Moffett makes Irish rallying history with R5 victory in the forests
Organiser: Carrick on Suir Motor Club When: February 14 Where: Carrick on Suir Championships: Valvoline Irish National Forest Championship, Suirway Group South East Rally Championship Stages: 8 Starters: 58.
Sam Moffett, co-driven by James Fulton, followed up his fine fourth place on the Galway International earlier this month by taking victory in the Carrick on Suir forests in his new Ford Fiesta, an Irish landmark for the R5-spec car which took its first outright victory south of the border.
Patrick O’brien, co-driven by Aine Mcguigan in his Lancer E9, scored one of the best results of his career with second place. His cause was helped when expected frontrunner and current Forestry champion Josh Moffett became a non-starter and last year’s championship runner-up, Mick O’brien, was also absent.
Moffett moved into an early lead on the opening stage, six seconds faster than Patrick O’brien, but on SS2 – the daunting Gurteen test with its many jumps – Niall Mccullagh, in an Mitsubishi Lancer E10, set the fastest time and took the lead. Moffett was relegated to second.
Through stages three and four, Mccullagh continued to set a stunning pace and, at midday service, held a 14.6s lead over Moffett. Reigning junior champion O’brien was a further 13s back. Don Keating had been in the hunt but his Subaru Impreza suffered a puncture in stage two which set him back.
The afternoon stages were a repeat of the morning loop but with added rain and sleet making conditions tricky. Monaghanbased Moffett clawed back some time from Mccullagh, reducing the gap to 6.3s after SS5. With stage six not run competitively, Sam Moffett moved back into the lead on the next test as the unlucky Mccullagh slid off the road in his Lancer.
Through the final stage, Moffett was able to pace it to the finish. His winning margin over Tyrone’s O’brien was in excess of a minute.
Such was the pace of the leading Ford Escorts that they finished in fourth, fifth and sixth positions overall, with Adrian Hetherington taking the twowheel-drive victory from John Gordon and Mickey Conlon. All three were class winners.