Wm. Loughman Forestry Rally

2011 Wm. Loughman Forestry Event Preview

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KEEPS us in the DARK for Forestry Rally
2011 Wm. Loughman Forestry Rally Event Preview

If the climax of the opening round in this year’s VALVOLINE National Forestry
Rally Championship is anything to go by then we’re in for a MOTORSPORT treat next weekend in Carrick on Suir. Three weeks ago the new season of Forestry Rallying was ushered in by the Tipperary Motor Club and the event went all the way to the wire with Cork crew, Owen Murphy and James O’Brien taking the honours on the final stage. Next weekend sees the championship move to Carrick on Suir for the Willie Loughman Memorial Forestry Rally, sponsored by The Carraig Hotel, Suirway Farm Machinery and PM Autos.

The Carrick Motor Club is always to the forefront in pushing new boundaries and this year is marked by a return of NIGHT STAGES. Barry Duggan takes charge for his second time as Clerk of the Course, after calling the shots on a very successful rally twelve months ago. For 2011, Barry has pushed the envelope by streamlining the rally to a "Single Day Event". The rally moves this year from its usual Sunday format to a new all in one day scrutiny and rally on Saturday next the 5th of MARCH. Competitors will arrive to the Carraig Hotel (Rally Headquarters) on Saturday morning for mechanical and paper scrutiny, the rally action then gets underway in the afternoon with the first of six stages getting off the startling line at approximately 3pm. The first loop of three tests will be completed in daylight but the second loop will see darkness fall and the competitors will be required to adapt to the conditions.

The special stages for this year’s rally are based in the Gurteen Forest Complex near Kilsheehan and the Anner Forest Complex close to Ninemilehouse. The word special is not lightly used. Stages one and two on the opening loop and four, plus five on the second are classics in the Forestry Championship. The stage layout sees stage 1 and 4 encompass the perimeter of the Gurteen wood, the stage offers spectator viewing points on the R680 road between Kilsheehan and Clonmel. Stages 2 and 5 again in Gurteen is almost entirely closed for spectator viewing except for the junction at Boola Bridge. The competing cars will enter the junction coming downhill at speed and turning hairpin left. The action moves north near to Ninemilehouse to the Anner wood for the third stage in the loop. This famous test is a traditional part of the Willie Loughman event and the 2011 version sees the competitors enter the forest at Ballinruan cross roads and the start of the test is on the upper section of the wood. The stage is again almost completely landlocked for spectator view but for the section of hairpin bends beyond Boherboy cross roads.
After the completion of the opening three tests, the competitors return to Carrick on Suir for service in the Millriver Business Park and is scheduled between 17.00 and 18.00 hrs. Then at 18.30 hrs the cars make their way back to Gurteen for the second loop and the feature of this year’s event, the NIGHT STAGES. The winning crews are expected back to the Carraig Hotel finish ramp at approximately 20.15 hrs.

This year’s forestry rallying season got off to a flyer in Mitchelstown on the 13th of February and it turned out to be memorable for three drivers in particular. Going into the final Kilworth stage, Dubliner John Reid (Toyota Corolla WRC) held a sixteen second lead over Carrick Motor Club member Andrew Purcell. Former Billy Coleman award winner Owen Murphy was a further six seconds back in third place, but all was to change over the 12 Kms of Kilworth. Reid was the first to waver, spinning early in the test and dropping 37 seconds. This left Purcell only to finish and claim victory but the 2009 Forestry Champion co driver succumbed to the pressure and slid of the stage at a tight junction; with no spectators to be seen Purcell was left to rue his chance as his great drive ended in retirement. As the smoke cleared it was Owen Murphy and James O’Brien who emerged victorious and take an early lead in the Valvoline National Forestry Championship. With the demise of Purcell on the final stage, the door was left open for Frank Kelly to claim third overall in his Ford Escort Mk11. The Co. Tyrone man also took top two wheel drive honors and the winner of class 5. With Cork’s Liam Brennan calling the notes the pair recorded fastest 2WD times on every stage.

As we look ahead to the action next weekend all of the above are back to fight for top honors and class success. Winning crew from round one, Owen Murphy and James O’Brien were one of the first crews to enter the event and will be looking to make it two in a row. After their respective mistakes on the final stage in Mitchelstown both John Reid and Andrew Purcell will be looking to get their championships aspirations back on track. Purcell should have the upper hand as he is on home ground but Reid with Enda Shields in the co driving seat finished second overall twelve months ago and will be looking to go one better this year.

The quality of the entry is not confined to the top of the field as there will be interest battles and crews to keep an eye on through out. Among the Mitsubishi brigade are the Pat Price, Bob Scanlon, the Lucey brothers from Co. Cork, Trevor Hutton and Vincent McAree. We have forestry rallying stalwarts Michael Nevin, The Benskins from Co. Cork. There’s an international flavor with entries from Patsy Keenan from the USA and Ian Downey who’s currently living in Germany. Seventh overall in Mitchelstown was claimed by Alistair Fisher who was giving his new Fiesta R2 its first rally run in advance of the WRC Academy series and he will be joined by Carrick Club member Craig Breen who is also in preparation mode ahead of the launch of the FIA WRC Academy in Portugal at the end of March, Breen was in action last weekend in the South of England on the Rallye Sunseeker but a water pump problem cause the Waterford driver a class win. The event will be Craig’s first in his newly acquired Fiesta R2 as he lays the ground work for his WRC Academy assault. Using the R2 model in the Irish forests will be no surprise to him as on the last occasion in 2009 in the Birr forestry Rally, Breen clinched the Irish junior title and third overall on the event in the front wheel drive car. As is usual in the forest sideway action is the norm and we can look forward to plenty of stones flying from the Toyota Starlets of Michael Cuddihy and from Tyrone Shane McGirr, Cuddihy is another man on home ground as he lives near Ninemilehouse. He has a new co driver this year as James Dunphy takes the hot seat. James reports he really enjoyed the rally in Mitchelstown, he states “The Starlet is not an easy car to pilot but Michael does a great job”, McGirr had a great run on the opening event this season taking class 3 honors and will be pushing all the way in Carrick. This sets the scene for will be another event not to be missed in Carrick on Suir NEXT WEEKEND.

Photos Courtesy of myrally.ie

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