Josh Moffett does enough for Irish Forest Rally Championship title

The Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship went down to the final stage of the final round, the Glens of Antrim Rally, where fourth place was enough for Monaghan’s Josh Moffett to lift the crown after his only title rival, former champion Michael O’Brien, slid his Ford Focus WRC off the track towards the end of the final stage.

Josh Moffett does enough for Irish Forest Rally Championship title

The rally was won by Mark Donnelly (Subaru WRC). On the first stage Desi Henry (Subaru WRC) set the pace and led O’Brien by 4.1 seconds with Donnelly 1.6 seconds further behind and a fraction of a second ahead of Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC).

Moffett (Mitsubishi) was eighth overall — fourth in championship terms and shy of a championship-winning position.

Donnelly punched in the best time on SS 2 to move to within a second of leader Henry with O’Brien some 19.8 seconds further behind. Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia S2000) was fourth, with Moffett improving to occupy fifth place.

On the repeat of both stages Donnelly was quickest and took the lead, 13.4 seconds ahead of Henry, who thumped his Subaru WRC and damaged the front wishbone, and with no spare he was forced to retire at service.

O’Brien, Martin Cairns and Moffett, who lost time with a puncture, were next, Henry’s demise boosted Moffett’s title bid. McCormack retired with a broken rear suspension.

Donnelly stretched his lead on the penultimate stage and O’Brien was on course to take maximum points, with the championship situation delicately poised. However, it all went wrong for O’Brien on the final stage when he slid his Ford Focus off the forest tracks close to the stage finish and Moffett claimed the title.

In event terms Donnelly ran out winner, a minute and 15.3 seconds ahead of Cairns, with McKinstry 13.7 seconds further behind in third.

Elsewhere, Cork driver Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi) did enough to claim third in the championship, his nemesis Micky Conlon (Escort) crashing on the final stage.

The junior category was won by Patrick O’Brien (Citroen C2R2), who also clinched the category in the championship that carried a Billy Coleman award nomination.

Meanwhile, the Banna Beach Resort Kerry Rally was won by Cavan’s Stephen McCann (Mitsubishi), who was co-driven by Killarney’s Damien Fleming. They finished 5.5 seconds in front of defending champions Daniel Cronin/Shane Buckley (Subaru WRC).

On the opening stage near Ballyduff there was only six tenths of a second between McCann and Cronin, with Ed O’Callaghan 4.5 seconds further behind. However, just before the first junction of the second stage O’Callaghan crashed and rolled his Escort — temporarily blocking the stage, with some competitors awarded Cronin’s time for the stage.

That meant the margin between the top pair remained the same, while Trevor Mulligan (Escort) slotted into third place, 19.5 seconds further behind and just 1.1 seconds ahead of Fergus O’Meara (Ford Escort), on his first outing in over six months.

By SS 4 McCann had stretched his lead to 12.1 seconds. At service a misfire in his Mitsubishi was sorted by replacing two sensors. Cronin was concerned about the engine temperature of his Subaru WRC.

Mulligan retained third but a charging Jack Newman (Escort), who had a moment with a chicane bale, closed to within a tenth of second. O’Meara was 8.2 seconds further behind in fifth with Russell Woods (Escort) completing the top six.

Gaining a mere second on the penultimate stage, McCann went on to claim his inaugural rally win. He had an anxious moment on the final stage when he overshot and dropped time, but he had enough of a cushion to take victory, with Cronin and Mulligan completing the top three.

Newman, Woods, and O’Meara completed the top six. Elsewhere, Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi) clinched the Top Part West Coast Rally Championship.

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