Antrim’s Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia R5) and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan netted their second win in this season’s Valvoline National Forest Rally Championship as they cruised to victory in the Mallow based Crafted Furniture & Joinery Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally, the fourth round of the series.
They finished a minute and 8.4 seconds in front of the Mitsubishi of Omagh’s Patrick O’Brien/Aine McGuigan. Adrian Hetherington/Gary Nolan (Toyota Corolla WRC) were 2.2 seconds further behind in third.
Henry set the foundation with a dominant opening stage at Bweeng where his Skoda Fabia R5 traversed the stage 9.1 seconds better than the opposition. Series leader Michael Carbin (Mitsubishi) was best of the rest 0.2 of a second ahead of the Toyota Corolla WRC of Adrian Hetherington with former Forest champion Michael O’Brien giving the ex-Moffett Fiesta WRC its first competitive outing in the forests occupying fourth – 1.2 seconds further behind.
Another fastest time on the second stage and despite two overshoots - gave Henry a 12.4 second lead at the Mallow service park with an untroubled Hetherington slotting his Corolla WRC into second. Patrick O’Brien (Mitsubishi), who stalled on the opening stage and then had an overshoot on the second, occupied third – 9.5 further seconds behind.
Michael O’Brien (Fiesta WRC) overshot at the finish line of the second stage, he was fourth in a top six that also featured Cathan McCourt was next followed by former champion Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi) like most of the others, he commented on the hanging dust that slowed progress.
Unlike his opening stage performance, Carbin failed to get in the groove for the second test and he slipped to seventh. Dust was a big issue for Mark Donnelly (Subaru) while his namesake also had to deal with dust in the cockpit of his Mitsubishi. They were next in classification as Martin Cairns (Fiesta WRC) completed the top ten.
Continuing his good run thorough S.S. 3 and 4 Henry led by 38.1 seconds. “Everything is fine, I’m not driving at 100% but you still have to be aggressive with these cars otherwise, you will go off the road.” Hetherington, 38.1 seconds off top spot, arrived at the Mallow service minus a front wing mirror “I don’t know where I lost it, but it was somewhere in S.S. 4.”
Pat O’Connell’s rally ended on the third stage when his Mitsubishi stuck in fourth gear. Meanwhile, third placed Patrick O’Brien lost brakes at the end of S.S. 3 and then the pedal went to the floor of his Mitsubishi on the fourth stage, yet, he was only 18.1 behind Hetherington. Fourth placed Michael O’Brien (Fiesta WRC) lost time through S.S. 3, the longest stage of the rally as he failed to get into a rhythm, he found the opening half very slippery. Carbin in fifth was lost for an explanation of his times on the pair of stages, he reckoned it felt like he was on the pace but it was not reflected in his times. Mark Donnelly (Mitsubishi) was sixth while the other Mark Donnelly (Subaru) withdrew due to dust entering his Subaru.
In the two-wheel drive section, David Crossen (Escort) led the Toyota Starlet of Shane McGirr by four seconds. Having sustained two broken ribs prior to the rally, Seamus O’Connell (Escort) withdrew.
Henry slackened his pace on the final two stages that ended with the 16-kilometre trek though Duhallow and he ran out a confortable winner to ramp up his bid to win the series. Patrick O’Brien (Mitsubishi) netted second while a final stage puncture denied Hetherington the runner-up spot. Michael O’Brien. Donnelly and series leader Michael Carbin filled the top six places followed by Martin Cairns and Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi). McGirr captured the Modified reeling in Crossen on the final stage to win the category by 2.4 seconds.
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