Belfast Telegraph

Moffett aims to make Breen battle hard for title

 

Effort: Josh Moffett is trying to stay in touch in Irish series
Effort: Josh Moffett is trying to stay in touch in Irish series

By Sammy Hamill

Is trying to beat Craig Breen in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship mission impossible? Reigning champion Josh Moffett thinks so.

The former Citroen World Championship driver has won the first three rounds of the 2019 premier Irish series and is odds-on to make it four in a row in this weekend's Rally of the Lakes which takes place on some of his favourite stages down in Kerry.

In contrast, Moffett has had a dreadful start to the defence of his title and is back in third place, already 27 points behind Breen and 12 adrift of Alastair Fisher.

"It's looking grim," admits the Monaghan man who dominated the championship last year.

"It is next to impossible to win with Craig in the field."

Not that it will stop Moffett trying.

He was third in Galway but driveshaft issues hampered him in West Cork and he could only manage seventh.

He briefly led the Easter Stages before Breen picked up the pace, and then Moffett's challenge was thwarted when his R5 Ford Fiesta cut out at the start of the fifth stage, costing him the best part of a minute, resulting in an eighth place finish.

Breen, meanwhile, has been sailing along serenely, settling in, building a lead and managing his pace to keep the chasers at bay.

Ask him how hard is having to push to stay ahead and he just smiles and says simply: "Hard enough."

With five years of European and World championship experience behind him, Breen knows how to get the job done, although it helps when his R5 Fiesta, which is owned by Irish motorport benefactor John Campion, has run flawlessly so far.

It helps, too, that Breen is constantly behind the wheel, combining his Irish campaign with the Italian Championship - he won in Sanremo last time out - and tyre testing with Michelin.

Now he has signed up to drive in the new Titans rallycross series as well.

Drivers like Moffett, Fisher, Desi Henry, Robert Barrable, Callum Devine and Jonny Greer have to manage their rally programmes alongside their day jobs but have still kept Breen on his toes with spirited performances, even if no one has so far looked like beating him to the top step.

He says Killarney would be special for him and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle as no Kerryman has ever won the Lakes Rally.

That should change this weekend, although there are no certainties in rallying - just ask their old Citroen team-mate Kris Meeke who lost a podium place with a final stage puncture in Argentina last weekend.

The two-day rally, which features classic Kerry stages like Moll's Gap, Ballaghbeama and Caragh Lake, starts tomorrow morning (9am).

It should be an intriguing contest.

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