Setting a cracking pace and mastering the wet conditions, Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC) guided by Cavan’s James Fulton won the Abbey Court Hotel Nenagh Rally, the opening round of the Triton National Rally Championship.
Moffett and Fulton finished 59.1 seconds in front of Donegal cousins Declan and Brian Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC) with Donegal man Donagh Kelly and his Monaghan co-driver Conor Foley (Ford Focus WRC) claiming third, a further 36.1 seconds behind.
Moffett set the pace on the opening stage even though he stalled his Ford Fiesta WRC on the start line. It didn’t upset his concentration as he opened up a 10.1-second lead over event top seed Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC). Triton champion Roy White (Ford Fiesta WRC) was one second behind in third but a misted over windscreen meant Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) had to be content with fourth — 23 seconds off top spot. Another former national champion Declan Boyle (Fiesta WRC) followed in a top six that was rounded off by top two-wheel drive exponent Adrian Hetherington (Escort).
Boyle was shown as the quickest driver through the second stage but the the time was subsequently revised at the event finish. Nevertheless, the Donegal man was still 19.3 seconds behind Moffett while White retained third, 12.3 seconds further behind.
Hetherington continued to set the pace in the two-wheel drive category where McPhillips was his main rival. Elsewhere, Stephen McCann’s Fiesta S2000 struggled for top speed, especially on the first stage. West Cork driver Daniel Cronin held 10th but his Mitsubishi had transmission trouble as it stuck in third gear, and he retired at the Nenagh service.
In Group N, David Guest (Mitsubishi) continued to be the barometer with Neil Tohill some 14.3 seconds behind and a fraction of a second ahead of Paul Barrett (Subaru).
With no improvement in the conditions, Moffett managed to increase his advantage to 30.4 seconds with Boyle admitting to having a few moments — his Fiesta WRC aquaplaned on a few occasions. White’s third place was coming under pressure due to a combination of tyre choice and a resurgent Kelly, who closed to within 1.9 seconds. Omagh’s Mark Donnelly (Fiesta WRC) and Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) rounded out the top six, Maguire’s performance much improved as the windscreen issue was fixed.
Switching to a pair of stages closer to Nenagh for the afternoon, Moffett continued to blaze the trial and consolidated his lead to 58.8 seconds. Boyle was second and Kelly moved into third at the expense of White.
Donnelly, and Maguire both got through the pair of stages safely to hold fifth and sixth respectively.
McPhillips (Escort) took over the lead of the two-wheel drive category but Hetherington was only three 10ths of a second behind in a top 10 that was completed by the Mitsubishi of Group N leader David Guest. Shane Maguire cut Guest’s advantage to 17.2 seconds, Paul Barrett (Subaru) was third.
On the final two stages Moffett eased off to claim the spoils from Boyle and Kelly, who was best through the final stage to claim the bonus point from the Power Stage.
McPhillips repelled the challenge of Hetherington to take the spoils in the two-wheel drive section where Ian Barrett’s Darrian T90 was third.
The Junior event was won by Donegal’s Michael Boyle and his co-driver Dermot McCafferty .
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