Leading through the six stages, Josh, co-driven by Stephen Thornton, in his Fiesta R5, finished 31 seconds ahead of the Citroen DS3 R5 of Jonny Greer/Kirsty Riddick. Sam Moffett/James Fulton (Fiesta R5) were 25 seconds further behind, in third. Sam took second-placed championship points, which were enough to promote him into the lead of the Valvoline series. The Monaghan man only needs a handful of points from the final round to clinch the title and claim an unprecedented, three major Irish championships in the same season.
Not long after leaving the start line of the opening stage, Sam, who was the top seed, received a stark reminder of the uncertainties of rallying. “There was some loose gravel and I was heading for the hedge. Luckily, I got away with it. I had told Josh that if I was comfortable with the pace, I would race him, as I just didn’t want to drive around to just get championship points. That was a reality check.”
Powering his way through the 5.42-mile stage, Josh Moffett led Sam by nine seconds, with Greer a second further behind, in third, followed by the Skoda Fabia R5 of Derek McGarrity and the Subaru WRC of Kenny McKinstry, who tied with top two-wheel drive exponent, David Crossen (Escort), for fifth spot. Pre-event series leader, Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi), completed the stage in 25th place.
Fastest on the remaining two stages of the opening loop, Josh Moffett arrived at the service park with a comfortable lead of 27 seconds, as Greer snatched second position, 7.5 seconds in front of Sam Moffett. Lucey had a slight misfire, but it cost him little time; he was fifteenth.
On the repeat loop, the top three places remained unchanged.
Aside from taking victory, Josh Moffett also claimed maximum championship points. However, his older sibling, Sam, can secure championship honours by claiming a mere four points on the final round, the Bushwhacker Rally, in Tyrone, in three weeks’ time.
Lucey came home in 15th spot and took 13 championship points, but admitted he faces a difficult task to retain second in the series.
McGarrity and McKinstry were next in classification, while Martin Cairns Fiesta WRC) improved, after a slow start, to finish sixth. Crossen (Escort) won the two-wheel-drive award.
Debuting a Ford Fiesta R5, Adrian Hetherington retired on the opening stage with mechanical trouble. Johnnie Mulholland (Fiesta) crashed out on S.S. 4.
Meanwhile, London-based Cork driver, Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC), and his north Cork co-driver, James O’Brien, finished twelfth in the Woodpecker Rally, in Shropshire. In his first forest event in Britain for four years, O’Brien suffered from a lack of visibility, due to the hanging dust trail of his fellow competitors. The event, in the Radnor forest complex, was won by Cumbrian Paul Bird in his Dom Buckley Motorsport/IRS-prepared Ford Focus WRC. He finished 31 seconds ahead of the Fiesta R5 of Callum Black, with newly-crowned BTRDA champion, Stephen Petch (Fiesta WRC), finishing twelve seconds further behind, in third.
In the Naylor Engineering Hillclimb and Sprint Championship, in Donegal, Galwegain, Joe Courtney, powered his Reynard 913 to victory in Saturday’s round in Knockalla to clinch the title. He covered the 1.4-kilometre climb some 2.69 seconds quicker than the Radical SR8 of Rory Stephens. Gary Egan (Formula Renault) was just over a second further behind, in third.
Yesterday’s event was won by Dubliner, Rory Stephens (Radical SR), who finished less than a second ahead of Egan and John Donnelly (Reynard).