Tommy Moffett on the top step of the podium

Posted: May 16, 2023 in Uncategorized

On a day that seemed to bring with it every sort of condition, from morning rain to afternoon sunshine that made every one of the six stages a challenge, the Junior 1000 series once more delivered a roller-coaster day on the Sean Conlon Tipperary Forest Rally with Tommy Moffett taking his first victory in the series.

The time sheets from Stage 1 definitely required a second look when Jack Kennedy & Colin O’Toole went 9.3 seconds quicker than anyone on the opening 10.1km Goatenbridge test. Another fastest time on Stage 2 had many thinking we were going to see a similar outcome to the championship opener in Killarney, but Kennedy’s event ended abruptly on Stage 3 when he left the road.

A number of other contenders would hit trouble early on but as all around them faltered, Tommy Moffett and Domhnall Lennon seized their opportunity in their Toyota Aygo.

The brother of previous forestry rally championship overall winners Sam and Josh, Tommy was 13 seconds down after the first two tests, but never looked back as he won each of the remaining four stages and romped home to a substantial 54 second victory in the hotly contested class and with it a huge championship point haul, and adding to his second placed finish on the opening round in Kerry.

Sharing the podium with Moffett were Ross Ryan and Peter Keohane in second and Tommy Cronin and Karl Egan third.

In the main field would be Mark Donnelly and Sean Ferris who would return to Cahir as victors and claim a back-to-back winning start to the 2023 Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship. Although he would finish the day atop the podium with 19.8 seconds to spare, it was not Donnelly who would lead at the end of the opening test, but instead a similar Ford Fiesta R5 of Pat O’Connell and Mark Wylie led the way by seven tenths of a second, and the pair would set identical times on the 2nd stage. When O’Connell’s challenge ended due to a mechanical issue on the very slippy Ballydrehid test, Donnelly would return to service with a 15.8 second lead.

Hot on the in-form Donnelly’s tail, today being his third victory in 2023 after the Championship opener in Killarney and the non-championship Fivemiletown rallies, would be 2022 Forest Championship runners-up Jordan Hone & Paul Hone in the sister AP-Art run Ford Fiesta. Jordan used all his experience to bring the car home in second place come the end of the day.

It would be Vivian Hamill & Andrew Grennan who would bring their VW Polo GTi R5 home in third place. The experienced pair had a real battle on their hands to hold of young-gun Ryan Caldwell who would finish fourth alongside Arthur Kierans in a Skoda Fabia R5.

Derek Mackarel and Eamonn Creedon had a start to finish victory in their Class 20 Mitsubishi Evo. They mixed it with the R5 machines to take 9th Overall.

The 2WD battle was a real ding-dong affair as the times swung in all manner of directions as reports of incidents filtered back from the stages. In the end, as the champagned sprayed and the trophies were handed out, it was the incredibly unique Lada VFTS of Shane McGirr & Liam McIntyre who would claim the victory.

Hugh McQuaid & Declan Casey were within a whisker of the lead cars times as the results rolled in. In the end 10.9 seconds would separate the pair.

Sharing the Podium with the Lada and McQuaid’s Ford MK2 Escort was the Ford Fiesta Rally4 of Dylan Eves amd  Ryan Farrell who were setting blistering pace in the FWD car. The result also sees Dylan claim a strong haul of points in the dual-surface Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series, an MI Academy backed series developing future rally talent.

All eyes are now set on Ballyvourney and the re-scheduled Moonraker Forest Rally which is now scheduled for June 25th.

Mohan gains more global experience

There was Irish representation at the WRC Rally Portugal. Josh McErlean and co-driver John Rowan finished second in the WRC2 challenger category, seventh in the WRC2 overall class and 12th overall, equalling his career-best from Belgium in 2021. They were driving a Hyundai i20 N Rally2, prepared by Irish team PCRS Rallysport in what was a long and difficult event.

The second Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy car was driven by Billy Coleman Award winner, and JWRC Croatia winners Eamonn Kelly and Conor Mohan. The crew were given the chance to drive the car – only their third gravel event in Rally2 car – as part of the academy’s plan to share its use with several drivers over the season. The Donegal/Monaghan pairing faced a steep learning curve during this rally event, losing a load of time on the opening stage when a routine puncture change went wrong. Later in the day, they were late for the final stage following exhaust failure on a road section. 

They had to rely on SuperRally rules to get themselves to the finish after retiring Saturday with mechanical problems. Nevertheless, Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy Co-ordinator Sean McHugh said they were happy with their performance and pace over the weekend.

“We had a weekend of ups and downs,” said Kelly. “But we were here to learn and we learned a hell of a lot. It was an experience never to be forgotten.”

Kelly and Mohan’s next event is the Junior WRC counting Rally Sardegna in a few weeks’ time. After three days of gravel rallying in Portugal, Kelly said he is more than ready for whatever the Italian roads will throw at them.


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