Leaders crash out of rally
A dramatic FAAC Simply automatic/Sligo Park Hotel Rally, round five of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship ended in victory for Monaghan's Sam Moffett and his Killarney co-driver Noel O'Sullivan (Ford Fiesta R5) after two of the leading crews both failed to finish.
Triton title rivals Monaghan's Josh Moffett and his Limerick co-driver Keith Moriarty crashed their Ford Fiesta WRC out of the lead of rally on stage six. Then, a stage later and after taking over as rally leaders, Donegal's Declan Boyle and his Monaghan co-driver James O'Reilly also retired following an altercation with the Geevagh scenery. Meanwhile, Donegal's Joe McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney (Mini WRC) finished the rally in second place - 45.8 seconds behind, they took the maximum points in the Triton series to move into the lead with two rounds remaining.
However, Boyle can clinch the title and the Vard Memorial Trophy by annexing 25 points from the two events (Clare and Donegal) irrespective even if Josh Moffett were to claim maximum points on both rounds.
Donegal's Johnny Jordan/Paddy McCrudden (Toyota Starlet) completed the top three in Sligo - two minutes and 15.4 seconds further adrift. Tyrone's Aidan Wray/Kieran McGrath (Mitsubishi) won the Motorsport Safety Team Group N award. From a local perspective Riverstown's Keith Ewing/Sean Quigley (Honda Civic) won Class 1; Roses Point driver Paul McLoughlin and his nephew Brian McLoughlin (Sunbeam) won Class 10; Riverstown's Martin Ewing/James Ewing (Peugeot 205) were the best Connacht Motor Club crew. Collooney based businessman Iarla Carty and co-driver Stephen Reynolds (Mini Cooper) finished second in Class 9.
Ballinfull's David Leonard and co-driver Niall Burns (Mitsubishi) were up to a superb seventh overall after four stages but spun and beached the car on stage six.
Title sponsor Cormac Phelan (Honda Civic) and his daughter Aine took top spot in Class 13F, at the finish Ciaran also pledged FAAC's sponsorship for next year's event. 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, who 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 fourth 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.
Cavan's Chris Armstrong (Escort) 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 category in a 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 an advantage of 27.5 seconds over Boyle. Then, it all went wrong when he 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 overall from Group N leader Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi). Armstrong in sixth, was off briefly on S.S. 4 but damage to the front of his Escort was only superficial, his rally.ie rival Stuart Darcy (16th.) lost over a minute when his Darrian T90 stalled with a fuel issue. Elsewhere, Trevor Bustard (Mitsubishi) was seventh 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 after he spun and beached his Mitsubishi 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 although he finished the stage his car was too badly damaged to continue. Sam Moffett went on to win the rally with McGonigle and Jordan completing the top three. Group N ace Wray also won the Triton Showers Drive of the Day award. Armstrong (fifth) took top points in the Ford Escort Mk. 2 Challenge and moved to within three points of Stuart Darcy for the rally.ie award. Darcy failed to finish.
Afterwards, Clerk of Course Robert Lyttle said: "Certainly, we had no melting tar today. We were very pleased to have 92 starters because when you move dates it doesn't suit everyone but I was delighted with it. We had plenty of drama for sure, the stages were very greasy and to have both leaders going off it was very dramatic.
"I am sure that Sam (Moffett) didn't come here today expecting to win.
"It is also nice to hear Ciaran Phelan committing for 2019. It is so far ahead it is very encouraging when you put so much effort into the event that it is recognised and appreciated.
"Ciaran is very supportive of us and it's great to have a company like FAAC on board again for 2019.
FAAC Simply automatic/Sligo Park Hotel Rally (Round 5, Triton Showers National Rally Championship) Sligo: 1. S. Moffett/N. O'Sullivan (Ford Fiesta R5) 58m. 20.8s; 2. J. McGonigle/C. Geaney (Mini WRC) 59m. 06.6s; 3. J. Jordan/Gary McNern (Toyota Starlet) 1h. 01m. 22.0s; 4. A. Wray/K. McGrath (Mitsubishi EvoX) 1h. 01m. 25.5s; 5. C. Armstrong/C. Melly (Ford Escort) 1h. 02m. 07.7s; 6. T. Bustard/J. McCafferty (Mitsubishi EvoIX) 1h. 03m. 02.6s; 7. JF Shovelin/R. Moore (Ford Escort) 1h. 03m. 03.9s; 8. J. McQuaid/T. Treanor (Ford Escort) 1h. 03m. 13.0s; 9. G. Cairns/M. Brady (Mitsubishi EvoIX) 1h. 03m. 13.3s; 10. S. Gallagher/C. 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.