Motorsport: First rally win for McCourt in Munster Moonraker

Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt (Ford Fiesta R5) netted his maiden rally victory on the Abbey Hotel Munster Moonraker Rally, round three of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship.

Motorsport: First rally win for McCourt in Munster Moonraker

Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt (Ford Fiesta R5) netted his maiden rally victory on the Abbey Hotel Munster Moonraker Rally, round three of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship.

Taking the lead on the second stage and co-driven by Fermanagh’s Barry McNulty, the 27 year-old Dromore building contractor went on to finish a minute and 6.6 seconds ahead of the Citroen DS3 R5 of the Antrim/Armagh duo of Niall Henry/Damien Duffin, with another Ulster pairing Donall Sweeney/Dean O’Sullivan (Mitsubishi) some 40 seconds further behind in third.

As expected, New Yorker Barry McKenna (Ford Fiesta R5) set the pace on the short opening stage that utilised both sides of the Cork/Kerry county bounds.

McCourt reckoned his car was down on power. However, early into the second stage McKenna upended his Fiesta and retired for the second event in succession.

McCourt posted the best time to lead the Mitsubishi of his fellow Tyrone driver Patrick O’Brien, with Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings 10.8 seconds further behind in third. On the opening stage, the latter hit a bale that was guarding a concrete pillar, leaving the front of the McKinstry-hired S14 Subaru WRC somewhat less pristine. Henry was fourth ahead of local driver Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi).

On the repeat of both stages, McCourt, a little concerned about a noise emanating from the rear of the Fiesta, still went 26.8 seconds clear with Jennings into second after O’Brien retired on S.S. 4. Lucey beached his Mitsubishi on the same stage. Even though he spun, stalled, and punctured, Henry still managed to move into third, followed by Tyrone’s Donal Sweeney (Mitsubishi), who benefitted from stiffening the suspension.

Little changed on stages five and six as McCourt paced himself accordingly and enjoyed a lead of 24.3 seconds, Jennings admitted he had settled for second, with championship points very much on his agenda. Having fitted wider tyres, Henry was pleased with the outcome, while Sweeney remained fourth. Derry’s Joe Hegarty and Monaghan’s Michael Carbin, both in Mitsubishi Evos, completed the top six.

Jennings and Conor McCourt were final-stage casualties, the latter a brother of the rally winner, rolled his Fiesta R5.

Cathan McCourt signed off his first rally win in style with the best time on S.S. 8. Henry and Sweeney moved up a place apiece following the demise of Jennings. Hegarty secured a personal best (fourth) with Carbin, who punctured on the final stage, claiming enough points to promote him into outright lead of the series.

Down’s David Crossen (Ford Escort) and his Rosscarbery co-driver Aileen Kelly controlled the two-wheel drive category throughout, finishing 23.2 seconds ahead of the Toyota Starlet of Shane McGirr, who had a steering issue on the opening stages.

Monaghan’s Derek Mackarel, in his lesser-powered Vauxhall Nova, was third in the category. Antrim’s William Creighton’s (Peugeot 208 R2) only blemish en-route to eighth spot was an overshoot on S.S. 4. There was a dramatic finish in Group N when Stephen Dickson (Mitsubishi) edged out the similar car of Niall McCullagh by a mere second.

Meanwhile, Waterford’s Craig Breen and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle won Rallye Sanremo, the second round of the Italian Rally Championship, in their Skoda Fabia R5.

They entered the 10th and final stage trailing the Fiesta R5 of leader Simone Campedelli by 11 seconds. The Irish pair set a sensational time on the 34.45km stage to reel in Campedelli and win the event by 4.3 seconds.

Elsewhere, Cork’s Matt Griffin and his Spirit of Race team-mates Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott brought their Ferrari 488 GTE home in fifth place in the LMGTE category of the 4 Hours of Castellet, the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at the Paul Ricard circuit.

Meanwhile, strong winds and rain forced the postponement of the West Cork Motorcycle Club’s Annual Drag Race at The Halfway.

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