Motorsport: Sam Moffett completes clean sweep in Cork

Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Fiesta R5) and his Bandon co-driver Karl Atkinson won the Acesigns Cork “20” International Rally following a pulsating battle with Josh Moffett/Keith Moriarty (Fiesta R5).

Monaghan's Sam Moffett, right, and his Bandon co-driver Karl Atkinson. Pic: Martin Walsh

It was a historic season where he has won all three Irish championships along with the FIA Celtic Trophy.

Having lost over two and a half minutes on Saturday, Ulster pair Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble (Fiesta R5) came through to clinch a late second place (after Moffett/Moriarty crashed out) almost five minutes behind and just ahead of the Skoda Fabia R5 of Donegal’s Joe McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney. Donegal’s Kevin Eves (Toyota Corolla) and co-driver William Lynch won the Modified category.

While Stephen Wright (Fiesta R5) failed to start the opening stage, the rally quickly developed into a pattern as the Moffett brothers and Fisher were on an ultra quick pace in comparison to their rivals. Overnight rain made for difficult conditions as Sam Moffett took the early lead - 4.6 seconds ahead of Josh with Fisher debuting his new Fiesta R5 - 9.2 seconds behind. Only three others - Joe McGonigle (Skoda Fabia R5), Kevin Kelleher (Subaru WRC) and Pauric Duffy (Fiesta R5) completed the stage as Aaron MacHale crashed his Citroen DS3R5 into a pole forcing the organisers to cancel the remainder of the stage.

Lacking commitment for the majority of the second stage Sam Moffett saw his lead cut to just seven-tenths of a second by Josh; brake fade meant Fisher was slightly curtailed, he was 9.7 seconds off top spot. There was little between the top two on S.S. 3 with Sam leading by 1.3 seconds, Fisher in third stated he wasn’t taking any risks given the conditions.

Due to oil deposits on the road, the fourth stage was cancelled. The battle for success was reduced to a twin challenge as Fisher’s Fiesta stopped for over two and a half minutes on the Kilnamartyra stage. He was one of several crews subsequently stopped at the scene of Stephen McCann’s accident that required the emergency services.

On S.S. 6, Lough Allua, Sam Moffett increased his advantage to 13.3 seconds with brother Josh reckoning he just couldn’t get into the groove. However, he ended the day with a pair of fastest times and trimmed Sam’s lead to 10.8 seconds. McGonigle, who clipped a rock earlier in the afternoon, was third followed by Owen Murphy and Kevin Kelleher. The organisers gave Fisher an amended time for S.S. 5 that resulted in the Fermanagh man holding sixth at the Macroom overnight halt.

On yesterday’s opening pair of stages Josh was the better of the family duo and cut his brother’s lead to just eighth-tenths of a second. On the repeat of the stages Sam, moved back into an 8.4 seconds lead.

The opening pair of stages in the afternoon saw the pendulum swing in favour of Josh, who moved 2.3 seconds ahead after S.S. 14. That margin was unchanged when they posted identical times on the penultimate stage. However, a mile into the final stage Josh’s bid for glory ended when he crashed out leaving Sam take the laurels. Fisher’s tenacity paid off when he secured the runner-up spot – albeit almost five minutes adrift but a fraction of a second ahead of McGonigle. Owen Murphy and Daniel Cronin completed the top five.

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