Top-four finish will do trick for Murphy

Motorsport: Three young drivers — Josh Moffett, Owen Murphy and Desi Henry — will battle it out in tomorrow’s Glens of Antrim Rally to become the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally champion.

For Ovens driver Murphy it is a familiar situation as he has already tasted success — winning the 2011 campaign.

However, it is unchartered territory for his rivals, both of whom are well are capable of taking the final hurdle.

The event takes place in Ringsend, Co Derry in the forests of Cam and Springwell with a pair of stages repeated three times.

With three outright wins Murphy has a slight edge even though Moffett heads the standings prior to the Antrim event.

It is when dropped scores (with the best five from seven events to count) are taken into consideration that the situation becomes more complex with little between any of the trio.

Murphy knows the simple mathematics of the event — a top-four finish will be enough irrespective of what happens to Moffett or Henry.

They will be hoping that the likes of Martin Cairns, who was the only other driver to a round of the series, will help to split the pack and push Murphy lower than fourth.

Playing the percentage game in rallying can often be a difficult task but Murphy has a plan. “I will press on but I will mind it as well. I will try and still be quick.”

Kenny McKinstry in his S14 Subaru WRC is the top seed — but isn’t eligible to score points.

Bushwhacker Rally winner Cairns is next up followed by the championship trio. Others on the entry include Marty McKenna (Subaru WRC), Sam Moffett (Mitsubishi), Liam Regan (Peugeot 206), Frank Kelly (Escort), Adrian Hetherington (Escort) and Shane McGirr (Toyota Starlet).

Meanwhile, Peugeot Academy driver Craig Breen ends a disappointing season in the European Rally Championship that concludes with the Tour de Corse that gets underway today.

A winning debut with the Peugeot 208 T16 in the Acropolis Rally promised much, but proved something of a false dawn for the Waterford driver, who has ben plagued with several mishaps and problems. Nevertheless he needs little motivation to end the season with a win as he contemplates his future in the sport.

For Esapekka Lappi in his Skoda Fabia — a mere five points will suffice to deliver the ERC crown.

Former triple British Rally champion Keith Cronin competes in the JRM Group Subaru replacing regular driver and former BRC rival Mark Higgins. Cronin’s opposition includes ERC Production Car Cup title rivals Vitaliy Pushkar and Martin Hudec and Hungarian Tibor Erdi.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary the Banna Beach Hotel and Resort Rally has attracted just over 100 entries with last year’s winner Mike Quinn heading a trio of Escorts that also include Wesley Patterson and Ed O’Callaghan, who could turn out to be his closest rival.

Killarney’s Rob Duggan (Mitsubishi) may also fancy his chances especially after his impressive fourth placed finish on the Fastnet Rally a few weeks ago, it will also offer him the opportunity to cross swords with Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin in a similar car.

Their battle ended on the second stage when Cronin’s engine expired, separated by a fraction of a second on the opening stage of the Bantry event it could be an interesting battle on Sunday.

The service park is at the Listowel Mart complex.

The National Navigation Trial Championship continues tomorrow night with the second round that is based in Monaghan.

Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen, 34, is to retire from the World Rally Championship at the end of the season. Cork based Gerard Quinn, Head of Ford Racing in Europe said: “Over the years it has been a real pleasure to work with Mikko (Hirvonen) in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

“Both he and Jarmo (Lehtinen, co-driver) left a lasting impression on Ford racing history and became our most successful Ford pairing in the WRC, with 14 victories to their name.

“My proudest moment was when they took the car to victory on its first outing at Rally Sweden in 2011 — one of the toughest events on the WRC calendar.”


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