Knowing exactly what was required, it was a case of precision rather than pace that helped Cork driver Owen Murphy land his second National Forest title in three years as his fourth place points finish on the Glens of Antrim Rally secured the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship.
Co-driven by Anthony Nestor, the Ovens driver stayed out of trouble and while one of his fellow title protagonists, Antrim’s Desi Henry (Mitsubishi) and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan won the rally, it wasn’t enough to deny Murphy the national title — albeit on a tie-break.
On the opening stage Martin Cairns (Subaru WRC) was 2.5 seconds faster than Moffett with Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC) two tenths of a second further behind followed by Henry and Murphy. The second stage saw Henry take over at the top from another championship contender Josh Moffett, who was three tenths of a second behind, Murphy was fifth.
The rally was delayed for some 30 minutes when Marty McKenna (Subaru WRC) crashed and his car had to be extricated from the forest track.
Moffett punched in the best time on S.S. 3 to edge 1.7 seconds ahead of Henry with Cairns moving into third ahead of McKinstry and Murphy.
The pendulum swung in favour of Henry, who regained the lead on S.S. 4 with Moffett 6.5 seconds in arrears. McKinstry slotted into third and Murphy also moved up a place when Cairns slipped to fifth. Although Moffett was quickest on the final pair of stages it was only by fractions of a second and Henry took victory by a margin of 5.9 seconds. Cairns did enough to displace both McKinstry and Murphy, however, with fourth placed points; the latter netted his second national forest title in three seasons.
In the Tour de Corse, hopes of an Irish victory in the Production Cup category went awry when Keith Cronin and co-driver Marshall Clarke crashed the JRM prepared Subaru on Saturday’s third stage (S.S. 9). Without undue pressure it seemed the car slipped off the road and out of the rally. Waterford’s Craig Breen re-started under Rally2 but punctured on the day’s opening stage, on the remaining stages he netted top five fastest stage times.
Event victory went to French driver Stephane Sarazzin (Ford Fiesta RRC), who finished 18.9 seconds ahead of his compatriot Bryan Bouffier. With a slim 1.7 second overnight advantage Sarazzin dominated S.S. 8 to move some 12 seconds ahead and the issue was settled when Bouffier spun into a ditch on the penultimate stage. Finnish ace Esapekka Lappi (Skoda Fabia S2000) was crowned European rally champion.
The Banna Beach Hotel & Resort Rally in north Kerry ended with a final stage victory for Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (Subaru WRC) and his Killarney co-driver Shane Buckley.
They finished 8.4 seconds ahead of the Ford Escort of Mike Quinn/Donal Balfe with Ed Synan/Denis O’Connell (Ford Escort) almost two minutes further adrift in third. Quinn and Killarney’s Rob Duggan (Mitsubishi) shared top spot on the opening stage. Duggan moved 7.7 seconds in front on the second stage but Quinn was back in front a stage later albeit by three tenths of a second.
A puncture on S.S. 4 dropped Duggan out of contention as Quinn led Cronin by 23.8 seconds. In a thrilling final pair of stages Cronin was quickest – on S.S. 5 he cut the deficit to 4.6 seconds and on the sixth stage he was 13 seconds quicker than Quinn to win by 8.4 seconds.
The second round of the National Navigation Trial Championship, the Drumlin Navigation Trial in Monaghan was decided on a tie break with Michael and Ciaran Tynan (Subaru) getting the verdict over Pakie Duffy/Evin Hughes (Subaru).
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