To date the 2014 Valvoline Forest Rally Championship has been very exciting with three different winners on the five rounds. Des Henry/ Liam Moynihan (Evo 6) stormed to an unsuspecting victory on Round 1 in Clonmel. The event ran in a mini stage format through the forests South of Clonmel which had not been rallied in twenty years. Conditions were very slippy on the narrow muddy stages and it was about staying middle of the road. Brendan Comiskey/ Ronan O’Kane (Evo 6) were a huge surprise as they leapfrogged from number 16 to second overall. Josh Moffett/ Jason McKenna ((Evo 9) completed the podium. Shane McGirr/ Martin McGarrity (Starlet) were 6th overall and Best 2WD. Conor McCarthy/ Dan O’Donovan (Civic) won the Junior class.
A revamped Moonraker was the second round based in Ballyvourney on April 13th. Owen Murphy/ James O’Brien (Evo 9) took the hard earned spoils after a day long battle through the forests in the Mullaghanish Mountains on the Cork/ Kerry bounds. Runner up Desi Henry upgraded to an Evo 9 but could not match Murphy on the day. Early leaders Andrew Purcell/ John Rafter (Evo 6) dropped to third after mechanical trouble. Shane McGirr/ Jackie Elliott took a start to finish 2WD victory. Conor McCarthy scored back to back wins in the Junior class.
Owen Murphy continued in winning form taking a start to finish win on round 3 the Wicklow Forest rally. The championship returned to Wicklow for the first time in eight years with a new host club – the ALMC who ran a mini stage event. Josh Moffett piled on the pressure but had to accept second. Enda McNulty/ Paul Sheridan (Impreza) had a new sequential gearbox and despite teething problems cliamed third overall. David Crossen/ Pamela Irwin were 10th overall and “Best 2WD” on their maiden Valvoline Championship foray. Conor McCarthy completed a hat-trick of class wins, again taking the junior laurels.
Following a 3 month lay-off the championship resumed for round 4 the Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally on Sunday August 24th. The vast Ballyhoura Forest complex offered 8 very fast and flowing stages (4 repeated). Owen Murphy completed a hat-trick leading the event from start to finish while the chasing pack jockeyed for position. Pat O’Connell/ Mark Wiley (Evo 9) showed their speed mixing it Murphy, Moffett and Derek McGeehan’s Mini WRC. O’Connell claimed second after setting FTD on the final stage. Josh Moffett set FTD on stageseven but slipped to third on the final stage. Adrian Hetherington/ Gary Nolan had a red letter day; 6th overall, Best 2WD and winner of the Mk2 “Master of the Woods” award. Shane Kenneally/ Jer Connors (Mk2) took the Junior class following the demise of Conor McCarthy with a broken drive shaft.
Round 5 saw the Valvoline contenders head to Omagh Co. Tyrone for the Bushwwhacker on Saturday September 27th. The rally had a phenomenal entry with 115 starters and plethora of machinery throughout the field. Local crew Martin Cairns/ Gary McElhinney took the spoils having to fend off the unrelenting Josh Moffett over the 11 high speed technical stages. Desi Henry completed the podium. Owen Murphy finished an uncharacteristic 16th due to the time lost on the opening stages with coil pack failure. Adrian Hetherington was 8th and best 2WD. Conor McCarthy took maximum Valvoline Junior points.
As the penultimate round is staged in Carrick on Suir today Josh Moffett is top of the championship standings on 91 points. The Monaghan man has finished every round and is getting quicker with every stage. Owen Murphy is second on 76 following his hat-trick of wins. Niall Henry is third on 65 and odds on for the Gp N title. His brother Desi holds fourth with 60 points and is intent on a podium place. There are 7 rounds with best 5 scores to count who could possibly predict the winner? Given the pace and hunger of the young blood one thing is certain, the 2014 Valvoline forest rally championship title is set to go right down to the wire.
Shane McGirr (38 points) currently leads the 2WD brigade 3 points clear of Micky Conlon (Mk2) with Damien McGauran (Corolla) holding third a further 6 points in arears. Johnny Kenneally (Mk2) leads class 1, Tim Howard (Nova) class 2, Allen Treacy (Corolla) class 3, Sean Benskin (Mk2) class 4, Damien McGauran class 5A and Ollie Williams (Mk2) tops class 5B. Andrew Purcell leads class 6 and could be the pace setter today. Marty McKenna (Impreza WRC) leads class 7, Niall Henry (Evo 9) class 8/ Gp N, Conor McCarthy class 9/ Juniors and Owen Murphy heads class 20 but is more focused on the Overall points
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