Valvoline Forest rally Championship round 5 was held last Sunday in Mitchelstown. Formally known as the Sean Conlon Memorial rally, it was hosted as usual by the Tipperary M.C. Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings (Impreza GpA) emerged as winner 18 seconds ahead of Vincent Mc Aree(Evo9).Reigning champion Owen Murphy (Evo9) was third just 2 seconds behind Mc Aree, and the 2010 champion Pat O’Connell (Evo9) emerged fourth after a delay on the last stage. The 2WD segment was captured by Shay Power (Escort Mk2) and Dean Raftery (Civic) won the junior class.
Jennings was in the mix of a scrap with Mc Aree and O’Connell right from the start, after three stages there was just one second between the three drivers. However on stage four Jennings stamped his authority on the event with a great time and he arrived in service with an eight second lead. In the remaining four stages he gradually pulled away to finish 18 seconds ahead of the field. This win puts Jennings into a strong second place in the Valvoline series- a point behind Stephen Wright-and with the championship heading northwards to Omagh and Mid Antrim, it would be difficult to bet against the man from Kesh. Remarkably Jennings is also second in the Tarmac rally Championship which also has two rallies remaining.
Vincent Mc Aree had a good day in the office with second overall, which puts him into joint third in the series. McAree was fastest on the first stage and he shared the lead with Jennings after ss3. Thereafter Mc Aree was in a day long dogfight with O’Connell who had a one second margin going into the last stage but his clutch gave up, losing the Cashel man thirty seconds and dropping him to fourth.
Reigning champion Owen Murphy had a challenging day. The Corkman drove very well but he felt his car was underpowered. Always a few seconds off Mc Aree and O’ Connell, Murphy inherited third when O’ Connell was delayed on the final test. Murphy is now sixth in the series, 22 points adrift of Wright and retaining his crown is now an uphill task.
Fifth place was claimed by Stephen Wright (Evo) who is the new championship leader and he finished one place ahead of fellow Monaghan man Josh Moffett (Evo9) who has making his Valvoline Championship debut. Josh’s brother Sam (Evo9) also entered and the brothers recorded the identical time on the first stage, but Sam’s car succumbed to fuel problems on stage 2. Sam is the current holder of the Billy Coleman award.
Josh had a rally long scrap with Cork’s Ger Lucey (Evo8) who was in command until stage 5 when the more modern Evo9 took over. Moffett claimed sixth by twelve seconds at the finish. Lucey finished ahead of the WRC’s of Martin Cairns (Impreza S12), John Reid (Corolla) and Kevin Barrett (Impreza S11) while Charlie Drake (Evo9) returned from Australia to finish eleventh.
The 2WD segment was a ding dong battle between the Escorts Mk2’s of Shay Power and Paul Fitzgerald and little separated them all day. At the end Power had the advantage by six seconds and it strengthens his hand in the 2WD championship. Power and Fitzgerald were 12 and 13 o/a and not surprisingly a trio of juniors were next home
Dean Raftery registered his third junior win in a row ahead of Ian Downey and Daniel Cronin. Raftery now leads this prestigious class with 57 points,Downey is second with 48 points, four ahead of Daniel Cronin with 44. Remarkably Raftery and Downey also lead the 2WD segment with Cronin sixth.
Retirements in Mitchelstown included Colin Britton (Evo9) who succumbed on the first stage with transmission issues. The Tyrone man was series leader was championship leader at the start of the day but now he is joint third with Mc Aree. Shane McGirr (Starlet RWD) was another Tyrone man to succumb on stage one with engine maladies. Stage three accounted for Andrew Fanning, when the drive shaft of the Valvoline Puma broke. Mick Nevin also retired after off and clutch problems.
1 Garry Jennings/David Moynihan Impreza 35:30
2 Vincent McAree/Jp McAree Evo 9 35:46
3 1 Owen Murphy/James O’Brien Evo 9 35:50
4 3 Pat O’Connell/Mark Wiley Mitsubishi Evo9 36:18
5 6 Stephen Wright/Suzanne Wright Mitsubishi Evo 6 36:49
6 18 Josh Moffett/John Rowan Mitsubishi Evo9 37:17
7 7 Gerard Lucey/James Lucey Mitsubishi Evo 8 37:29
8 8 Martin Cairns/Gary Monteith Impreza WRC 37:42
9 5 John Reid/Enda Sheils Toyota Corolla WRC 37:54
10 9 Kevin Barrett/Sean Mullally Impreza WRC 37:57
LEADERS SS1 Mc Aree, SS2 Jennings, SS3 Mc Aree/Jennings, SS 4-8 Jennings
FASTEST TIMES Jennings 5, Mc Aree 2, Pat O Connell 2.
CHAMPIONSHIP TABLE: 1. STEPHEN WRIGHT 83,
2. GARY JENNINGS 82, 3 COLIN BRITTON 77,
3 VINCENT McAREE 77 ,5 GERARD LUCEY 63,
6 OWEN MURPHY 61, 7 PAT O'CONNELL 59.
All crews with 5 starts or more are allocated 5 bonus points, for further information check www.irishforestrally.com .
Valvoline Championship Rounds six and seven will be hosted by clubs in Northern Ireland. The Bushwhacker is organized by the Omagh MC and takes place on Saturday Sept 22nd, while the Mid Antrim Motor Club will host the final round of the 2012 Valvoline Forest Rally Championship on Saturday October 27th. Please note the Mid Antrim Rally replaces the Dogleap rally.
CLASS WINNERS IN MITCHELSTOWN
Class1 Garry Mills(Corsa)
Class2 Mike Walsh (Sunbeam)
Class3 Paul Fitzgearld (EscortMk2)
Class4 Raymond BenskinJnr (EscortMk2)
Class5 Shay Power (EscortMk2)
Class6 Garry Jennings (Impreza GpA)
Class7 Martin Cairns (Impreza WRC S12)
Class8 Vincent McAree (Evo9)
Class9 Dean Raftery (Civic)