent weeks, Antrim’s Desi Henry and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan will give the car its debut in Clonmel. The two-wheel drive contingent will be led by Meath’s Pat Donegan and opposition will be provided by the likes of Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien and Monaghan’s Mickey Conlon in similar Ford Escorts. Cahir’s Don Keating (Subaru) is seeded at number 10.
In Group N, Cashel’s Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi EvoIX) will face the similar cars of Clonmel’s Patrick Kearney and Andrew Kearney, both in the colours of event sponsor Sepam. The rally will also feature the debut of Kilkenny’s Joe Connolly in his M-Sport built Red Mills liveried Ford Fiesta R5, the first time that he will compete in a four-wheel drive car.
Based at the Clonmel Park Hotel, the first stage starts at 9.43am; servicing is at the Powerstown Racecourse complex and the event finishes at the Clonmel Park Hotel at 5.25pm.
Meanwhile, the Welsh government has guaranteed its continued support of Wales Rally GB until the end of 2018. The association began in 2003 and since then the event has been known as Wales Rally GB.
In recent months there was speculation about the UK’s round of the World Rally Championship moving its base to Yorkshire, while the Circuit of Ireland was also mooted as a replacement — both possibly to exert pressure on the Welsh government to tie up a new deal.
The rally is estimated to be worth £10m to the Welsh economy, along with the business, tourism and many other commercial benefits to the country.