MOFFETTS TIE AS SAM TAKES WIN
Organiser: Enniskillen Motor Club When: September 3 Where: Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland Championship: Valvoline Irish National Forest Rally Championship Stages: 8 Starters: 70
Brotherly love between the Moffetts, Sam and Josh, went temporarily out the window as they fought tooth and nail for victory, finishing equal first on times on the Lakeland Stages Rally.
In the event of a tie, rallies are usually decided on the fastest first stage time, but the Moffetts tied on the first stage too. Therefore it was decided on the second stage, which was topped by Sam, giving him the overall win.
The rally consisted of four stages through the familiar Fermanagh forests, each stage repeated three times.
Mark Donnelly, in his Subaru Impreza, led after SS1, just one second ahead of the tying Moffetts. Conditions were damp, but the stages remained firm. As the day progressed speeds were high.
Donnelly incurred two punctures in stage three, Ballintempo, the longest stage of the rally. He was only carrying one spare and had to tackle the short but twisty fourth stage (Belmore) with one deflating tyre. When he reached service, he was over 20s in arrears and although he pushed hard in the afternoon he couldn’t match the Moffett brothers at the front.
Sam – in the family Ford Fiesta WRC, not his usual Fiesta R5 – and Josh (Fiesta R5) went to battle through the rest of the day and there was never more than a second or two between them. Josh got his Fiesta’s nose in front through SS5 and SS6, but then Sam surged back through the seventh and eighth tests to draw level. Mark Donnelly was 48s behind the leading pair at the finish and had no answer to their speed.
Desi Henry was another driver close to the frontrunning pace, but his Skoda R5’s intercooler pipe came adrift in stage three, costing over a minute. Henry did well to battle back from 12th to fourth.
Niall Mccullough hired a Mckinstry Subaru for this rally. It was his first WRC outing and he upped his pace to improve from 11th to fifth. Martin Cairns was unhappy with the feel from his Ford Fiesta WRC’S differential early on, but he too upped his game to come through to sixth.
There were many hard luck stories among the frontrunners. Adrian Hetherington was a heroic fourth in his Toyota Corolla WRC until caught out on a hairpin left around a bale and his car got stuck in the ditch. Mark Donnelly (Fiesta S2000) – not to be confused with his namesake on the podium in an Impreza – drove hard throughout the day and was a strong fifth until his car suffered a damaged strut in stage seven. Reigning junior champion Patrick O’brien was another driver going exceptionally well but he retired his Lancer on SS4 when lying fifth.
Shane Mcgirr/martin Mcgarrity in their Toyota Starlet were the best two-wheel-drive crew at the finish. Mickey Conlon beat Shane’s times on several stages but his Escort suffered a puncture in the fifth test and dropped down the order.
Top Group N honours went to Conor Mccourt/caolan Mckenna from David Dennison/gareth Lewthwaite, both crews in Mitsubishi Lancers.
In the Irish forestry series, Ger Lucey moves to the top of the standings ahead of Michael Carbin. Josh Moffett scored maximum points but is not contesting the full series. Henry got second-place points, which moves him into a strong finished eighth ahead of Keith Dowthwaite and Chloe Louise Treeby. Class 2 winners Mathew Roberts/ Sarah Hughes completed the top 10 in their Citroen Saxo.