Round three of the 2016 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship was the Tour of the Sperrins Rally, run by the Magherafelt and District Motor Club. This was the Valvoline Championships first trip 'over the border' and into Northern Ireland this year, to introduce a new event into the series. The Tour of the Sperrins has been a regular event in the Northern Ireland Rally Championship and made the decision in 2006 to become a tarmac / road rally. But ten years later the event organisers made the decision to bring the event back into the forest tracks once again for nine classic stages and this time bring together the best forest rally competitors from all over Ireland by becoming a counting round of the Valvoline Series.
It was to prove to be a dramatic round, despite a dry weather forecast, the conditions were changeable soon after the cars left the Maghera start, making the stages slippery in places, and this was evident right from the first Banagher Stage. It was local driver Marty McCormack in his high-revving Super 2000 Skoda who led overall on the first two tests, but Moonraker Rally winner- Desi Henry, with his 1600 turbo-charged Skoda Fabia R5 was just 0.1 of a second behind and soon to move into the lead. It was this lead that Desi and co-driver Liam Moynihan extended to 5.9 seconds after the sixth test, but on stage seven, the Skoda slid off the road on a slippery right hander and was stuck fast. It left McCormack with a clear run to victory, with event sponsor Derek McGeehan a fine second in his Mini WRC. With Desi out, the race to be top Valvoline point’s scorer was to prove an interesting one!
The drama started at the first corner of stage one, when one of the favourites- former forestry champion-Pat O’Connell in his Evo 9 slipped off the road and retired. Championship leader Ger Lucey’s day started with a lack of intercom, not good for the Macroom driver on these fresh stages. It was to prove an off day for Ger, as a road penalty also helped to relegate him to twenty-second place. Derek McGarrity- registered for the series in his WRC Fiesta, and was right on the leading pace, but over-heating issues and a ten minute penalty for failing to start stage one on time classified him down in forty-first place. Cathan McCourt’s run of ill luck continued as he bent the rear suspension on stage three, whilst Robert Moffett’s WRC Fiesta and Adrian Hetherington’s Corolla WRC also fell victim to that tricky Wolf’s Hill stage. Another favourite was top Valvoline scorer on round one - Patrick O’Brien. A puncture on that third test cost the young Tyrone driver two minutes, and may have contributed to gearbox failure which was to leave him side-lined once again.
Amidst the carnage - Brendan Cumiskey in his Fiesta R5 was moving up the leader-board despite a trip into a stage three ditch, an over-shoot on the Glenshane stage, and a puncture on stage seven after running wide at the corner that claimed Desi Henry. Nevertheless it was a great run, and on stage times Brendan and co-driver Ronan O’Kane would have taken third place and maximum Valvoline points. However a one minute penalty for a jump start on stage four demoted them to seventh and fourth in the points. Darren McKelvey was another driver on form in his Lancer Evo 8, lying fourth overall after six tests, but retirement at the finish of stage seven ended his chances, and Mark Donnelly retired his Super 2000 Fiesta with an off on stage four. Driving a neat and fast rally Michael Carbin and Darragh Kelly claimed a magnificent third overall in their old model Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4. “I really enjoyed the day and we had a very clean run” commented Michael. “Our only drama was luckily on the final stage when we broke a rear shock absorber, but it’s great to finish here so well.” More great news for Michael is that his third place moves him into the lead of the championship.
The two-wheel drive race was equally as frenetic with Oran Donnelly the initial leader in his MK2 Escort, before differential failure. Shane McGirr back in action with his affectionately named “scrap-box” Toyota Starlet was scrapping for the lead right from the start. The Fivemiletown driver with co-driver Liam McIntyre soon powered into that position after stage five, and into a remarkable fifth place at the finish, claiming second overall points. “The stages were slippery but it generally held up well. It was a good race once again” said Shane. Seventeen seconds back in sixth was David Crossen in his Duratec powered MK2 Escort. A big moment on stage six was the only drama on what was a fine showing for the Comber driver. Just fourteen seconds back and eighth overall was class winner John Gordon, who felt his Escort’s suspension was too soft on the early stages, and dropped time with an over-shoot on stage three. Micky Conlon just six seconds further back lost time when he wedged the Escort in a small bridge on that third test, and when he broke a rear axle link on the final stage which was starting to get rough. Another rapid MK2 man David Condell in his 2.4 version was delighted to finish with no damage this time in fourteenth, but significant non-finishers were Damien McGuaran- his rear wheel drive Corolla suffering gearbox failure and Hugh McQuaid as he slid his MK2 off on stage seven.
Winner of the rallytrader.ie/ Kumho tyres Junior category, collecting two tyres from Ears Motorsport Ireland was Castlederg’s Adam Bustard with his R2 Ford Fiesta 1.0t. The former Junior 1000 Champion finished an excellent thirteenth overall, just missing the 1600 class win by 0.8 of a second. “It was great to win the Junior prize today and to also take the first win for M-Sport’s R2T in the Valvoline Irish Forest Championship” said Adam. ”We just missed out on a class win, and have a little more work to do on our car set-up but next for us is the British Championship Scottish Rally.” Round one Junior winner Derek Mackarel retired his Nova once again, whilst Stephen Dickson in his R2 Fiesta, Shane Kenneally in his MK2 Escort and James Driver in his Ka collected valuable points.
Other important class winners were included Ruari Maguire, despite stage five delays in his Vauxhall Corsa, and Niall Devine taking Group N, from Simon Woodside and a consistent Ashley Dickson third. Now it’s the traditional break in the Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship before the Jim Walsh Memorial Forest Rally kicks it all off again in August. The championship positions certainly make it a difficult bet to put on who will be the 2016 champion!
2016 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship-
Round Three results:
1st Marty McCormack / Caron McCormack Škoda Fabia S2000 29:50.9
2nd Derek McGeehan / Arthur Kierans Mini WRC +0:22.8
3rd Michael Carbin / Darragh Kelly Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV +2:03.5
4th Niall Devine / Crawford Henderson Subaru Impreza “N” +2:21.1
5th Shane McGirr / Liam McIntyre Toyota Starlet +2:26.6
6th David Crossen / Chris McSherry Ford Escort Mk2 +2:44.2
7th Brendan Cumiskey / Ronan O Kane Ford Fiesta R5 +2:48.5
8th John Gordon / Thomas Wedlock Ford Escort MK2 +2:58.9
9th Stephen McKenna / Mark Donnelly Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI +3:01.7
10th Michael Conlon / Ciaran Mc Phillips Ford Escort Mk2 +3:05.5
Championship Points after round three:
1 Michael Carbin 52
2 Gerard Lucey 43
3 John Gordon 40
4 Mickey Conlon 39
5 Brendan Cumiskey 35
6 Adrian Hetherington 32
7 David Condell 28
8 David Crossen 25
9 Patrick O'Brien 23
10 Desi Henry 22
2016 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship
Round 4: 14th August - Jim Walsh Memorial Cork Forest Rally
Round 5: 3rd September - Lakeland Forest Stages Rally
Round 6: 16th October - Limerick 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
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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