Pat O'Connell gears up for Moonraker Rally

The Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship resumes tomorrow with the Abbey Hotel Munster Moonraker Rally in Ballyvourney, where former champion Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi Evo IX) heads the biggest entry in a round of the series in recent years.

Ninety crews line up in this second round of the championship to provide a timely boost for the hosts, the Munster Car Club. Ironically, Cashel ace O’Connell, who won the title in 2010, had initially decided to concentrate on this year’s Triton Showers National Rally Championship.

However, he crashed on the opening round in Mayo and his car wasn’t re-fettled for the second round in Tralee some two weeks ago. A decision to continue with the Valvoline campaign will only be made after tomorrow’s eight-stage rally, where he will have strong opposition including late entries from Antrim’s Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia R5) and Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5).

Championship leader Patrick O’Brien (Mitsubishi Evo IX) should also be in fine form over stages that will be a stern test. Local driver Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi Evo VII) will be on home territory and is aiming for a top five finish. The addition of Henry and Moffett will certainly add pace and either is more than capable of taking the spoils. Prior to his retirement with a broken wheel-bearing, Henry held fourth in last week’s Circuit of Ireland while Moffett went on to claim the position.

Others in the four-wheel drive category are Michael Carbin (Mitsubishi Evo IX), Martin Cairns (Subaru WRC), Don Keating (Subaru), Cathal McCourt (Mitsubishi Evo IX), and ex-champion John Reid (Toyota Corolla WRC). Adrian Hetherington, after years of campaigning a rear wheel drive Escort, will debut a (Toyota Corolla WRC).

There are 60 crews in the two-wheel drive category with Mickey Conlon (Ford Escort), Shane McGirr (Toyota Starlet), and John Gordon (Ford Escort) the principal contenders. The opening stage, Derreenaling begins at 11.39am. Servicing after each pair of stages (2, 4, and 6) is at the Údarás na Gaeltachta Business Park in Ballyvourney. The finish at the Abbey Hotel is just after 7pm.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team has confirmed it will enter Rally de Portugal (19/22 May) and Rally Poland (1/3 July). Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau, and Khalid Al-Qassimi/Chris Patterson will compete in Portugal while Circuit of Ireland winners Craig Breen/Scott Martin along with Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau will rally in Poland.

Cork’s Matt Griffin competes in the LMGTE class of the European Le Mans Series that begins at Silverstone tomorrow. He will team up with Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott in the No. 55 AF Corse run Ferrari 458 Italia.

Meanwhile, former Irish Touring Car Champion Erik Holstein contests the SEAT Supercup Ireland in Mondello Park this weekend.

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