For the second year in succession, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Hyundai i20 R5) won the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel Rally, this time finishing 27.1 seconds ahead of the similar car of Antrim’s Desi Henry. Sheffield driver Ollie Mellors (Proton Iriz R5) was third.
On the opening stage, Moffett was 4.3 seconds ahead of Henry whose amended time was given to all the other competitors after Maynooth’s Ian Barrett crashed his Darian T90. Competitors had to deal with copious amounts of standing water on S.S. 2 where Moffett was quickest once more to move 8.6 seconds ahead of Henry with Mellors 7.1 seconds further behind third.
Fourth-placed Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin had to change a punctured wheel just before the stage start and backed off towards the stage finish due to the water. Former Tarmac champion Eugene Donnelly (Proton Iriz R5) was next. Elsewhere, Steve Wood (Fiesta WRC) had to contend with a broke track control arm and Josh McErlean (Hyundai i20 R5) punctured the front left wheel when he couldn’t avoid a rock that had fallen onto the road some 5km from the stage end. Donegal’s Aaron McLaughlin crashed his Fiesta R5 into a steel fence when the car broke away on a section of shiny tar.
On the repeat of both stages Moffett extended his advantage to 25.6 seconds as Henry burst a brake pipe. Mellors continued in third with a steady run followed by Donnelly in the second Proton Iriz R5. McCann and Wood rounded out the top six — the former lost time when he caught the punctured Subaru of Ian Roche while Wood opined that he was still coming to grips with the Fiesta WRC.
Cronin broke the front driveshaft soon after the start of the third stage and then incurred penalties when he was late for the fourth stage and as a result he slipped to 11th. Fellow Cork driver Guest (in seventh) reckoned he should have been quicker as the roads dried out, he withdrew prior to the final stage as setup changes weren’t suitable for the conditions.
Moffett went on to claim back to back event victories, easing off, as the slick tyres chosen didn’t really suit the terrain. Henry lost a few seconds when he caught the Fiesta R5 of Stephen McCann that had broken its driveshaft. Mellors was third. Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien (Escort) won the two-wheel drive category.
Meanwhile, the Latvian crew of Janis Vorobjvos/ Ivo Pukis took a debut win in the Samsonas Rally in Fivemiletown, the opening counter in the new Northern Ireland McGrady Insurance Gravel Rally Championship. On what was also a debut in their BMW M3X, the took a final stage win on the County Tyrone event finishing five seconds ahead of the Ford Fiesta R5 of Omagh’s Cathan McCourt and co-driver Barry McNulty.
Omagh’s Patrick O’Brien (Fiesta) led until he overshot a junction on the third stage and dropped outside the top ten, he eventually recovered to finish fifth. Vorobjvos inherited the lead and despite some steering woes, led McCourt at the halfway mark by 8.4 seconds. McCourt pressed hard and reeled in his rival on S.S. 7 although the margin was only eight tenths of a second. Vorobjvos was quickest on the final pair of stages to claim the laurels.
Following some setup changes Derry’s Callum Devine (Hyundai i20 R5) came through to take third, minus the rear screen and ahead of last year’s winner Niall McCullagh (Ford Fiesta R5). Carlow’s David Condell (Ford Escort) won the two-wheel drive category after Adrian Hetherington (Escort) crashed out and Ryan Barrett (Escort) hit trouble and had to settle for runner-up spot.