The Triton Showers-backed Motorsport Ireland National Rally Championship enters the second half of its eight round season on Sunday’s Rathkeale based Lyons of Limerick Circuit of Munster Rally. The nine stage event has attracted a capacity entry (150 crews) with almost fifty other crews waiting on a reserve list.
Winners of the 2019 event, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Hyundai i20 R5) and his Wexford co-driver Andy Hayes are the top seeds with Moffett very much in command of the current series and favourite to land the title he won in 2019. On all but one of the four rounds this season, Moffett has Limerick’s Keith Moriarty as his co-driver, while the Abbeyfeale man read pacenotes for Moffett’s older brother, Sam on the Monaghan Rally. On the 2017 Circuit of Munster Rally, he partnered Sam to victory and will again partner Sam on Sunday’s event. The Moffett sibling rivalry is a regular feature of Irish rallying over the past few years and its most recent encounter was on round three in Monaghan with Josh taking the laurels - twelve seconds ahead of Sam.
Abbeyfeale co-driver Moriarty, who began competing some 22 years ago, is in the perfect position to judge the quality of both Moffett brothers.
They have a great rivalry and when they are both on form, I can’t see anyone else get near them. Actually, they drive each other on.
While Moriarty has won several events with both he has also won the Circuit of Munster with Welsh driver Steve Wood (Subaru WRC) in 2016. However, he has yet to win a national title but with Andy Hayes not registering for the series, he should remain on course to secure a maiden national title.
Meanwhile, Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt (Citroen C3) will add an interesting dimension to the event, he was on course to win the recent Maiden City M.C. rally only to spin at the final junction of the very last stage and he lost out by 2.3 seconds. Former triple national champion Donegal’s Declan Boyle has yet to decide which car to drive - either his VW Polo GTi R5 or his Ford Fiesta WRC, he hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons and trails Josh Moffett by 46 points. Meanwhile, Dubliner Robert Barrable will continue with the Ford Fiesta Rally2 he campaigned to fourth place on the last round in Carlow, his championship bid hasn’t materialised to match the form he showed on the opening round in Mayo. Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings, in his right hand rive Fiesta R5, is utilising the event as a shakedown for the forthcoming Donegal International Rally. Elsewhere and having skipped the last round, Omagh’s Seamus Leonard (Fiesta R5) returns to the national fray along with Donegal’s Eamonn Kelly, who will have his second outing in the VW Polo GTi R5 normally driven by his father Donagh, on his debut in the car last March, he was fifth in the Mayo Rally.
The top ten is completed by former national champion Meath’s Tim McNulty (Ford Fiesta R5) and Maynooth’s Paul Barrett (Ford Fiesta R5), the latter is still on a confidence building exercise after the opening round where he crashed out of fourth spot on the penultimate stage, since then, seventh in Monaghan remains his best result.
Outside the top ten, the likes of Cavan’s Stephen McCann and Limerick’s Keith Lyons, both in Ford Fiesta R5’s will be aiming to secure top ten finishes.
Kilcornan’s Ed O’Callaghan (Ford Escort) is the highest seeded two-wheel drive exponent, he leads the National Mk. 2 Trophy and will be aiming to extend his eight points advantage over Longford’s Stephen Faughnan, also in a Ford Escort. In terms of the two-wheel drive category, he faces Armagh’s Jason Black (Toyota Starlet), who is in a rich vein of form and holds fourth overall in the Triton Showers-backed series. Series regular Monaghan’s Michael Carbin (Mitsubishi EvoVIII) is also on the entry list that marks the return of former national champion Dubliner Aaron MacHale to competitive action after a lapse of over three years, he will debut a right hand drive VW Polo GTi R5. Tyrone’s Gareth Sayers and Down’s Stuart Biggerstaff, both in Ford Fiesta R5’s and Cavan’s Jonathan Pringle (Ford Escort) complete the top twenty. Other entries include Limerick’s Chris O'Callaghan (Ford Escort), Donegal’s PJ McDermott and Cork’s Kevin Kelleher, both in Ford Fiesta R5’s. Dubliner Gareth MacHale, in a right hand drive VW Polo GTi R5, is fifth on the reserve list.
Seeded Top 10:
1. Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5)
2. Sam Moffett/ Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta WRC)
3. Cathan McCourt/ Liam Moynihan (Citroen C3 Rally2)
4. Declan Boyle/ James O'Reilly (TBA)
5. Robert Barrable/Paddy Robinson (Ford Fiesta R5 Rally2)
6. Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy (Ford Fiesta R5)
7. Seamus Leonard/ John McCaffrey (Ford Fiesta R5)
8. Eamonn Kelly/ Conor Mohan (VW Polo GTi R5)
9. Tim McNulty/Paul Kiely (Ford Fiesta R5)
10. Paul Barrett/ Kevin Reilly (Ford Fiesta R5)
Rathkeale House Hotel, Rathkeale. (Tel: 069 83333)
First Car Away: 09.45
S.S. 1, 4 & 7 (Duckstown - 18.50km): 10.22; 12.59 & 15.36
S.S. 2, 5 & 8 (Corronaher - 19.15km): 10. 50; 13.27 & 16.04
S.S. 3, 6 & 9 (Granagh – 9.00km) 11.33; 14.10 & 16.47
Service (Rathkeale) 09.54; 12.16 & 14.53
Finish Ramp (Rathkeale House Hotel) Rathkeale: 17.30