Round 1 Review: Carrick On Suir Willie Loughman Forest Rally
As the rain howled and the sleet and hail blasted down upon the stages, nothing, not even the weather gods, looked likely to stop James Wilson & Arthur Kierans as they powered to a dominant win on the opening round of the 2020 Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship, the Carrick-on-Suir MC Willie Loughman Rally.
Winning every stage of the event, the young Armagh star arrived back to the finish in their Hyundai i20 R5 with forty seconds to spare over 2nd Place crew, Michael Carbin & Conor Mohan (Mitsibushi Evo 8), and the same distance again back to the third placed Liam Ryan & Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta R5). Carbin had held the second place for most of the day, but had arrived into the first service of the day behind Wilson and the Ford Fiesta WRC of Barry McKenna & Martin Brady, but they would drop time on Stage 3 and would eventually come home in Fourth.
The 2wd battle was red hot all day, with a pair of tussling Ford Escort MK2’s really setting a stunning pace through the rough and bumpy forest lanes of South Tipperary. Michael Conlon & Grace O’Brien had the early advantage, but a number of issues including a slipping clutch on the 18km Gurteen put paid to their hopes. Instead, it was the recent convert to Gravel rallying Gary Kiernan & Darren O’Brien who collected the crown as the top 2WD crew with 18 seconds to spare.
The much-anticipated battle of the R2 machines was incredible to watch, with incredible commitment at every opportunity seeming to be the order of the day. Kyle White & Sean Topping (Ford Fiesta R2) lead for most of the day, but their rally was to end on Stage 4, handing the win to the Jordan & Paul Hone (Opel Adam R2) ahead of Marty Gallagher & Dean O’Sullivan. In the Class 16 Junior Class, Brian Brady & Eamonn Credon (Honda Civic) continued their fine form of last year and took a commanding victory, and a strong point haul at the beginning of the 2020 Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series.
The closest battle of the day was in the M.O’Brien supported Junior 1000 class, when after a full days rallying, just 1.2 seconds separated the winners Reece Pollock & John Burke (Nissan Micra) and the runners up Kyle & Kieran McBride (Toyota Aygo). Another Aygo of Joseph Kelly & Shane Byrne finished a fine third.
Having committed himself to a full season of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship, its not beyond the realms of possibility, even at this stage, to consider James Wilson as a strong contender for the 2020 Crown, but there are a few big names due to make a return to the Wood over the next few rounds who will be aiming squarely at the 2018 Billy Coleman Award Winner. For now though, its time for the Wilson team to celebrate a first ever event victory, and start preparing to do it all again in 2 weeks’ time with the next round of the 2020 Calendar, the much anticipated Keltec Engineering Limerick Forest rally!
Class 1: David McAuley & Andrew Moore (Honda Civic)
Class 2: Jordan Hone & Paul Hone (Opel Adam R2)
Class 3: Eoin Neville & Brendan Quinn (Honda Civic)
Class 4: Jenna McCann & John McCabe (Mitsibushi Evo)
Class 5: Enda McCormack & Liam Moynihan (Hyundai i20 R5)
Class 7: Martin McKenna & Martin Brady (Ford Fiesta WRC)
Class 9: Beau Roberts & Tadgh O’Sullivan (Chevrolet Kalos)
Class 10: Mike Garahy & Iarla McCarthy (Ford Escort)
Class 11F: Ian McCarthy & Damien O’Donovan (Honda Civic)
Class 11R: James Dunphy & Sean Dunphy (Toyota Corolla)
Class 12: Alan Commins & Joe O’Brien (Ford Escort)
Class 14: Gary Kiernan & Daren O’Brien (Ford Escort)
Class 15: Mark Murphy & Anthony O’Sullivan (Subaru Impreza)
Class 16: Brian Brady & Eamonn Creedon (Honda Civic)
Class 20: Gerard Lucey & J. J. Cremin (Mitsibushi Evo)
Class 21: Reece Pollock & John Burke (Nissan Micra)