2018 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship Round 1
Local crew Andrew Purcell & Mark Wiley in a Ford Fiesta R5 took victory on the opening round of the 2018 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship, the Carrick on Suir based William Loughman Memorial forest Rally. At the end of the tough nine stage event (the final three of which were in darkness) they had nineteen seconds to spare over the similar car of Barry McKenna & Leon Jordan with the Ford Fiesta S2000 of Stephen McCann & Kaine Trainor completing the podium places almost two minutes further back.
Josh Moffett & Stephen Thornton who won this event in 2017 were top seeds and one of the pre event favourites in a Fiesta R5 and set fastest time on the opening stage. However their challenge ended on stage 2 when they cut a corner too tight and the Monaghan crew lost a wheel and the chance of second consecutive win on the rally. Purcell then led after Stage 2 only to suffer a misfire which left McKenna leading after stage 4. McKenna had some misfire problems of his own but Purcell recovered to take the lead from Stage 5 to the end.
In the 2WD category Michael Conlon & Ciaran McPhillips (Escort Mk2) had a brilliant drive to take the category win and finish tenth overall as their rivals fell by the wayside. David Crossen, Adrian Hetherington and Shane McGirr were among those who retired for various reasons, while Tommy O’Connell lost a potential second place when he slid off on the final stage and over ten minutes as the car got stuck. This meant that James Wilson & Gavin Doherty took second 2WD in 15th place overall in a Peugeot 208 R2 and were also top junior crew. Chasing them hard for the entire event were John O’Sullivan and Padraig O’Donovan in a Ford Fiesta R2 and they were third 2WD and second overall in the junior category.
The 2017 M. O’Brien Plant Hire J1000 champions Jason & Matthew Murphy (Peugeot 107) got their title defence off to a great start as they were the only crew to reach the finish. They led throughout the day despite a strong challenge from Aoife Gahan / Mikey Walsh who went off the road and got stuck in Stage 5 in their Chevrolet Spark. Scottish crew Peter Beaton & Paul Gallagher (Peugeot 107) led the category after the first stage, but lost the exhaust before the night stages after hitting a chicane. The car then cut out on Stage 7 and refused to restart and the crew were out of time before the problem could be diagnosed or rectified.
80 crews started the event 59 cars were classified as finishers. A comprehensive report will appear on www.irishforestrally.com shortly as Andrew Purcell provisionally leads the championship with the second round taking place on March 4th with the Limerick Forest Rally.