Carrick on Suir Forest Rally

3rd March 2012 - 3rd March 2012


Reigning National Forestry Rally Champion Owen Murphy, 2nd Overall in 2011 Vincent McAree and winner of the opening round of the 2012 series Garry Jennings will be among the main attractions for next Saturday’s Carrick on Suir, Wm. Loughman Memorial Forest Rally but all eyes will be on recently announced ‘Waterford Person of the Year 2011’ Craig Breen as the Carrick on Suir Motor Club welcomes round two of the 2012 Valvoline National Forestry Rally Championship



Innovation was the outstanding feature of last year’s Willie Loughman Memorial Forest Rally as the Carrick on Suir Motor Club introduced an all-inclusive one day event which included both scrutiny for the competing cars and was followed by afternoon and night stages. The club continues this successful format for 2012 which takes place next Saturday the 3rd of March. The highlight for both competitors and spectators comes by way of a mouth-watering 25 Km stage, the longest in the forest championship this season in the Gurteen Forest Complex near Kilsheelan and for the passionate rallyfans in the South East the event moves to pastures new as the rally revisits the Village of Portlaw as the famous stages of Towerhill and Bealough make a welcome return after a long absence.



The rally is again centralised in Carrick on Suir as the Carrick Motor Club continues its successful partnership with co-sponsors the Carraig Hotel and Suirway Forklifts/Farm Machinery. Rally HQ is based in the Carraig Hotel but the main hub of the event will be in the Mill River Business Park which contains mechanical scrutiny and the service area.



The one day event format will see competitors arrive in the morning to get their respective rallycars scrutinised, then the main event is set to begin with the first stage scheduled for 15.21 hrs in Gurteen.



Forming an integral part of the Valvoline National Forestry Championship, the Carrick based event fits in this year as the second round. The opening round was held on January 28th in Donegal was dominated by Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings driving a Gp A Subaru Impreza. Jennings, the current Group N Irish Tarmac champion romped to victory, leading the rally from start to finish. Second place on the day was Monaghan’s Stephen Wright in a Mitsubishi EVO VI and the top three overall was completed by Colin Britton in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX Gp N.



The excitement was no less intense in the 2WD class, where Frank Kelly (Ford Escort Mk II) was on the top rung finishing 6th O/A with a margin of eighteen seconds over Adrian Hetherington (8th O/A) in the V6 Rover powered Mk II. Third in the class was claimed by Shane McGirr (9th O/A) in the Toyota Starlet RWD.



As we head to round two of the series next Saturday all of the above are making the trip to Carrick and the big names are not curtailed to the pace setters in Donegal. Reigning National Forestry Rally Champion Owen Murphy missed round one when he hurt his back prior to the event but now after some recuperation the Co. Corkman is itching to get back on the stages and after winning last year’s Carrick event and the subsequent championship I’m sure Owen will be eager to get his 2012 season back on track. After taking a year out Pat O’Connell, the National Champion in 2010 is back again in Carrick next weekend and with Mark Wiley calling the pacenotes the Cashel duo in their EVO IX will be fighting for top honours. The Lucey Brother in their EVO VIII Lancer, are another Cork crew who’ll be ones to watch and after finishing 7th in Donegal, I’m sure they’ll be looking for a higher finish as the championship moves down south.



The rally also signifies the opening of the TRITON SHOWERS South East Stages Rally Championship. This regional rally championship organised and promoted by THE CARLOW; CARRICK-ON-SUIR; MUNSTER; TIPPERARY AND WEXFORD MOTOR CLUBS is a clubman affair and in 2011 all top three overall honours went to Carrick Club member.  Shay Power/John Rafter, Ford Escort MKII took the title in Wexford on the final round, narrowly pepping follow club mates, Father and Son team of Alan and James Commins. The top three in the series was rounded off by James Coleman and Michael Haley also Carrick Club members. All three crews are back again this year and will make the Two Wheel drive section of the rally very interesting.



The rally has attracted a host of other club members including Pierce Doheny who’s back to his Opel Corsa this year, Gemma Kerley will be partnered by Lynn Martin as the all lady crew will be out in their Subaru Impreza. This is Gemma’s first rally in a 4WD car but she will be hoping for a good result after building up experience over the last few years at the wheel of a Toyota Corolla. John Murphy (Boo) with co-driver Niall Fitzgerald are out in their trusty MKII and are followed by Paschal O’Shea and Robbie Hennessy in yet another Mk II Escort with both crews forming part of the Buckstown Motorsport dynasty, the king of the Buckstown stable Seamus Anderson is however not taking part as on this occasion he is working on the event and is the stage commander for the Towerhill test.



 



Looking through the field the scene is set for an excellent day of forestry entertainment but icing on the cake comes in the form of FIA WRC Academy World Rally Champion Craig Breen, who’s also taking on his local event as he builds towards round three in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship (SWRC) in Portugal at the end of March.   



 



On entering the rally the Waterford driver said, “I’ve had a few weeks off since SWRC Sweden, we have had a hectic beginning to the year but it’s all been good. Winning in Monte Carlo was a perfect start and backing up that result with second in Sweden was great. I’ll be looking to continue that form in Portugal and taking part in next weekend’s Willie Loughman will be the ideal test session for me. It will be my first gravel rally of the year and I’ll be perfecting my car setup for our trip to Portugal.” Breen who is also a member of the Carrick Motor Club also went on to say, “Entering my local event is always an honour, I get a huge amount of support from the club and I delighted that the rally fits into my schedule.”



 



Stage Schedule:The action starts on Saturday afternoon at 15.21hrs with stage one in the Gurteen Forest near Kilsheelan and it’s a monster with the full Gurteen complex run as a complete test taking in 25 kms. We then move to Portlaw for stage 2, Tower Hill beginning at 16.28hrs and the final stage in the loop, Bealough is scheduled to get underway at 16.48hrs. Service back in Carrick is 17.30hrs and the second loop begins as darkness falls at 19.00hrs.


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