LEADING from the start, former Billy Coleman award-winner, Armagh’s James Wilson (Hyundai i20 R5) made the perfect start to the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship with victory in the Carrick-on-Suir-based Willie Loughman Forest Rally.
Co-driven by Arthur Kierans, they finished 41.8 seconds ahead of Monaghan’s Michael Carbin/Conor Mohan (Mitsubishi). Tipperary’s Liam Ryan and his Limerick co-driver Keith Moriarty (Fiesta WRC) were 38.9 seconds further behind in third.
Although careful on the opening pair of stages, Ahenny and Anner, Wilson set the pace to move into a lead of 13.7 seconds over Tyrone’s Marty McKenna (Fiesta WRC), who punctured on the first stage. Monaghan’s Michael Carbin (Mitsubishi), who was second after the first stage, slipped to third, albeit a 10th of a second further behind.
In his first event in five years, Liam Ryan (Fiesta WRC) slotted into fourth in a top six that also featured the Mitsubishi duo of Waterford’s Keith Power and Baile Mhúirne’s Gerard Lucey.
Wilson was also quickest on the repeat of the two stages and arrived at the Carrick-on-Suir service park with a 27.4 second advantage.
Carbin regained second but Ryan lost time with two punctures (front right and rear right) on the fourth stage and was 9.3 seconds further adrift in third.
Power bowed out after his Mitsubishi rolled on its side after hitting a bank and then landed back on all four wheels.
An untroubled Lucey was fourth. The 18km stage at Gurteen pushed Wilson 41.8 seconds free of Carbin as Ryan punctured yet again to slip 38.9 seconds further behind.
Two-wheel-drive contender Cavan’s Gary Kiernan (Ford Escort) occupied fourth as he admitted to having a few moments on the stage. Lucey reckoned his stage time didn’t reflect his efforts as he slipped to sixth.
Monaghan’s Mickey Conlon (Ford Escort) and his Dromtariffe co-driver Grace O’Brien (seventh) had to complete the stage without the clutch.
The organisers had to move 11 cars that failed to finish the stage and as a result, had to cancel the final stage that was meant to be a repeat of Gurteen.
The top 10 was completed by New York-based Enda McCormack (Hyundai i20 R5) and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan; Jordan Hone (Opel Adam R2) and Pauric Duffy (Ford Fiesta R5).
On Sunday, the Skibbereen and District Car Club’s Loose Surface Autocross at Derryleigh, Leap, was cancelled due to the inclement weather. It is envisaged it will be run at a later date.