The Jim Walsh Memorial Cork Forest Rally based in the Ballyhoura Forest complex on the Cork/ Limerick border took place on Sunday August 24th. The event was the fourth round of the 2014 Valvoline National Forest Rally Championship and is widely regarded as one of the finest gravel rallies in the country. Hosted by Cork Motor Club there was 8 challenging stages (4 repeated) with centralized service at the Charleville Show Grounds nearby offering a very compact competitor friendly format with service after every two stages.
A cool overcast morning dawned as competitors assembled for the safety briefing at Greenhall Motors early on Sunday. There was a formidable entry with 62 starters including a mix of regulars, new comers and club members. The array of machinery was stunning from the very latest spec Mini WRC, Corolla WRC’s, Subaru’s and various Evo’s along with the best of high powered 2WD Escorts, Toyota’s, Civic’s and Peugeot’s. Rain fell as competitors set out for stage one but spirits were not hampered knowing the quality of the terrain in the Ballyhoura Forests. After a 3-month layoff the “Valvoline” competitors were eager to let loose in the woods.
Owen Murphy/ James O’Brien (Evo 9) set the pace on the opening 10.5km stage in “Ballinaboula” 2.6 secs clear of top seeds Josh Moffett/ Jason McKenna (Evo 9). Derek McGeehan/ Darragh Mullen held third a further 2.5 secs back in the Mini WRC. Andrew Purcell/ John Rafter (Evo 6) held 4th, Pat O’Connell/ Mark Wiley (Evo 9) 5th and Brendan Cumiskey/ Ronan O’Kane (Impreza WRC) held 6th with only 11 secs separating the top six. Adrian Hetherington/ Gary Nolan (Mk2) led the 2WD contingent while Frank Kelly/ Sean Hayde (Mk2) dropped 3 mins due to fuel starvation. Shane McGirr/ Jackie Elliott (Starlet) were the first major retirement due to a blown engine while Marty McKenna/ Damien Fleming (Impreza WRC) had to withdraw due to damaged steering.
Rain persisted and there was fog on stage 2 “New Fields” (11.5km). Murphy/ O’Brien continued to set the pace to hold a 6.9 sec lead at first service. Moffett/ McKenna held 2nd with McGeehan a mere 0.1 sec adrift showing good pace on his first visit to the Cork Forests. Andrew Purcell held fourth and Pat O’Connell 5th having set second fastest time on stage two only 0.6 secs off leader Murphy. The 2WD category lost two front-runners as Micky Conlon/ Ciaran McPhilips (Mk2) suffered a broken bell-housing and David Crossen/ Andrew Bushe (mk2) crashed out. Hetherington/ Nolan maintained the 2WD lead, from the Keane brother’s Donal/ Diramuid (Mk2). Donal flew home from Brisbane for this event not having competed since 2011. Frank Kelly was on a charge having sorted the fuel issue.
Stage times were almost identical on the repeat of Ballinaboula where Owen Murphy continued to set the pace and extend his lead to 9.3 secs. Josh Moffett held second while Pat O’Connell climbed to third. McGeehan slipped to fourth after hitting a rock and Purcell fifth. Conor McCarthy/ Dan O’Donovan (Civic) led the Junior class by 1 minute as their nearest opponents Alan Moran/ Trevor O’Connell (206) rolled. Derek Mackeral/ Peter Deery (Nova) lost 5 mins with electrical trouble elevating Shane Kenneally/ Jer Connors (mk2) into second with David Beamish/ Muireann Hayes (Nova) holding third.
Desi Henry/ Liam Moynihan (Evo 9) set FTD on ss4 (New Fields) with McGeehan only 0.4 secs in arrears. Leader’s Murphy/ O’Brien were a further 3.5 secs adrift, their lead now trimmed to 7.8 secs at the halfway point. McGeehan jumped to second by virtue of his increased pace on ss4. Josh Moffett slipped to 3rd, only 1.9 secs back. Pat O’Connell fell to fourth after losing some time with intercom failure. Brendan Cumiskey held 5th, Desi Henry 6th, Niall Henry/ John Rowan (Evo 9)7th, Hetherington 8th and leading 2WD, John Reid/ Edna Shiels (Corolla WRC) 9th and Michael Carbin/ Stephen Thornton (Evo 4) completed the top ten.
