Taking the lead on the sixth stage, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5) and co-driver Stephen Thornton won the Silvermines-based Treaty Plant Hire Limerick Forest Rally, the second round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship.
They finished 13.8 seconds ahead of New York based Barry McKenna (Ford Fiesta R5) and his co-driver Leon Jordan. Long time leaders Waterford’s Andrew Purcell and his Mitchelstown co-driver Mark Wiley had to be content with third after their PM Tyre and Auto Centre backed Ford Fiesta R5 sustained a time consuming puncture on S.S. 6.
On the opening stage at Keeper Hill, Purcell showed a fine turn of speed and led nearest rival McKenna by 6.3 seconds, with Moffett 11.3 seconds further behind followed by the Citroen DS3 R5 of Cathan McCourt. Liam Regan (Mitsubishi) led Group N and two-wheel driver leader David Crossen (Escort) rounded out the top six.
Clipping a chicane and damaging the front right wing of his Fiesta R5, Purcell saw his lead cut to 0.9 seconds on the second stage where Moffett was quickest but remained in third - 11.3 seconds off the lead.
Second placed McKenna lost vital seconds when he slid wide at a junction. McCourt retained fourth followed by the Fiesta S2000 of Stephen McCann and Crossen. Meanwhile, Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi) was untroubled in seventh place in a top ten that was completed by Conor McCourt (Mitsubishi) and Michael Carbin (Mitsubishi).
On the repeat of both stages Purcell went 9.7 seconds ahead, he was quickest through S.S. 3 while Moffett was the pacesetter on S.S. 4 and that promoted him into second. At the Silvermines service Moffett commented that he was still struggling as he tried to tweak the settings of the Fiesta R5 to suit the Michelin tyres.
For his part Purcell was content with his advantage and admitted that he was pushing to the maximum. McCourt continued in fourth while McCann tried but agreed his S2000 was no match for the R5’s.
Switching to the Arra Mountain forests and Ballyhourigan - a different version of Keeper Hill, the rally had a new leader after S.S. 6. A front right wheel puncture some seven kilometres from the finish demoted Purcell from first to third - 34.3 seconds behind new leader Moffett, who was happy to have found the right settings having softened the suspension of his Fiesta5.
McKenna was 14.1 seconds behind in second. Cathan McCourt, Stephen McCann and Crossen were next in classification, the latter concerned about the loss of power steering on S.S. 5.
Despite setting fastest times on the final pair of stages Purcell had to be content with third as Moffett claimed the spoils with McKenna second. Crossen (Escort) was the top two-wheel drive exponent; Donegal’s Marty Gallagher (Peugeot 208 R2) won the Junior category and Mayo’s Jason Murphy (Peugeot 107) took the honours in the J1000 section.
Meanwhile, Russian driver Alexey Lukyanuk (Fiesta R5) won the Azores Airlines Rallye, opening round of the European Rally Championship, he finished 16.4 seconds ahead of the Skoda Fabia R5 of Ricardo Moura with the similar Skoda of Bruno Magalhaes 9.3 seconds further behind in third. British driver Chris Ingram (Skoda) was fourth.
Victory in the Monaghan Navigation Trial, the penultimate round of the Motorsport Ireland National Navigation Trial Championship went to the local crew of Newbliss driver Michael Tynan and his nephew Ciaran Tynan (Subaru), who finished with ten penalties.
Second, with 14 penalties was another local crew, that of Martin Tynan/Fintan Clerkin (Subaru).
Series leaders Monaghan’s Derek Mackarel and his Cork co-driver Muireann Hayes took maximum points as they were the respective clerk and deputy clerk of the course and have moved to within touching distance of the overall title.
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