June 3, 2014 by Leo Nulty  

Late entry Monaghan’s Sam Moffett and co-driver James O’Reilly won an eventful and somewhat controversial Circuit of Munster Rally, round four of the Dunlop National Rally Championship. They finished just 4.6 seconds in front of last year’s event winner Kevin Kelleher (Subaru WRC), who was co-driven by Ger Conway. Meanwhile, Steve Wood/Keith Moriarty (Subaru WRC) were a further 21.6 seconds behind in third. Reigning Dunlop champions Declan Boyle/Brian Boyle (Subaru WRC) withdrew at the final service.

The Group N category was won Monaghan’s Josh Moffett and his co-driver John Rowan, they finished over a minute ahead of the similar Mitsubishi of Shane Maguire/Martin McGarrity. The Limerick/Monaghan pairing of Paul Purtill/Paul Kelly (Ford Escort), who were eighth overall won the Dunlop “Drive of the Day” award.

On the opening stage Boyle was quickest and led Moffett by a margin of 7.6 seconds with Steve Wood (Subaru WRC) a further 1.9 seconds behind and 4.6 seconds ahead of top seed and last year’s winner Kevin Kelleher. Last round winner in Carlow, Hugh Hunter punctured his Subaru and decided to withdraw having lost too much time in the process. The aforementioned positions were changed hours after the event had finished as the organisers decided to give every competitor, apart from Boyle, the same time as McVeigh for the opening stage. McVeigh was originally shown as rally leader but it transpired that the time shown was incorrect even though it led to lengthy deliberations at the finish.
At the beginning of the second stage Boyle’s Subaru failed to start, he replaced a crankshaft sensor but had difficulty securing the bonnet and he ran out of sequence. Nevertheless, the Donegal man still set fastest time, however, he was eventually penalised 16 minutes for the late start as Moffett headed the time sheets – and based on the scratch time situation – was a mere 0.8 of a second ahead of Wood with Ed O’Callaghan (Escort) third and Kelleher fourth.

Although Boyle was again quickest on the third stage, Moffett arrived at the Limerick Racecourse service park as rally leader – albeit a mere one tenth of a second ahead of Wood in second with Kelleher 5.4 seconds further behind in third. Moffett reckoned the set-up of his Ford Fiesta was much too soft for the roads in west Limerick; Wood had to contend with fires beneath his Subaru WRC on each of the opening stages and had power steering woes on the third stage. Meanwhile, Kelleher’s Subaru developed a slight misfire through the opening part of the third stage but it cleared itself while he had a problem with a rear brake caliper.

Local driver Ed O’Callaghan (Escort) slotted into fourth after enduring a half spin on the second stage and brake disc troubles on the third stage. The Ford Focus WRC of Michael O’Brien was fifth followed by Paul Purtill (Ford Escort) and Paddy McVeigh – the reigning Dunlop championship leader, who had an overshoot on the second stage, was hampered by the lack of the digital read out of the transmission system. Josh Moffett (Mitsubishi) in eighth led the Group N category with Eoin Doyle (Ford Focus WRC) and the Subaru of Kevin Barrett completing the top ten.

Boyle’s misery continued on the fourth stage when his Subaru punctured the front left wheel, the car also stopped for several minutes towards the stage finish before he was able to re-join the rally. Although he set the quickest times on the fifth and sixth stages it mattered little and once he discovered the imposition of the 16 minute road penalty, he withdrew at the final service halt.
By that point, Moffett led Kelleher by 10.6 seconds with Wood a further 5.6 seconds behind in third. The rally leader was happy with the performance of his Fiesta after his service team stiffened up the suspension. New second placed driver Kevin Kelleher had an altercation on the sixth stage that damaged the rear of his Subaru as Wood enjoyed a clean run through all three stages.

O’Callaghan continued to lead the two-wheel drive category and held fourth position, his Escort handled much better following some suspension tweaks. Fifth placed McVeigh was still hampered by the lack of the digital read out. Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC) occupied sixth with Roy White having a much improved run through the second loop slotting into seventh followed by Purtill. The top ten also included the Subaru WRC of Kevin Barrett, who was much happier with its performance after the suspension was stiffened and Eoin Doyle (Ford Focus WRC).
Elsewhere, Ed Synan (Escort) was eleventh and Josh Moffett continued to lead Group N – even though he clipped a bank on the fourth stage – he was 34.7 seconds in front of his nemesis Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi).

Out of the seventh stage Kelleher posted the best time and cut Moffett’s advantage to 9.3 seconds, however, Moffett responded on the penultimate stage and gained 1.6 seconds to lead by 10.9 seconds entering the final stage. The Monaghan driver almost threw it all away on the final stage when he spun, however, he managed to secure the spoils by a margin of 4.6 seconds.

Kelleher took second and Wood was eventually classified third after the change to the times for the opening stage. McVeigh had to be content with fourth but he still leads the Dunlop series.
Roy White (MG ZR) came home in fifth place and Ed O’Callaghan (Escort) in sixth, co-driven by his sixteen year old son, Christopher, was the top local driver. Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC) was seventh and Paul Purtill (Escort) in eighth spot won the Dunlop Drive of the Day award.

Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC) netted his first finish of the Dunlop season in a top ten that was completed by the Ford Focus WRC of Eoin Doyle.

In Group N, Moffett had over a minute in hand over fellow Monaghan ace Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi) . For the third event in succession the Roscommon crew of Cormac Phelan/Katja Auhl (Honda Civic) won the Junior category. Victory in the Historic section went to the Kerry crew of PJ
O’Dowd/John Young (Talbot Sunbeam).

1. S. Moffett/J. O’Reilly (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1h. 02m. 00.5s; 2. K. Kelleher/G. Conway (Subaru WRC) 1h. 02m. 05.1s; 3. S. Wood/K. Moriarty (Subaru WRC) 1h. 02m. 26.7s; 4. P. McVeigh/P. Hamill (Subaru WRC) 1h. 02m. 47.0s; 5. R. White/J. O’Brien (MG ZR) 1h. 03m. 18.6s; 6. E. O’Callaghan/C. O’Callaghan (Ford Escort) 1h. 03m. 19.0s; 7. M. O’Brien/S. Quin (Ford Focus WRC) 1h. 03m. 21.6s; 8. P. Purtill/P. Kelly (Ford Escort) 1h. 04m. 03.1s; 9. K. Barrett/S. Mullally (Subaru WRC) 1h. 04m. 04.0s; 10. E. Doyle/D. Long (Ford Focus WRC) 1h. 04m. 25.4s.

Dunlop National Rally Championship (Provisional Positions after Round 4): 1. P. McVeigh 60pts; 2. S. Wood 55pts; 3. R. White 49pts.

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