Not surprisingly, Derry’s Marty McCormack and his Mallow co-driver David Moynihan in their Tiger Risk liveried Skoda Fabia R5 ran out comfortable winners of the Donegal Forest Rally, round three of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship.
They finished a minute and 11.5 seconds in front of the Mitsubishi of Omagh’s Patrick O’Brien/Stephen O’Brien with Down’s David Crossan/Damien Fleming (Ford Escort) a further 24.5 seconds behind in third.
McCormack treated the slippery and bumpy opening stage with caution before stepping up the pace to complete the loop of three stages with a 19.3 second lead.
A consistent O’Brien was his closest rival with Derry’s Patrick Hone (Mitsubishi) showing fine form to occupy third – 2.2 seconds behind. The opening stage accounted for Adrian Hetherington. He seemed set to take advantage in the absence of the top three championship contenders (second and third placed Sam Moffett and Desi Henry were not on the entry), but he ripped a wheel from his Toyota Corolla WRC and retired.
Meanwhile, another contender, Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi), lost vital time with an incorrect tyre choice and was tenth.
Tweaking the suspension settings for the repeat loop of stages, McCormack increased his lead to 46.4 seconds with O’Brien remaining his main rival. Third place changed on three occasions. Hone slid off on S.S. 4 (he rejoined under Rally2 and finished 44th.) while Jon Armstrong (Mitsubishi) retired with mechanical issues on stage six where David Crossen (Escort) took up the mantle.
Cathan McCourt (Mitsubishi) recovered from an opening stage puncture to occupy fourth from the Toyota Starlet of Shane McGirr, who punctured on stage four and again on stage six. Having used his own spare wheel for the first puncture, another two-wheel drive exponent Mickey Conlon (Escort) came to his rescue for the second and provided him with his spare wheel, a fine sporting gesture considering Conlon himself was only nine-tenths of a second further behind.
The final pair of stages were consisted of two runs over the 10.42-mile Tullnacarry test, the penultimate stage fell victim to logistical difficulties. On the final stage McCormack was well ahead of the rest to take victory ahead of his outing in the Scottish Rally on Friday. O’Brien and Crossen completed an unchanged top three.
McCourt came home fourth ahead of Conlon, who took advantage when McGirr’s car filled with exhaust fumes and he dropped to eighth. Lucey came home sixth to become the new leader of the Valvoline series, three points ahead of Josh Moffett.
In the Junior category Omagh’s Stephen Dickson (Ford Fiesta) reeled in Boherbue’s John O’Sullivan (Ford Fiesta R2) on the final stage to claim the spoils. Early leader Shane Kenneally (Honda Civic) retired with transmission woes while another pacesetter Marty Gallagher (Peugeot 208) also retired. Mayo’s Jason Murphy (Peugeot 107) won the Junior 1000 Challenge category.
Meanwhile, there was disappointment for Cork’s Matt Griffin and his Spirit of Race team mates Aaron Scott and Duncan Cameron in yesterday’s 4 Hours of Imola, round two of the European Le Mans Series. In qualifying Griffin secured the LMGTE pole position – his first in ELMS since Austria two year ago. After two hours the team held a comfortable lead of some 35 seconds with Cameron at the wheel of the No. 55 Ferrari 488 GTE. However, the changeover to Griffin for the final stint didn’t occur as the car headed straight to the garage with engine troubles. Victory went to the JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 that actually began from the back of the grid.
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