Round one of the 2013 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland Forest Rally championship kicks off on Sunday’s West Limerick Mini Stages Forest Rally.
An 80 strong field that includes a host of former champions and class winners as well as the welcome sight of new faces to the forest racing scene will ply their skills on the smooth stages in Banane and Reanahown, near New Castle West.
Top seed is claimed by MickO’Brien / Greg Shinnors in their Focus WRC. O’Brien is a London resident but a native of Churchtown, Co.Cork and is no stranger to the Irish forests, having won the Cork Forest rally in 2009. Shinnors from Bruff, is an experienced co-driver, a triple Irish Forest Champion and BRC champion in 2010.
Owen Murphy / James O’Brien (Evo9) are second on the road. The Cork crew claimed the Forest title in 2011, and won the Moonraker and the Cork Forest Rallies last year but they non started the first round (Donegal) and non finished the second (Carrick) . Those two retirements in a competitive championship effectively destroyed the defence of their title. Expect Murphy to be on the pipe on Sunday.
Pat O’Connell / Mark Wiley are at three in their Evo9. The Cashel / Mitchelstown crew lifted the Forest crown in 2010. Pat took took a break in 2011 to get married but he did enter and win the Cork Forest rally Like Owen Murphy, 2012 was an a frustrating year for O’Connell largely due to retirements and he will be hoping for better things this year.
Philip Morrow drives car number 4 (Evo9) with Jonny Hart on the notes. Morrow is making a welcome return to the sport, the Lisburn man won the 2007 Mitsubishi Evo Challenge and he will be anxious to get back in the groove in the Valvoline series.
VIncent and JP Mc Aree are great supporters of the Valvoline . The brothers from Monaghan were runners up in 2011 and third last year and are all set to do better this year.
Other men-in a-hurry include the WRC’s of Martin Cairns (Impreza), John Reid (Corolla) and Kevin Barrett (Impreza), and the pace of Enda Mc Nulty (Impreza) Andrew Purcell (Evo6) and the Evo9’s of Josh and Sam Moffett cannot be discounted.
The 2WD section will certainly be worth a look, with the Escorts of Adrian Hethrington, Seamus O’Connell and Paul Fitzgerald trying to stay ahead of the very fleet Starlet of Shane McGirr. The front wheel drive battle will be no less competitive with 2012 Junior Champion Dean Raftery (Civic) Daniel Cronin (Civic) and Andrew Fanning (Puma) on full attack.
West Limerick Mini Stages Forest Rally is a great start to the 2013 Valvoline season and it promises to be another year of great racing for the overall trophy and the many classes that adorn this prestigious series. The remaining events of the six round series (four to count) are:
Round 2 March 3 Munster Moonraker Rally (Lismore)
Round 3 April 14 Carrick on Suir William Loughman Rally (Waterford)
Round 4 June 16 Tipperary Sean Conlon Forest Rally (Mitchelstown)
Round 5 August 18 Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally (Mallow)
Round 6 September 28th Bushwhacker Rally (Omagh)
The Valvoline range of oils and lubricants are available from Qualvecom. For more information contact 01 4191611 or www.qualvecom.ie