Josh Moffett all out to thwart Michael O’Brien

The Valvoline National Forestry Rally Championship reaches its penultimate stage on Sunday with the Mayo Forest Rally. Though there is a 31-point difference between series leader and former champion Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC) and his main rival, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Mitsubishi), the latter can land the title should he prevail on Sunday and again on the final round in Antrim early next month.

O’Brien won the opening round in Carrick-on-Suir and didn’t drop outside the top three championship positions until the last round in Enniskillen where an errant handling Ford Focus and a puncture took its toll, as Moffett netted maximum points.

However, Moffett, in his Group A Mitsubishi Evo IX, missed one round and can only drop one score, unlike O’Brien, who can avail of the best five from seven events. The terrain in Mayo this weekend will be new to all of the championship regulars.

The race for third rests between Monaghan’s Micky Conlon (Ford Escort), who has already secured the Valvoline two-wheel drive award, and Ballyvourney’s Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi), but Antrim’s Niall Henry (Subaru WRC) is also in contention.

Meanwhile, Mayo’s Alan Moran (Peugeot 206) leads the Junior series from Patrick O’Brien (Citroen C2R2), Derek Mackrel (Vauxhall Nova) and Dylan Curley (Ford Fiesta). Based in Ballina, the first stage is at 1.07pm, the finish is scheduled for 4.45pm.

Elsewhere, there is a strong Irish contingent in tomorrow’s Cambrian Rally in north Wales, a round of the BTRDA Rally series. Both Moffett brothers, Josh and Sam in their identical Ford Fiesta WRC’s, compete as a shakedown for Rally GB along with Ulsterman Jonny Greer (Citroen DS3 R5). Galwegian Dean Raftery’s (Citroen DS3R3) prime objective is to gain seat time ahead of his outing in Rally GB, the final round of the World Rally Championship.

Last year’s Billy Coleman award winner Raftery (23) has registered for the FIA Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC). His only outing to date was on Rally Portugal, but that was short-lived due to an engine problem that has since been fixed by Citroen.

Raftery will be co-driven by former National Championship winning co-driver Mayo’s John Higgins. Cork racer Matt Griffin and teammate Duncan Cameron will battle for the LMGTE title in the European Le Mans Series that ends with the 4 Hours of Estoril Sunday.

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