2020 championship kicks off in Carrick!
Round 1 Preview
With only a number of days left to go, final preparations are being made right around the Island as anticipation builds to the opening round of the 2020 Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship, this weekend’s Carrick on Suir MC Willie Loughman Forest Rally. With a bumper field of Seventy crews registered so far, anticipation is really building for the fast and challenging stages that lie ahead on Sunday!
Based out of the centre of Carrick-on-Suir, the rally will see competitors tackle three stages, each repeated twice, in what is sure to be a high-speed beginning to the 2020 Loose Surface season. The opening 4.19KM Ahenny stage will be followed by the 7.76KM Anner test. This duo will be repeated again after lunch, before the cars are pointed towards the fearsome 18.09KM Gurteen. A regular stage on the Willie Loughman of old, 2020 see’s one of the longest forms it has ever taken, and is certain to be a distinct challenge no matter the conditions.
Leading the field is a slew of top-level Machinery and some of the finest driving talent in the country, with plenty of crews holding realistic ambitions of standing atop the podium come Sunday night. The most exciting name is that of James Wilson/Arthur Kierans, the 2018 Billy Coleman Award Winner committing to the Valvoline Irish Forestry Championship behind the wheel of a Motorsport Ireland Academy backed Hyundai i20 R5. Enda McCormack/Liam Moynihan will also be in a Hyundai, with the vastly experienced McCormack ready to make a good push at the 2020 crown.
A slew of Ford Fiesta R5’s will also be charging hard through the Kilkenny Forestry roads on Sunday, with Pauric Duffy/Jeff Case, Liam Ryan/Keith Moriarty and Andrew Purcell/Liam Brennan all behind the wheel of respective 4WD machines. Purcell in particular will be excited by the prospect of a first outing in his newest Fiesta, acquired from M-Sport only this week. Former Irish Tarmac Junior Champion Jenna McCann/John McCabe will take the start in their Mitsubishi Evo, amongst a busy field that counts 18 4WD crews.
The 2WD battle, ever the exciting spectacle, is sure to be an absolute dog fight between the big-powered RWD cars, and the incredibly nimble and quick FWD’s. Waving the flag for the rear-powered side, Mickey Conlon/Grace O’Brien are vastly experienced in the Woods and should be very quick, but the recent gravel converts Garry Kiernan/Daren O’Brien will be out to lay down a marker for the season. Keeping them on their toes will be the hard charging R2 powered youngsters, with both Jordan Hone/Paul Hone and Kyle White/Sean Topping among a strong bunch who could feature quite prominently on the leader board.
2020 has seen a massive overhaul of regulations in the area of the Junior 1000 series as part of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship, with the reduction in driver age being the most significant. The 2020 season kicks off with a bang for these youngsters, with ten crews taking on the Willie Loughman stages. 2019 Champions Kyle McBride/Kieran McBride will be the ones to catch, but with a lot of new drivers and new cars in 2020, the season may be one to watch as its sure to be a cracker.
As always, the Irish Forest Rally Championship social media channels will be alive with lots of interviews, photographs and updates throughout the rally, and each round of the season, so make sure to swing by on Sunday if you can’t make it to Carrick.
The 2020 Valvoline Irish Forestry Rally Championship Calendar
Round 1: Willie Loughman Memorial Forest Rally - February 16th - Carrick-On-Suir
Round 2: Limerick Forest Rally - March 1st – Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick.
Round 3: Moonraker Forest Rally - March 28th – Ballyvourney, Co. Cork.
Round 4: Sean Conlon Memorial Rally - May 17th – Clonmel, Co.Tipperary
Rounds 5 & 6: Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally - July 25th/26th - Mallow, Co. Cork
Round 7: Bushwhacker Rally – September 26th – Omagh, Co. Tyrone