The final round of the 2014 Valvoline Forest Rally Championship was staged by Mid Antrim Motor Club in the Springwell and Cam Forests on Saturday 8th November. The rally featured 6 fast open stages (2 done 3 times) with Rally HQ and Service Park at the River Ridge Recycling Complex in Ringsend, Co. Derry. Weather was dry but bitter cold causing the grip levels to vary through the forests.
Martin Cairns (Impreza WRC) was fastest out of the blocks, leading by 2.5 secs after ss1 (Springwell). Josh Moffett (Evo 9) was his closest pursuer with top seed Kenny McKinstry (Impreza WRC) in 3rd only 0.2 secs back. Desi Henry (Evo 9) held fourth 1 sec back with Owen Murphy (Evo 9) slotting into 5th a further 1.5 secs in arrears. Shane McGirr (Starlet) led the 2WD’s – 1.5 secs up on his rival Frank Kelly (Mk2). Desi Henry had a big charge through “Cam” (ss2) setting the pace to move into a slender lead of 0.3 secs. Moffett maintained second and McKinstry 3rd. Cairns was off the pace, slipped from first to fourth and felt that he just didn’t get a good flow. Murphy held fifth and was doing enough for the championship. Gareth Sayers (Evo 7) was joint 5th while Sam Moffett (Evo 9) was 7th and leading GpN. Liam Regan occupied 8th, Shane McGirr 9th and Frank Kelly completed the top ten at first service. The second stage was cancelled after Marty McKenna/ Martin McGarrity crashed their Impreza WRC – thankfully both crew members were ok.
Josh Moffett took the lead having set a blistering pace on the repeat of Springwell. Desi Henry dropped to second, now 1.7secs off the lead. Cairns got it together to leap-frog McKinstry moving into third and Murphy held station in fifth. Stage four was shortened due to the earlier accident. Desi Henry upped the ante through Cam stopping the clocks on a staggering 6.29.2 over 8 secs up on Moffett to regain the lead arriving at final service. Josh felt he had good clean run but had no answer for Desi’s pace and now trailed by 6.5 secs going into the closing stages. McKinstry was unchanged in third while Murphy moved up to fourth following another slow time by Cairns on his bogie stage (Cam) – the Strabane man slipped to fifth. Gareth Sayers held 6th, Sam Moffett 7th, Niall McCullagh (Evo 6) 8th, Niall Henry (Evo 9) 9th and Shane McGirr rounded off the top ten.
Martin Cairns showed his flair setting FTD on the penultimate stage (ss5, Springwell) elevating him one place to fourth ahead of Murphy. Josh piped Desi by 0.1 secs however this had no major impact on the leaderboard and Desi held a 6.4 sec lead ahead of the final stage. McKinstry had looked safe in third but now Cairns had closed to within 4 secs. Murphy was driving for points and now the title was in his grasp as the Cork man drove a controlled rally. Frank Kelly set the 2WD pace, 3.8 secs up on McGirr but the latter was still ahead albeit 1.7 secs going into the final forest stage of the year in the dark – no pressure!
It was a bitter sweet day for Desi Henry/ Liam Moynihan, the Derry/ Cork duo won the rally by 5.9 secs. While they struggled to get a rhythm on Springwell they made their mark on Cam each time to take the laurels on Desi’s home rally. However sometimes winning is not enough, Desi tied with Owen Murphy on points but missed out on the title as Murphy won the tie break (by virtue of his hat-trick of wins over Desi’s two victories). Liam Moynihan was crowned the champion co driver and will receive the esteemed “Ger Fahy” Memorial Cup as James O’Brien was a non-starter. Josh Moffett/ Jason McKenna had a fraught final stage (Cam) as their lamp-pod went faulty – they resorted to indicators to light up the black dark forests. Incredibly they still managed to set FTD 0.5 secs quicker than Henry but it was not enough and the Monaghan pair finished second overall. Martin Cairns/Peter Ward charged to 3rd overall on their final attempt at Cam where it finally clicked for them. Kenny McKinstry/ Noel Orr were fourth and had to yield to the speed of the younger generation on the day.
Fifth was all Owen Murphy needed on the day to claim the title and he did just that, guided this time by Anthony Nestor on the notes. The Cork man was the 2011 champion and has now secured his second Valvoline Forest Rally Championship title. Ironically he had not intended contesting the championship this season and missed the curtain raiser in Clonmel. The Moonraker was his first event which he won and went on to complete a hat-trick winning Wicklow and Cork. The Bushwhacker was a drop score; he was out of contention due to coil pack failure and he slipped to third on the last stage in Carrick.
Sam Moffett/ James O’Reilly were 6th and won GpN. Gareth Sayers/ Gareth Gilchrist took 7th; Niall McCullagh/ Ryan McCloskey 8th, Niall Henry/ John Rowan (Evo 9) claimed 9th on the day and more importantly have secured the Gp N Championship laurels. Frank Kelly/ Russell Harold were fastest 2WD on the final stage 1.4 secs up on Shane McGirr/ Jackie Elliott. However McGirr/ Elliott secured 10th overall claimed the 2WD honors along with the bragging rights! (Albeit by 0.3 secs) and Shane has retained his crown as 2WD Valvoline Champion.
Class 1 (1400cc): Janice Magee/ Evelyn Warwick (Nova).
Class 2 (1600 8v): Mervyn Wilson/Richard Gamble (Escort).
Class 3 (1600 16v): Kevin Eves/ Chris Melly (208 R2).
Class 4 (2000 8v): Alan Atcheson/ Gary MCCrudden (Escort).
Class 5A (2000 16v): Shane McGirr/ Jackie Elliott (Starlet).
Class 5B (2100): Frank Kelly/ Russell Harold (Escort).
Class 6 (Gp A): Gary Kiernan/ Finbar Smith (Impreza).
Class 7 (WRC’s): Kenny McKinstry/ Noel Orr (Impreza).
Class 8 (Gp N): Sam Moffett/ James O’Reilly (Evo 9).
Class 9 (Junior’s): Thomas/ David Lowry (Nova).
Class 20 (4WD): Owen Murphy/ Anthony Nestor (Evo 9).