Moffett wins in the woods and sets sights on Easter Stages
Josh Moffett, current leader of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, heads the entry list for the Easter Stages, round two of the series, on April 6/7.
The younger of the Moffett brothers, who took maximum points from the opening Tarmac round in West Cork earlier this month, will start the Ballyclare-based Easter event ahead of his elder sibling Sam, the reigning champion.
Josh is targeting the three major Irish titles won by his record-breaking brother last season and got his challenge for the Irish Forestry Championship up and running yesterday with victory in the re-arranged Limerick Rally.
But the Tarmac title is his primary target and he will come to the Easter Stages leading his brother by three points in the standings, with Robert Barrable a further two behind.
Barrable is seeded at four in the entry list, one place behind the Northern Ireland Championship leader Derek McGarrity, a former Tarmac champion.
The Ulster Automobile Club event, which replaces the Circuit of Ireland this year, is a real home rally for Mossley rally car trader McGarrity, but if he elects to drive the WRC Subaru Impreza S14 in which he won the first round of the McGrady Insurance NI series he will be ineligible for overall points in a Tarmac Championship which is now headlined by R5-class cars like the Ford Fiestas of the Moffetts, Barrable and Desi Henry.
Former Irish forest champion Henry starts at five in front of fellow Ulster drivers Jonny Greer (Citroen DS3) and Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia).
Daniel Cronin, brother of four-time British champion Keith, makes his first Ulster appearance at No.8 ahead of Stephen Wright, both in Fiestas, and Eugene Donnelly rounds out the top 10 for his second outing in his new R5 Hyundai i20.
Supported by Mid and East Antrim Council, the rally will be centred on Sixmile Leisure Centre in Ballyclare.
Josh Moffett was initially off the pace in the Limerick forests yesterday and trailed first round winner Andrew Purcell and Barry McKenna after the opening loop of stages. But he quickly got up to speed and took the lead on stage six where Purcell's Fiesta suffered a puncture, dropping half a minute.
Moffett went on to win by 13 seconds from McKenna with Purcell third, all three in R5 Fiestas. Cathan McCourt was the top Ulster finisher, coming fourth in his new DS3 Citroen with Stephen McCann fifth in another Fiesta. Derek Crossan was the top two-wheel-drive winner, coming in eighth in his Escort.
McCormack, meanwhile, was back in his Mk2 Ford Escort for the North Wales Rally at the weekend, finishing second overall behind Nick Elliott and winning the historic category. Paul Barrett was third and second historic finisher in another Escort.
Further afield, Russian Alexey Lukyanuk, a colourful figure on the Circuit of Ireland in recent years, won the Azores Rally, first round of this year's European Championship.