A late switch to a Subaru WRC saw local aces Sam Moffett and James O’Reilly take a splendid victory in the Hillgrove Hotel Monaghan Rally, the second round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship.
On Friday, Moffett was without a car due to problems with his usual Mitsubishi, but keen not to miss his local event he decided to hire the McKinstry Motorsport S14 Subaru WRC.
On what was his debut in a World Rally Car, the Monaghan ace finished a minute and two tenths of a second ahead of fellow Monaghan crew, Niall Maguire and Enda Sherry.
Cork’s, Daragh O’Riordan and his Derry co-driver Tony McDaid (Ford Fiesta) were third – despite the Corkman feeling unwell throughout the rally.
Pre-event series leader Declan Boyle (Subaru WRC) lost some five minutes when he was off the road on S.S. 5, he eventually finished ninth and shares the lead of the Dunlop series with Maguire.
On the opening stage near Emyvale, pre-event Dunlop National Rally Championship leader Declan Boyle (Subaru WRC) set the pace and despite some concerns about the brakes, finished the stage 11.1 seconds faster that the Ford Fiesta WRC of O’Riordan.
Local hero Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC), a further 1.2 seconds behind in third, expressed concerns about the transmission. Moffett in the hired S14 McKinstry Subaru WRC was a fraction of a second further adrift in fourth.
O’Riordan was quickest on the second stage and Moffett punched in the best time for the third stage.
At the Monaghan service park, some ten seconds covered the leading trio.
Leader Boyle held a five second advantage over Moffett with O’Riordan a 5.3 seconds further behind. Maguire occupied fourth followed by the Subaru WRC of Darren Gass and the MG S2000 of Roy White, who completed the top six.
British driver, James Belton (Subaru WRC) increased his pace on the third stage to move into seventh.
Donagh Kelly, sixth on the opening stage, retired his Subaru WRC with engine concerns, while top seed Daniel McKenna (Ford Escort) and James Stafford (Darrian) also retired on the opening loop. Shane Maguire in a hired Mitsubishi retired with transmission failure.
Boyle stretched his lead to 7.2 seconds on S.S. 4 but it all went awry on S.S. 5 when he slid his Subaru off the road on a square left and lost almost five minutes, plummeting to 21st in general classification.
O’Riordan set the best stage time but having lost substantial time to the ever-improving Moffett on S.S. 4, was 14.1 seconds behind the Monaghan driver.
Moffett, who admitted he was very cautious on S.S. 5, powered his way through the final stage of the second loop and at the final service halt, held a comfortable lead of 31.2 seconds over O’Riordan, who was uncertain of continuing in the rally due to his continued mystery illness.
Meanwhile, Niall Maguire (Subaru) closed to within 12.6 seconds of the Cork driver.
Belton made a marked improvement to slot his Subaru WRC into fourth place. Tyrone’s, Frank Kelly (Ford Escort) took control of the two-wheel drive category following the demise of Gary McPhillips.
There was also a new leader in Group N - Josh Moffett reckoned he had settled over the loop of three stages – his nemesis, Martin Doherty (Mitsubishi) was only 1.7 seconds behind in a top ten that also included Roy White, Declan Gallagher (Toyota Starlet) and Paddy McVeigh (Subaru WRC).
White lost time after his MG S2000 broke a driveshaft some two miles into the fifth stage. Declan Boyle (Subaru WRC) held 16th. Gass retired his Subaru WRC due to a number of problems.
On S.S. 7, Maguire reeled in O’Riordan for second, the triple national champion was also quickest through the penultimate stage and on S.S. 9, Moffett rounded of the perfect day with fastest time to clinch a famous victory.
Maguire’s second place gives him a share of the lead of the Dunlop series with Boyle, who recovered to finish ninth. O’Riordan took the final place on the podium as Belton and White completed the top five.
Martin Doherty edged out Moffett in the Group N category while Declan Gallagher (Toyota Starlet) was the top rear wheel drive competitor following the final stage retirement of Frank Kelly (Escort).