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Storm Jorge blankets out Irish forest rally

 

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No problem: snow didn’t deter Craig Breen in Finland

No problem: snow didn’t deter Craig Breen in Finland

No problem: snow didn’t deter Craig Breen in Finland

For the second year in a row, heavy snow forced the cancellation of the Limerick round of the Irish Forestry Rally Championship.

This time, Storm Jorge - which saw flights into Dublin and Shannon airports diverted to Northern Ireland - was responsible, covering the forest stages around the Abbeyfeale base in several inches of snow.

The organisers pushed yesterday morning's start time back by an hour and elected to run the four-wheel-drive cars first on the road in an effort to allow the rally to take place but in the end decided in the interests of safety to call it off.

A statement from clerk of the course Anthony Nestor read: "A heavy overnight snowfall has left the stages in an unsafe condition for competitors, marshals and officials alike.

"It was an incredibly difficult decision to make but the organising team hope to rearrange the event for April 18-19, subject to Motorsport Ireland approval."

Former British Junior champion James Wilson from Armagh leads the Valvoline series after a convincing win on the first round at Carrick-on-Suir and was seeded second in the Limerick line-up in his R5 Hyundai.

He was disappointed the rally was cancelled but tweeted: "Tough decision on Limerick Motor Club but in my opinion the best one regarding competitor safety. The event will be rescheduled and I can't wait to come back."

Last year the rally was also hit by snow and although the first two stages were completed, it was decided to call a halt as conditions deteriorated, preventing safety vehicles from accessing the forests.

The next round of the series will be the Moonraker Rally at Ballyvourney on March 28. Ahead of that, the Irish National (Tarmac) Championship kicks off on Sunday with the Mayo Stages at Birr.

Meanwhile, there was, as expected, lots of snow and ice in Finland but with the cars equipped with studded tyres for the Itaralli it wasn't a problem - certainly not for Craig Breen, who finished third.

The Irish Tarmac champion was taking part in the Finnish Championship round as a development exercise for the Indian tyre maker MRF and along with Ulster co-driver John Rowan they brought their R5 Hyundai home 24 seconds behind the winning Skoda Fabia of Emil Lindholm.

Breen now moves on to the Azores Rally at the end of the month to begin his European Championship campaign while remaining on standby for another call to rejoin the Hyundai World Championship team should he be needed.

He replaced Sebastien Loeb for Rally Sweden, finishing in seventh place.

The MRF link continues in the Azores where Breen again drives an R5 Hyundai run by the Italian BRC Racing team.

Belfast Telegraph