Joe McGonigle . . . second in Sligo
In a day of drama, Monaghan’s Sam Moffett and his Kerry co-driver Noel O’Sullivan took their Ford Fiesta R5 to victory in the FAAC Simply automatic/Sligo Park Hotel Rally, round five of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship.
Title rivals Donegal’s Declan Boyle and his Monaghan co-driver James O’Reilly and Monaghan’s Josh Moffett and his Limerick co-driver Keith Moriarty both in Ford Fiesta WRC’s failed to finish.
Moffett crashed out of the lead on S.S. 6 and a stage later Boyle damaged his car and although he finished the stage, he was unable to continue. With two events remaining and even if Josh Moffett were to claim maximum points on both rounds, Boyle will clinch the title by annexing 25 points from the two events.
Meanwhile, Donegal’s Joe McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney (Mini WRC) finished the rally in second place – a minute and 28 seconds behind the winners with another Donegal crew Johnny Jordan/Gary McNern (Toyota Starlet) completing the top three - one minute and 33.2 seconds further adrift .
Tyrone’s Aidan Wray/Kieran McGrath (Mitsubishi) won the Safety Motorsport Team Group N award.
On the opening stage near Geevagh Josh Moffett was quickest and led Boyle by 1.2 seconds with Sam Moffett 15.9 seconds further behind in third followed by Donegal’s Joe McGonigle (Mini WRC) and fellow county drivers Stuart Darcy (Darrian T90), Daniel Conaghan (Escort) and Johnny Jordan (Toyota Starlet).
The second stage was cancelled due to an issue with a resident. Josh Moffett was also quickest on S.S. 3 and arrived at the Collooney service park leading Boyle by 10.5 seconds. The rally leader was happy with his pace while Boyle clipped a chicane on S.S. 3 reckoned he was driving too aggressively. Fourth placed McGonigle was on the wrong tyres and experienced a few moments while he also stalled on the start line of S.S. 3.
A hard charging Jordan was in fourth place as he remarked that the stages really suited his car. While Darcy pushed hard on S.S.1, he couldn’t get a rhythm for the third stage. Armstrong admitted he was slow through the opening stage but hadn’t given up hope of reeling in fellow rally.ie two wheel drive rival Darcy.
An untroubled Frank Wray (Mitsubishi) led the Motorsport Safety Team Group N and the top ten was completed by the Mitsubishi of Sligo’s David Leonard and the Escort of Donegal’s JF Shovelin.
In the wet and slippery conditions, Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC) extended his lead on stages four and five and entered stage six with a lead of 27.5 seconds over Boyle. Then, it all went wrong for Josh Moffett, who slid off on a square right and out of the rally as he damaged the front right wheel. Boyle was quickest through the stage and at the final service he led Sam Moffett (Fiesta R5) by 43.4 seconds.
McGonigle occupied third – 38.6 seconds further adrift, he had to take evasive action to avoid Josh Moffett’s stricken Fiesta.
Johnny Jordan (Starlet) continued to set a superb pace in the two-wheel drive category as he held fourth from Group N leader Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi). Armstrong was off briefly on S.S. 4 but damage to the front of his Escort was only superficial, his rally.ie rival Stuart Darcy lost over a minute when his Darrian T90 stalled with a fuel issue. Elsewhere, Trevor Bustard (Mitsubishi) was sixth and second in Group N with Tyrone’s Gary Cairns (Mitsubishi) just 2.5 seconds behind. Shovelin and Monaghan’s John McQuaid (Escort) rounded out the top ten. Leonard (Mitsubishi) retired while Paul Barrett (Mitsubishi), who punctured the front right wheel, withdrew after he hurt his hand when the steering wheel snapped.
On the first stage of the final loop more drama unfolded when Boyle spun off and while he finished the stage his car was too damaged to continue. In terms of the Triton title and even if Josh Moffett were to claim maximum points from the Clare Rally and the Donegal Harvest Rally, Boyle needs to annex 25 points from the two events to win his third national title.
Sam Moffett went on to win the rally with McGonigle and Jordan completing the top three. Wray also won the Triton Showers Drive of the Day award. Armstrong took top points in the Ford Escort Mk. 2 Challenge and also moved to within three points of Stuart Darcy for the rally.ie award. Darcy failed to finish.
1. Sam Moffett/Noel O'Sullivan (Ford Fiesta R5) 58m. 20.8s.
2. Joe McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney (Mini WRC) 59m. 06.6s.
3. Johnny Jordan/Gary McNern (Toyota Starlet) 1h. 01m. 22.0s.
4. Aidan Wray/Kieran McGrath (Mitsubishi EvoX) 1h. 01m. 25.5s.
5. Chris Armstrong/Chris Melly (Ford Escort) 1h. 02m. 07.7s.
6. Trevor Bustard/John McCafferty (Mitsubishi EvoIX) 1h. 03m. 02.6s.
7. JF Shovelin/Ryan Moore (Ford Escort) 1h. 03m. 03.9s.
8. John McQuaid/Tomas Treanor (Ford Escort) 1h. 03m. 13.0s.
9. Gary Cairns/Martin Brady (Mitsubishi EvoIX) 1h. 03m. 13.3s.
10. Sean Gallagher/Claire Gallagher (Mitsubishi EvoIX) 1h. 03m. 42.8s.
Triton Showers National Rally Championship (Provisional Positions after Round 5): 1. J. McGonigle 79pts; 2. D. Boyle 77pts; 3. J. Moffett 59pts 4. S. Darcy 46pts; 5. C. Armstrong 43pts.