Sam’s The Man in Cork!
2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship-Round Four
Sam Moffett and Darragh Kelly in their Ford Fiesta WRC took victory on the Cork Motor Club’s Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally, round four of the 2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship. The Monaghan driver, who’s day was largely drama free. “It’s been a good days rallying, great fast flowing sections here as always. We had a drama on stage three when I hit a large rock and had to drive eleven kilometres with a front wheel puncture, but aside from that we had no problems” said Sam who is now one of the title favourites having already clinched the Irish National tarmac series this year.
Moffatt was fastest on stage one, with Adrian Hetherington and Gary Nolan second in their Corolla WRC, but the Tyrone driver was in trouble with a broken gear linkage on the road section to stage two and he was out. As the crews headed for the first Mallow service after two stages, Sam Moffett led from David Crossen and Damien Fleming in their MK2 Escort. The Evo’s of Ger Lucey and Jonny Leonard were starting a day long battle in fourth and fifth overall, with Niall McCullagh and Darren McKelvey joint sixth, despite a crank sensor problem in the McKelvey car. Cathan McCourt led Group N initally, but slid off and burst the intercooler on stage three, whilst class rival Jordan Hone actually took the fastest time in that third test, to move up to fourth overall.
After the second loop, Sam Moffett’s lead was down to twenty seconds following that puncture, and second place was now held by the MK2 Escort of David Crossen who was loving the stages. “We had a big push through those two. On the third one, we were just a couple of seconds behind Jordan, and we were second fastest on stage four eight seconds back from Sam, which we are happy with. We need to make sure and get it home now though” expressed the County Down charger. Jordan Hone’s Group N lead was now sixteen seconds over seventh placed Niall McCullagh.
In the two wheel race, David Crossen’s advantage was thirty-eight seconds over John Gordon in his four door MK2. John had Aileen Kelly deputising in the co-drivers seat and was holding an excellent eighth place overall despite a small gearbox leak. Mickey Conlon was fourteen seconds further back, feeling he wasn’t quite on the pace, the car feeling a little loose. At the finish, it was a ninth place and 2nd two wheel drive for John giving him a €200 entry voucher for next year’s Jim Walsh event, and €100 for tenth placed Mickey Conlon who was seventeen seconds behind. Owen McMackin was fourth home in his MK2 and Damian McGauran fifth in the unique BMW 320.
At the front of the field, Sam Moffett extended his winning margin to fifty-one seconds over second placed Jonny Leonard and Arthur Kierans who sorted their problems out in the Evo 6 to leap into that position, a fine result for the Enniskillen driver. In third and less than a minute behind the leader was David Crossen whose remarkable run also earned him a free entry to next year’s event for bringing the first MK2 home, winning the 2017 Mark 2 Master of the Woods Prize. Fourth and first in Group N was a just reward for Jordan Hone with his father Paul as ever in the hot-seat. The ever smiling Ger Lucey was a credible fifth in his Evo 8 and continues to lead the championship going into the final 2 rounds. Enda McCormack’s trip over from the US was rewarded with sixth and less than 20 seconds behind him was Niall McCullagh in seventh, debuting the newly aquired Evo 9 and 2nd in Group N, just ahead of Darren McKelvey. The Top 2 Wheel Drive Award went to John Gordon & Aileen Kelly as David Crossen’s top 3 finish means he forfeits class awards.
The Valvoline Junior Section (Class 16), again provided a nail-biting battle. Just nineteen seconds separated the top three with John O’Sullivan taking victory in his R2 Fiesta. After four tests, John was just 0.3 of a second ahead of Shane Kenneally’s Honda, the Fiesta’s lack of wing mirrors evidence of chicane incidents for O’Sullivan who adjusted his suspension before a final loop charge. Shane Kenneally was happy with second just over three seconds back, after an overshoot on stage three and the loss of the flat-shift gear change during the day. In third was an on form Johnnie Mulholland in another R2 Fiesta, whilst Derek Mackeral was happy to bring the Nova home to finish fourth. Stephen Dickson who led the class in the series ended up fifth and just didn’t have a great day, with steering arm issues amongst the worries.
The M. O’Brien Plant Hire Junior 1000 class for 16-18-year-olds entered its final round and Jason Murphy took the inaugural championship title with another victory in his Peugeot 107, winning him a prize drive in an R2 car on a 2018 Irish Forest round. “It’s brilliant to get that,” said Jason. “Today I started off very cautiously on stage one then speeded up. The stages were mighty and what an experience it’s been thanks to my co-driver Matthew and everyone in the team and the championship. ”Making her Junior 1000 debut eighteen-year-old Aoife Gahan in her Chevrolet Spark took second place, her co-driver Liam Brennan complimenting her for some “fearless” driving at times. Another newcomer Jason Gorham took third place with his Peugeot 107 as interest continues to build for 2018.
Other class winners included: Seamus Heaney (Class 1 – Honda Civic), Cal McCarthy (Class 2 – Citroen C2 R2), Andrew Burke (Class 3 – Citroen DS3 R3), Ruairi Maguire (Class 9 – Vauxhall Corsa), Mike Garahy (Class 10 – MK2 Escort), Stuart McClean (Class 11f – Vauxhall Nova), Ruairi McCaffrey (Class 12 – MK2 Escort), John Reid (Class 15 – Corolla WRC).
2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship-Round 4 Results
1st Sam Moffett/ Darragh Kelly – Ford Fiesta WRC – 36m 47.2s
2nd Jonny Leonard/Arthur Kierans – Mitsubishi Evo 6 – +0:51.4s
3rd David Crossen/Damien Fleming – Ford Escort Mk2 – +0:59.3s
4th Jordan Hone / Paul Hone – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +1m23.9s
5th Gerard Lucey/JJ Cremin – Mitsubishi Evo 8 – +1m27.8s
6th Enda McCormack/Colin Fitzgerald – Subaru Impreza WRC – +1m28.0s
7th Niall McCullagh/Ryan McCloskey – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +1m45.5s
8th Darren McKelvey/Aaron Johnston – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – +1m47.1s
9th John Gordon/Aileen Kelly – Ford Escort Mk2 – +1m59.3s
10thMichael Conlon/Ciaran McPhillips – Ford Escort Mk2 – +2m17.2s
2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship- Points After Round 4
1st Ger Lucey 61
2nd Sam Moffett 59
3rd David Crossen 58
4th Jonny Leonard 49
5th Enda McCormack 47
6th Mickey Conlon 45
7th Josh Moffett 42
8th Marty McCormack 38
9th Desi Henry 36
10th Adrian Hetherington 35
=Ian Graham 35
Championship sponsors include – Valvoline, Andrew Fanning Motor Factors, M. O’Brien Plant Hire, Suirway Group Forklifts & Farm Machinery, Jelf Motorsport Insurance, Exact Signs & Graphics, Pottinger Machinery, Ears Motorsport / Kumho Tyres, Colton Pump & Heating Services, Coillte, Concept Fire Services Ltd, Gordon Automotive Services, Barron Pix & SVS Incar Cameras.