Owen Murphy maintained his lead on the afternoon stages scorching through ss5 (Streamhill). Pat O’Connell trailed by just 0.8 secs with Josh Moffett a further 6 secs back following a small excursion on the first junction. John Reid (Corolla WRC) rolled out. Andrew Purcell retired with brake problems and Junior leader Conor McCarthy was out due to a broken driveshaft. Pat O’Connell and Owen Murphy were credited with Josh Moffett’s time for ss6 (Coolfree) because of a timing issue. Coolfree claimed the Escorts of Donal Keane and Alan Commins, both slipped off the road sustained little damage but their rally was over. Murphy held a 15 sec advantage at service before the final loop. Pat O’Connell was up to 2nd, Moffett 3rd, McGeehan 4th, Desi Henry 5th, Cumiskey 6th and Hetherington 7th with a strong 2WD lead.
The sun came out for the closing stages, but the fog was slow to lift off the mountains. Josh Moffett set his first FTD of the day on ss7 (Streamhill), O’Connell trailed by 2.7 secs while leader Murphy appeared to back off as he was a further 3.2 secs down. Desi Henry damaged the transmission on the startline, limped through the stage but did not finish. The scene was set for an epic showdown with less than 12 secs between the top three (Murphy, Moffett & O’Connell) going into final stage (Coolfree). The Junior battle was down to the wire as well, less than 11 secs dividing Shane Kenneally/ Jer Connors (Mk2) and David Beamish/ Muireann Hayes (Nova).
Pat O’Connell and Owen Murphy tied on the final stage elevating O’Connell/ Wiley to second overall, their best result this year. However there can only be one winner and the day belonged to the Cork pairing of Owen Murphy/ James O’Brien who led from start to finish completing a hat trick of victories in the “Valvoline” championship. Josh Moffett/ Jason McKenna lost 10 secs on Coolfree demoting them to 3rd. However the Monaghan crew maintain the championship lead as the series heads to the Northern rounds. Derek McGeehan/ Darragh Mullen (Mini) claimed 4th and Brendan Cumiskey/ Ronan O’Kane (Impreza WRC) took 5th.
Adrian Hetherington/ Gary Nolan had a red letter day; 6th overall, Best 2WD and winner of the Mk2 “Master of the Woods” award. Niall Henry/ John Rowan (Evo 9) were 7th and took the Gp N spoils. Monaghan’s Michael Carbin/ Stephen Thornton (Evo 4) survived brake failure and a slight excursion to finish 8th. Lucey Brother’s Ger/ James were 9th while Martin Donnelly/Brian Doherty (Corolla WRC) completed the top ten on their first venture into the Cork forests. Dungarvan’s Shane Kenneally/ Jer Connors (Mk2) won the Junior class ahead of Cork’s David Beamish Muireann Hayes (Nova). Clones pair Derek Mackarel/ Peter Deery finished 3rd Junior on their first stage rally.
Plenty of the silverware went to local crews/ club members with Johnny Kenneally/ Grace O’Brien (Mk2) winning class 1, Tom Murphy/ Connor Collins (Mk2) class 2, Paul Fitzgerald/ Pierce Doheny (Mk2) class 3 and Mike O’Sullivan/ Carol O’Keeffe (Mk2) class 4. The esteemed Ger Fahy Memorial “Spirit of the Rally” award went to David Crossen/ Andrew Bushe who crashed heavily on stage 2 and embodied the spirit of rallying as they marshalled for the reminder of the event before the long journey home to Co. Down.
Class 1 (1400cc): Johnny Kenneally/ Grace O’Brien (Escort).
Class 2 (1600 8v): Tom Murphy/ Connor Collins (Escort).
Class 3 (1600 16v): Paul Fitzgerald/ Pierce Doheny (Escort).
Class 4 (2000 8v): Mike O’Sullivan/ Carol O’Keeffe (Escort).
Class 5A (2000 16v): Damien/ Thomas McGauran (Corolla).
Class 5B (2100): Adrian Hetherington/ Gary Nolan (Escort).
Class 6 (Gp A): Brecan McBreen/ Breen McNamee (Impreza).
Class 7 (WRC's): Martin Donnelly/ Brian Doherty (Corolla).
Class 8 (Gp N): Niall Henry/ John Rowan (Evo 9).
Class 9 (Junior's): Shane Kenneally/ Jer Connors (Mk2).
Class 20 (4WD): Derek McGeehen/ Darragh Mullen (Mini).
For Further Championship information visit:www.irishforestrally.comwww.rally.ie
00 353 87 2691975