Quality & Quantity for the Opening Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Round!
Round one of the 2016 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship promises to be a spectacular start with a bulging entry for the opening Willie Loughman Memorial Carrick on Suir Forest Rally. It’s an entry that’s packed with seriously competitive runners, and the excitement is tangible as 2016 promises to be action packed on the 150th anniversary year of sponsor Valvoline.
Seeded at number one is former champion Mick O’Brien who has another Ford Focus WRC purchased to contest the series. The London based Irishman, put up such a fight in the 2015 series, finishing second to Josh Moffett, but he kicked off last year with a win on this event, so he is a hot favourite, although he is under some pressure to start due to business commitments. Josh the reigning champion, is entered in his 2015 series winning Group A Evo 9, but it looks like he is now sadly not starting, due to the tragic passing of co-driver Jason McKenna’s father. Josh’s brother Sam is expected to start at number three in an R5 Fiesta, and father Robert coming out of retirement to drive the WRC Fiesta. Robert was an entertainer in the past, in rallying and rally-cross especially in the early 80’s in a MK2 Escort and the 90’s in a Metro 6R4.
Competition amongst the four-wheel drive runners is still intense however. Liam Ryan returns to the series in his Evo 8, with Ger Lucey who took a podium spot on the event last year, and third overall in the 2015 series always a threat. Niall Henry makes the trip from Co. Antrim in his Evo 10, and talking of making a trip, Patsy Keenan is flying over from the USA to drive his Evo 9! Former champion Dermot Kelly is making a return in an Evo 7, with the supremely experienced Greg Shinnors along-side, and Don Keating, son of 1981 and ‘91 Irish National Rally Champion Donie, upholds Subaru honours. Outside the top ten includes the WRC Corolla of Eddie Power, Andrew Fanning and Gary Kiernan in Evo’s, but one to watch will be car eighteen, 2015 Ears Motorsport Ireland Junior winner Patrick O’Brien who is stepping up to a four wheel drive Evo 9.
First on the road for the seventy- five kilometre, eight stage rally in the scenic Suir Valley will be the two-wheel drive runners, lead fittingly by the 2015 champion- Micky Conlon in his 2 litre Escort. He will be pressed hard this weekend however, with another former champion Fermanagh’s Shane McGirr starting behind in his 2 litre Starlet, and Damien McGauran’s Corolla adding variety. The extra torque of the 2.5 engined modified cars may come into play on the traditionally slippery stages, and Adrian Hetherington, Ollie Williams and David Condell are expected to be in contention. County Down driver John Gordon, second in the two-wheel drive series last year also wheels out his MK2 in class 12, with Hugh McQuaid another top class 12 finisher expected to give him a challenge.
The Junior Championship received much emphasis last year and once again Ears Motorsport Ireland are providing two new Kumho Rally tyres for the first Valvoline registered Junior home on each round. The winning driver at the end of the season will also receive an automatic Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Award Nomination, entitling them to a chance of a €50,000 Euro prize from Motorsport Ireland towards the winner’s future in the sport. Derek Mackeral who was second last year will be one of the favourite’s in his old style Opel Corsa, with opposition including the MK2 Escort of Shane Kenneally, James Driver in his Ford Ka, and Eoin Crowley in a 206 Peugeot. The website Rallytrader.ie is also adding support for the Junior category in 2016.
The On the Limit Sports cameras will be filming the Valvoline Irish National Forest Rally Championship and regular updates will be posted during the events on Facebook and Twitter with the latest news.
Championship co-ordinator Ray Fitzpatrick and his enthusiastic team are once again very much putting their full effort into the year ahead, working right up until the last moment, securing vital associate sponsors which to date include; Suirway Group, Pottinger-Clever Farming, Jelf Insurance, SVS In Car Cameras, Colton Pump & Heating Services, DJ Rally Hire, Exact Signs, Concept Fire Services Limited and Andrew Fanning Motor Factors. All in all another great year on the gravel is starting!
The 2016 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship Calendar looks like this: Round 1: 14th February - Willie Loughman Memorial Carrick on Suir Forest Rally
Round 2: 16th April - Moonraker Forest Rally
Round 3: 7th May - Tour of the Sperrins Forest Rally
Round 4: 14th August - Jim Walsh Memorial Cork Forest Rally
Round 5: 3rd September - Lakeland Forest Stages Rally
Round 6: 16th October - Mayo Forest Stages Rally
Round 7: 5th November - Glens of Antrim Forest Rally
For all the latest updates and more information of the Valvoline Irish National Forest Rally Championship please look us up on Facebook or Twitter and even more details are available on our dedicated website @ www.irishforestrally.com
F: Irish Forestry Championship
Official Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship
Press Release issued by Andrew Bushe Promotions
F: Andrew Bushe Promotions
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