James Wilson set down an early marker in his quest for glory in the Irish Forestry Rally Championship by taking his maiden rally victory on Sunday’s Carrick Forestry Rally. It was a perfect performance from Wilson and co-driver Arthur Kierans as they led the rally from Stage 1 in their Hyundai i20 R5.
The Motorsport Ireland Academy driver took a clean sweep of five stage wins as pre-event favourite Andrew Purcell retired his Ford Fiesta R5 after the opening test. Undeterred by Purcell’s retirement, Wilson showed his dominance on the slippery stages right to the finish, winning the final 18 km stage by 14.4 seconds. Wilson’s final winning margin was an impressive 41.8 seconds ahead of Michael Carbin’s Mitsibushi Evo.
“It hasn’t sunk in just yet,” admitted Wilson. “I’m delighted to get an overall win for the [Motorsport Ireland] Academy. A lot of work and effort has been put in by so many people, so I’m delighted to repay everyone with a win.”
“The stages were fantastic today, very slippery in places which made for a good challenge.
“They were enjoyable to drive so it’s a pity the last stage had to be cancelled.”
Forestry regular Carbin was on form again and finished comfortably on the second step of the podium, 38.9 seconds ahead of Liam Ryan’s Ford Fiesta R5. Ryan returned to forestry rallying in his newly acquired R5 after a four-year break. Marty McKenna had held second in his Ford Fiesta WRC after Sunday morning’s opening loop of two stages but a loss of 20 seconds on Stage 3 dropped him to fourth. McKenna battled with Gerard Lucey’s Mitsibushi Evo over the remaining stages with McKenna eventually holding onto fourth.
The two-wheel-drive honours went to Gary Kiernan and Darren O’Brien following a day-long battle with the similar Ford Escort Mk2 of Mickey Conlon and Grace O’Brien. Kiernan and Conlon traded blows early on but the Cavan man came out on top following a stunning time on the final Gurteen stage, claiming fifth overall in the process.
Once again, Jordan and Paul Hone pulled off a giant-killing result in their Opel Adam R2 finishing third two-wheel-drive and fastest R2 while mixing with the more powerful R5’s. It was heartbreak for Kyle White who was forced to retire from the R2 lead on the penultimate stage after his Peugeot 208’s engine expired. Three stage wins had given White a 10.6-second lead over Hone’s Opel before his retirement on Stage 4.
Brian Brady returned from last weekend’s British Rally Championship opener at the Cambrian Rally to compete in the J1600 class and found himself in a dogged battle for the lead with Lorcan Moore. Moore experienced mechanical issues on the penultimate stage easing the pressure on Brady who won the class by over three minutes.
Meanwhile, the J1000 class for 14-17 year-olds attracted a host of new challengers hoping to establish themselves in Irish rallying. However, it was the more experienced pairing of Reece Pollock and John Burke in their Nissan Micra that edged out the Toyota Aygo of Kyle and Kieran McBride to take maximum points. Joseph Kelly and Shane Byrne, also in an Aygo, rounded off the top three.
Next up for the Irish Forestry Championship is the Abbeyfeale-based Limerick Forest Rally on 1 March with exceptionally smooth stages in prospect for the gravel competitors.
Photos and words by Alan Noonan