Strong entry for the first round of 2019 Forestry Championship
The Valvoline Motorsport Ireland Forest Rally Championship for 2019 gets underway with the opening round, the William Loughman Carrick on Suir Forestry Rally, taking place on Sunday 20th January. For 2019 the championship welcomes two new associate sponsors to the series with Modern Tyres and C&M Motors (Omagh & Sion Mills) coming on board, and we are very grateful for the support from all our sponsors.
The strength of the championship is borne out of the fact that many of last years registered crews are back to resume rivalries for the upcoming season. Reigning champion Josh Moffett and last year’s runner up Barry McKenna are both entered while Cathan McCourt who put on a late charge in 2018 to take third place will be another to watch. Other interesting 4WD entries come from Sam Moffett (Fiesta R5), Marty McCormack (Fabia R5), Garry Jennings (Subaru Impreza), Niall Henry (DS3 R5) and Ray Breen (Fiesta R5). Class 20 will be as hotly contested as always with Patrick O’Brien, Gerard Lucey, Michael Carbin and Donall Sweeney likely to feature in their various Mitsubishi Lancers.
The 2WD category is always very hotly contested in the woods with Michael Conlon, David Crossen and Shane McGirr usually at the top end of the action. They will be joined by two drivers who sampled some 4WD power last year but who have reverted back to Escorts for the opening round, Adrian Hetherington and Vivian Hamill, while John Gordon had a very mixed year last year and will be hoping for better things in 2019.
Billy Coleman Award winner James Wilson who also won the Forestry Junior Championship last year runs in Class 2 this year as he is not eligible for the junior award. Drivers such as Derek Mackarel and Marty Gallagher are capable of a strong result in the woods and both were also very close to taking the junior title on the final round last year. They will be standard bearers for the juniors in 2019. The Junior 1000 champion of the past two years, Jason Murphy has progressed to Class 16 and will drive a Honda Civic, navigated as always by Matthew Murphy.
There is an attractive prize on offer for the junior champion which has been very kindly sponsored by Killian Duffy of Onthepacenote.com and Philip Case of PCRS. The top finishing junior competitor (Class 16/ 16A) in the championship using Kilian’s pacenotes will get a test drive in a Hyundai i20 R5 prepared by PCRS. Killian Duffy said “It’s nice to be able to give something back to the sport, and the forestry championship is a very strong series and have supported me over the years. It’s a great opportunity for some young driver to get a chance to see what an R5 car is like to drive”. This is a sentiment echoed by Philip Case who said “We’re delighted to be involved with this prize and very happy to work with Killian in providing this chance for the junior winner to test drive one of the best R5 cars in rallying”.
The M O’Brien Plant Hire Junior 1000 category has a very healthy eight cars entered so far with only Peter Beaton from Scotland eligible to return from the 2018 championship. This class caters for 15-19 year olds and is limited to 1 litre engine cars. Due to the previous years’ experience and running last year’s champion Jason Murphy close on a number of occasions, Beaton will be fancied to make the early running. The other drivers entered in the class include Casey Jay Coleman, Kyle McBride, Reece Pollock, Joseph Kelly, Ella Conway, Marcus McElwee & Aaron Whelan (who competed on the final round in 2018) and it promises to be a fascinating opening round in the south east.