Magic Murphy at the Moonraker
The 2018 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship got back into gear on Saturday for its third round, the Munster Motor Club’s Moonraker Rally based in Ballyvourney, County Cork.
Dull but dry conditions graced the event, but it proved to be a real hit with the competitors, as J1000 winner Jason Murphy in his Peugeot 107 summed up. “The stages were brilliant, and it was a very enjoyable, well-run event”, said the South Mayo driver. Jason won the J1000 section by just over eleven seconds but he certainly made hard work of it coming from behind and surviving clutch failure to extend his impressive run of form in the series for 15-19 year olds in his 1 litre Peugeot 107.
On the opening stage on Saturday morning Jason felt he approached it a little cautious which reflected in his time, dropping 4 seconds to Peter Beaton from Scotland, also competing in a Peugeot 107. On Stage two while getting into a rhythm a strange noise started to manifest intermittently from the Peugeot, despite this they still managed to set fastest time and arrived back into service to address the noise with a cushion of 17 seconds. Believing the starter motor to be the root of the noise this was changed in service and they set off to repeat the loop of morning stages. But during Stage 3 it became apparent that something more sinister was lurking when the noise returned along with strong vibrations and with Aoife Gahan in her Chevrolet Spark stopping the clocks 17 seconds quicker than the Shrule teenager, to win the stage, Jason and his uncle Matthew knew with the long Stage 4 up next, they were in trouble.
Dropping a further 16 seconds to stage 4 winner Rory Byrne also in a Peugeot, which propelled the Newry teenager in his Modern Tyres backed 107 into the lead, the Murphy’s nursed their Westtyre backed 107 into service, now knowing that it was the clutch of their car that had been the root of the noise and vibrations.
Upon arriving back at service, C-Sport Rally Preparation who run the car for Jason performed nothing short of a miracle removing the gearbox of the Peugeot and changing the clutch with one donated by fellow competitor Peter Beaton, all against the clock with the service interval time of just 40 minutes. Exiting the service park just within the allotted time and avoiding any time penalties Jason, while full of thanks and praise for Beaton and the C-Sport team knew he had 4 stages left to go in pursuit of Byrne, and that he did!
Going 9 seconds quicker than Byrne on stage 5 and 16 seconds on stage 6 he arrived back into the final service of the day with his lead restored and another victory, against all odds, now within touching distance.
Two more clean runs over stages 7 and 8 meant that Jason and Matthew once again sprayed the champagne at the finish ramp making it a hat-trick of wins on the opening rounds of the 2018 Michael O’Brien Plant Hire Junior 1000 Championships. With two more rounds remaining the 2017 champion is looking to be odds on of defending his crown.