2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship-Round Four
There is a real air of anticipation as the exciting 2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship, enters it’s second half this weekend. The fourth round on Sunday, the Cork Motor Club’s Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally, is set to provide the thrills, as Clerk of the Course Paul Casey and his team have laid on sixty-five kilometres of loose surface special stages including the long sixteen kilometre Boggeragh Drive test, which was much hailed last year. With the rally based in Mallow, and now the Rally Headquarters, parc ferme and service area all within three hundred metres of each other, the event is attracting a fine entry.
Valvoline championship leader after three rounds is Cork’s Ger Lucey, who loves to compete on these stages in his home county. Ger and his trusty Mitsubishi Evo 8 were in a similar position last year, but when dropped scores come into account later in the season it can bring the powerful R5 and WRC players into the reckoning more. Winner of the opening Carrick on Suir round Josh Moffett, also capitalised on the second Moonraker round, scoring maximum points, with brother Sam just behind on both occasions. Few would bet against theMonaghan men for the series, but in challenging positions are the Skoda R5 pair of round three winner Marty McCormack and last year’s Jim Walsh event winner- Desi Henry. At the time of press we were waiting confirmation of who is entering amongst the R5 players, but Adrian Hetherington in his WRC Corolla is entered in time, and also could pose a title threat. Other four wheel driver runners who could figure well on Sunday include the Evo’s of Darren McKelvey and Niall McCullagh, the Subaru WRC of Enda McCormack and the Fiesta WRC of Conor McCloskey. In the Group N title race the Evo’s of Conor McCourt, Cathan McCourt and Jordan Hone are all tied on points, so Sunday’s stages will be crucial.
In the two wheel race Comber’s David Crossen with his Mark 2 Escort leads the championship after a great start to the season, culminating in a third overall finish on the last round in Donegal. It’s a MK2 Escort dominated class with the ever enthusiastic Mickey Conlon, John Gordon in his four door example and David Condell with his 2.5 litre Escort all offering strong challenges. There is the added carrot for the mighty MK2 men of a free entry to next year’s Jim Walsh rally for the first MK2 home, and 200€ and 100€ entry contributions for second and third placed Escort’s. Damien McGauran’s BMW 320 could well break up the MK2 domination, as the Fermangh driver sorts his machine on each outing, and as ever there is the added interest to see how many four wheel drive machines finish behind the old rear wheel drive cars.
The Valvoline Junior Section (Class 16), where the eligible crews are competing for an automatic Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Award nomination, is dominated by front wheel drive machines. Stephen Dickson leads the series in his R2 Fiesta, after class wins on the second and third rounds. County Antrim driver Johnnie Mulholland is relatively new to the rallying game, and with his unique Hyundai i20, is becoming more of a threat, whilst Shane Kenneally who was victorious on the first round has proven he has the pace in his Honda Civic in 2017.
The M. O’Brien Plant Hire Junior 1000 class for 16-18 year olds, has features the Peugeot 107’s of Alex Byrne and Jason Murphy, and one point separates championship leader Murphy from Byrne. With a fabulous prize of a drive in an R2 car on a 2018 Irish Forest Rally round, entry voucher incentives and Ears Motorsport putting up tyres as prizes interest in this new concept is building for 2017, as these teenagers gain valuable early experience of gravel driving, and indeed co-driving as they swop to the navigators seat for the public road sections between the stages.
Once again we would like to give special thanks to all our sponsors – 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.
2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship- Points After Round 3
1st Ger Lucey 45
2nd Josh Moffett 42
3rd David Crossen 40
4th Sam Moffett 38
5th Marty McCormack 38
6th Desi Henry 36
7th Adrian Hetherington 34
8th Mickey Conlon 34
9th Enda McCormack 32
10th Jonny Leonard 30
2017 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship-Rounds
Round 1 – 12th February- Carrick on Suir Forest Rally
Round 2 – 8th April- Moonraker Forest Rally
Round 3 – 13th May- Donegal Forest Rally
Round 4 – 30th July-Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally
Round 5 – 2nd September-Enniskillen Lakeland Stages Rally
Round 6 – 23rd September- Bushwhacker Rally- Omagh
Images from Lorcan Barron