Competitors head north for penultimate championship round of Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship
The sixth and penultimate round of the Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship takes place this coming Saturday (1st September) in the shape of the Enniskillen based Trailer Parts & Spares Lakeland Stages Rally. Enniskillen Motor Club who organise the event have laid out a six stage route using classic tests and have been rewarded with a stunning entry of over 100 cars.
The overall championship is currently being led by Barry McKenna who has shown stunning pace all year in his Ford Fiesta and scoring either top or second placed points on all rounds to date has also indicated remarkable consistency. Second placed Stephen McCann who upgraded to a Fiesta R5 on the last two rounds in Cork has also scored well on all rounds, despite not being as familiar with loose surface events. The biggest threat to McKenna comes from Josh Moffett in third place who is top seed for Enniskillen having won the event last year, and Andrew Purcell whose forest pedigree is well known. Both of these Ford Fiesta R5 drivers have had problems during the year but when dropped scored are taken into account are right in the hunt.
Adrian Hetherington was unfortunate not to finish in Cork when the Corolla WRCs turbo let go, but on home territory he will certainly be pushing hard. Cathan McCourt went very well in Cork on his first outing in a Fiesta R5 and that will give him the confidence to upset the leading contenders. Vivian Hamill is another in a Fiesta R5 after an excellent run on the Cork Forestry stages and he will be in the running for overall honours.
The 2WD category is as always very competitive and David Crossen who could do no wrong in 2017 is having a very trying year with mechanical issues spoiling his season. Having retired from Cork he will be looking to bounce back and finish off the year on a high note on the remaining rounds. Shane McGirr by contrast has had a fine season in both a Toyota Starlet and an Escort and it’s the latter which will be on display this weekend. Shane has seen off rivals on previous rounds so will be confident heading to the Lakelands. John Gordon, Tommy O’Connell & David Condell have all shown flashes of speed over the season, with niggling problems hampering both Gordon and O’Connell on the rounds to date. The championship contenders will also be facing Frank Kelly and Oran Donnelly in their Escorts which will provide excellent entertainment and no little competition on the event.
The junior championship is as competitive as always with a strong cast present. Although not championship registered Callum Devine fresh from his JWRC exploits will be the benchmark in his Ford Fiesta R2T. Jordan Hone has really come alight in the past few months and will be a strong contender in his Opel Adam, but with Marty Gallagher and Billy Coleman Award nominees James Wilson & Derek Mackarel in close attendance it would be a brave person to bet on a winner here. M. O’Brien Plant Hire J1000 champion for the past two years Jason Murphy is moving to the R2 class for this event as a prize for winning the series. He will use a Fiesta R2 and it will be a good learning curve as he takes on the R2 regulars.
The rally starts from the former Grosvenor Barracks site in Enniskillen at 10:30am Saturday morning where three stages will be tackled at Lough Navar, Big Dog and Ballintempo. Service will take place at 12:40pm before the same three stages will be repeated in the afternoon. The first car is due back at the finish ramp at approximately 4pm.