Rd 3 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship head for Cork
2018 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship Round 3 Preview
The third round of the Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship takes place this weekend with the Cork based Moonraker Forest Rally. Clerk of the Course Gerard Seaman has organised an eight stage route near Ballyvourney and this has attracted an entry of almost 90 cars. Needless to say he is delighted with the support and said “The entry is outstanding in quality and quantity and is a testament to the hardworking team in Munster Car Club, and to the Abbey Hotel in Ballyvourney which has been so welcoming to the event. I’d like to thank all of the competitors for their support and hope you all have a very enjoyable event”.
Winner on round 2 and lying fifth in the championship, Josh Moffett & Stephen Thornton are top seeds and looking to keep momentum going. The pair made a relatively slow start on the last round and know that a similar beginning this time around could see them lose ground. Barry McKenna & Leon Jordan at two have been quick and consistent over the opening rounds taking the runner up spot twice to lie second overall in the championship at this early stage. Championship leaders Andrew Purcell & Mark Wiley came close to making it two wins from two in Limerick only for a puncture to drop him to third overall, but he still leads the series by one point from McKenna.
Conor McCloskey (Fiesta R5+) and Marty McCormack (Fabia R5) also feature in the top ten but will be fighting for victory without championship worries to consider. Stephen McCann has made a good start to the championship to lie third overall in the series in his Ford Fiesta S2000. Gerard Lucey is the top seeded Mitsubishi driver and he is in fourth place in the championship standings. Cathan McCourt was very impressive in the previous round in is DS3 R5 and will be looking to keep the run going in Cork.
The 2WD category sees all of this year’s top contenders gather to do battle, led by David Crossen & Aileen Kelly. The pair retired on the opening round but were very impressive winners in Limerick although they were pushed hard by the Starlet of Shane McGirr & Eamonn Hayes. The stage is set for a renewal of rivalries with Mickey Conlon & Ciaran McPhillips sure to be in the mix as well. Conlon lies sixth overall in the championship following two good results to date in his Class 14 Escort. John Gordon, Tommy O’Connell & David Condell will also be pushing the leading trio while Adrian Hetherington & Gary Nolan in their Historic spec Escort will be hoping for better luck than on the opening round when they rolled out of the event following a very quick start.
The Junior championship is also very finely poised with John O’Sullivan leading the class in his Fiesta R2 after two podium finishes, followed by Jody McManus in a similar car just three points behind. James Wilson in a Peugeot 208 R2 led after the opening round but failed to finish last time out which dropped him to third. Marty Gallagher had an excellent run last time out to take top points and will be looking for more of the same in Cork while Derek Mackarel has also been setting some excellent times on both rounds so far and a good result on round three will bring him right back into contention. Jordan Hone has taken a little time to get used to the Opel Adam but had a good result in Limerick which will help his confidence.
The M. O’Brien Plant Hire Junior 1000 series for 15-19 year olds will see Jason Murphy looking to extend his impressive run of form in his Peugeot 107. The 2017 champion has taken full points on the two rounds so far and is proving to be well capable of defending his crown. Peter Beaton from Scotland in a similar car didn’t finish the opening round but put on a very strong performance in round two which could mean more of a threat to Murphy in Cork. Aoife Gahan took some time to settle in on the last round after retiring on round 1 and will be quicker with another event under her belt, while Rory Byrnes opening championship appearance in Limerick was rewarded with a finish and he will be looking for more of the same. The action gets underway with the first car leaving Parc Ferme at 8:45am on Saturday morning and the opening stage is scheduled for 9:04am. After eight stages the first car is due back at Parc Ferme at 5:15pm.