There was drama after the final stage of the Trailer Parts & Spares Lakeland Stages Rally as the long-time leader, Josh Moffett, struggled to complete the final road section when his Fiesta ground to a halt…
“It could have been temperature related but we don’t really know yet,” Moffett said. “We got through the final stage without any trouble but about halfway through the road section to the finish, the car just stopped. Then it went, and then it stopped again.”
Moffett and navigator Stephen Thornton had to push their car to the final control and were four minutes late, incurring 40 seconds worth of road penalties. However, luck was on their side as they had extended their lead to 41 seconds after the final stage. That meant the crew won the rally in their Fiesta R5 by just one second!
“Unfortunately, Barry McKenna and Andrew Purcell dropped out early on so it made our day a bit easier,” Moffett said. “It always good to have a race with those guys but it was good to get the win!”
In a final twist, event organisers received a protest suggesting that the winning crew had received ‘outside assistance’ to get to the final time control – something that isn’t permitted within rally regulations. However, after much deliberations, Moffett and Thornton were eventually confirmed as the winners around 11pm.
The event hosted round five of the McGrady Insurance N.I. Rally Championship and it was Desi Henry who arrived home as the series’ top competitor in second overall. He and Liam Moynihan nabbed second overall after a push on the final stage saw them displace Vivian Hamill and Andrew Grennan from the runner-up position.
“We had a problem on the first loop that we couldn’t figure out until we got to service,” Henry explained. “One of the sensors wasn’t working so we were down on power. We got that fixed and I think we were second quickest over the last three stages.”
Henry’s increased pace didn’t come without its dramas as a heavy landing over one of the jumps resulted in some technical troubles.
“We had a bit of a scare when the car reset itself and turned off stage mode,” Henry explained. “We didn’t know what had happened but as soon as we switched ‘stage mode’ back on we were fine.”
Vivian Hamill and Andrew Grennan were disappointed to drop a position on the final stage but it was still a fine display from the crew who were only contesting their second event with their new Ford Fiesta.
Cathan McCourt and Barry McNulty finished fourth in their Fiesta on a day where McCourt was also trying to get used to his car, while Adrian Hetherington and Gary Nolan successfully brought their battle-scarred Corolla WRC to the finish in fifth.
“We changed our tyres for the second loop and that gave us a lot more grip,” Hetherington said. “I really enjoyed that!”
Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson survived a stage four puncture, losing around six seconds, to come home in sixth overall, picking up plenty of valuable N.I. Championship points.
Alan Smyth and Mac Kierans secured seventh overall in their Evo X while N.I. Championship hopeful, Alan Carmichael, ended the day with a smile on his face after pushing hard over the big jumps on stage six.
“We had a lot of problems on the second loops but it wasn’t as bad as this morning,” Carmichael said. “We had a bit of fun on the last stage and hit the big jumps as hard as we could!”
Stephen McCann and Kaine Trainor sealed ninth overall in their Fiesta R5 after a “much cleaner run” over the second loop of stages while Niall Henry and Damien Duffin took their Citroen DS3 R5 into 10th overall despite breaking his power-steering on the final stage.
In the battle among the two-wheel drive crews, David Crossen and Aileen Kelly secured the win, as well as 11th overall, despite a scare during the closing stages.
“We broke the shock on stage five,” Crossen explained. “We lost about 10 seconds to Frank (Kelly) but we still managed to win the category. We were on a wing and a prayer over some of the bumps!”
Frank Kelly, who finished second in the two-wheel drive category and 12th overall, was also on a “wing and a prayer” over one particular section…
“We were on the grass at very inappropriate speeds!” Kelly laughed. “I tried to take a corner flat in sixth gear and I realised when I got there that it wasn’t really flat! So I caught the grass, and we ended up on the grass the whole way around the corner. The car didn’t want to come out of it but luckily there was nothing solid to hit.”
Father and son, Jordan and Paul Hone, completed the top three 2WD finishers after a fantastic drive in their Opel Adam R2. They fended off the hard-charging Oran Donnelly and Mo Downey who were lucky to escape unscathed after a stage one brush with the scenery.
“I put slightly narrower tyres on the back of the car for the second loop,” Donnelly explained. “I think it was a combination of the tyres and a cleaner road that made it feel really nice.”
In the Production category, Liam Regan and Gary McElhinney claimed a well-deserved win after early leader, Niall McGonigle, retired during the final stage with a suspected driveshaft failure. In the end, Regan held off Conor McCourt and Caolan McKenna to seal the win, as well as 13th overall, by 25 seconds.
Other retirements during the final loop of stages included Paul McCann who had two punctures and not enough spares. The same drama befell Colm McFall who got a puncture on stage five and then another one on stage six, putting him out of the rally.
Top two-wheel drive competitor, Shane McGirr, also retired during the final loop of stages while Barry McKenna, who rejoined the event under ‘Rally 2’ after his stage one excursion, lost an argument with a tree stump during the second loop but was lucky to escape any major damage.
The penultimate round of the McGrady Insurance MSA N.I. Rally Championship takes competitors to Omagh for the Bushwhacker Rally on 22 September. More details can be found on www.nirallychampionship.com.
Lakeland Stages Rally Results (Top 10)
Full results available from www.rallyscore.net.
1 Josh Moffett/Stephen Thornton (Fiesta R5) 32m17s
2 Desi Henry/Liam Moynihan (Fabia R5) 32m18s
3 Vivian Hamill/Andrew Grennan (Fiesta R5) 32m20s
4 Cathan McCourt/Barry McNulty (Fiesta R5) 32m34s
5 Adrian Hetherington/Gary Nolan (Corolla WRC) 32m35s
6 Derek McGarrity/Paddy Robinson (Focus WRC) 32m55s
7 Alan Smyth/Mac Kierans (Evo X) 33m19s
8 Alan Carmichael/Ivor Lamont (Mini WRC) 33m25s
9 Stephen McCann/Kaine Treanor (Fiesta R5) 33m42s
10 Niall Henry/Damien Duffin (DS3 R5) 33m48s
Words: Jonathan MacDonald | Opening picture: Phil Stewart/PHILPICS.NET
[images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]