The Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship moves into a crucial stage tomorrow with the Tuffmac Trailers Lakeland Rally in Enniskillen.
Monaghan’s Sam Moffett heads the near 90-crew entry and tackles the eight-stage event in the forests around Derrygonnelly and Belcoo in the CombiLift Fiesta WRC.
Moffett’s usual Fiesta R5 is currently being rebuilt in preparation for next month’s Acesigns Cork “20” International Rally. Tomorrow he will be partnered James Fulton. His younger brother Josh, the reigning Irish Forest champion will follow him down the forest tracks in his Fiesta R5. Even though he has just a solitary championship point to his credit (from the Moonraker Rally), the fact that he is registered for the series could have implications for the main championship contenders.
Former champion Michael O’Brien (Ford Fiesta WRC) made his first appearance of the season on the last round in Mallow where he scored 17 championship points, with the scoring system based on the best five from seven events, this year’s title seems out of reach. Omagh’s Mark Donnelly (Subaru WRC) is on a similar points tally and is likely to suffer the same fate.
The driver to watch is Antrim’s Desi Henry in a Skoda Fabia R5. Accompanied by Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan, wins in Ballyvourney and Mallow has shown they have the pace and they led the Tour of Sperrins until they slid off the road on the closing stages. They missed the opening round in Carrick on Suir and with their retirement in Sperrins they know that there is no room for error.
Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington (Toyota Corolla WRC) is third in the series and is adapting to the vagaries of his Toyota Corolla WRC. Meanwhile, fellow Northern Ireland drivers Martin Cairns (Ford Fiesta WRC) and Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC S14) are amongst a top ten that also features Omagh’s Mark Donnelly (Ford Fiesta S2000) and Patrick O’Brien (Mitsubishi). O’Brien took maximum points in Carrick and 19 in Mallow and while he is in a similar position to Henry, he too is a serious title contender.
The quality of the opposition means that series leader Michael Carbin (Mitsubishi Evo IV) will begin from the number 11 slot. Certainly, the Monaghan man has been consistent scoring in all rounds in his older model Mitsubishi but he may not be able to withstand the charge of Henry and Patrick O’Brien.
In the two-wheel drive category Shane McGirr (Toyota Starlet) is the obvious pacesetter. However, he has quite some work ahead to reel current leader Mickey Conlon (Ford Escort). The Escort duo of John Gordon and David Condell are also ahead of McGirr in the series standings. The first car away from the former Grosvenor Barracks is at 10am with the finish scheduled for 4.40pm.
Waterford’s Craig Breen will contest the Rally Isle of Man (September 15-17) in the David Greer Motorsport (DGM) run Citroen DS3 R5 with support from Irish American businessman John Campion. The event is the he final round of the British Rally Championship. Elsewhere, the Hewison Autotest Championship begins in Ballyvourney with the Munster Car club event while on Sunday, the Cork Motor Club host the second round.
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