A winning margin of 20.4 seconds by Monaghan’s Sam Moffett and co-driver James O’Reilly (Ford Fiesta R5) in the Crafted Fitted Furniture Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally, masks a tremendous battle with fellow countyman Barry McKenna and his Wexford co-driver Andy Hayes (Ford Fiesta R5) that wasn’t resolved until the penultimate stage.
Armagh’s James Wilson and co-driver Arthur Kierans (Hyundai i20 R5) took third, 16.3 seconds behind.
On the opening 7.7km stage at Mount Hilary there was a tenth of a second between McKenna and Moffett with Donagh Kelly (Skoda Fabia R5) 2.5 seconds further back. McKenna dominated the next stage near Bweeng to move 5.3 seconds ahead of Moffett, while Wilson slotted into third at the expense of Kelly.
Championship contender Cathan McCourt spun his Fiesta R5 on the first stage and lost brakes on the second test and held fifth. Pre-event series leader Michael Carbin spun his Mitsubishi on S.S. 1 and was off the road on S.S. 2 to drop to 11th. Due to an accident involving one of the lower seeded two-wheel drive crews, the stage-interrupted time applied to the top crews for S.S. 3, Boggeragh.
McKenna was quickest on the repeat of Mount Hilary to stretch his lead to 7.3 seconds. Wilson – 4.9 seconds behind was enjoying his maiden R5 gravel outing while Kelly was content in fourth. Moffett stopped McKenna’s march with the best time on the stage at Boggeragh (S.S. 5) to cut the deficit to four seconds and was quickest again on the day’s final stage to leave the overnight margin between them at 3.5 seconds. Wilson ended the day seven seconds behind Moffett with Cathan McCourt, Kelly and Conor McCourt rounding out the top six.
In the two-wheel drive category David Condell (Ford Escort) took the lead after early pacesetter Down’s David Crossen (Escort) had gearbox woes, Cavan’s Gary Kiernan was third. On yesterday’s opening pair of stages Moffett went in front by 3.5 seconds. Wilson, McCourt and Kelly followed. On the repeat of the stage at Kilworth, McKenna reclaimed the lead before Moffett responded on S.S. 10 to edge ahead with Wilson third.
Condell controlled the two-wheel drive category and was 20.2 seconds ahead of Kiernan. Although they traded fastest stage times on SS 11 & 12, Moffett went 6.2 seconds clear with two stages remaining. However, McKenna’s car began to overheat early in the penultimate stage and had to settle for second. Wilson in third secured his best ever result while championship leader Cathan McCourt, Donagh Kelly and Conor McCourt completed the top six. Michael Carbin (Mitsubishi) kept his championship hopes alive as he finished ninth overall.