Murphy Wins Forestry Opener
The 2018 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forest Rally Championship got underway with an exciting opening round on Saturday last with Carrick on Suir Motor Club’s Willie Loughman Memorial Forest Rally. The first major Irish rally of the year incorporated the Michael O’Brien Plant Hire J1000 series for 15-19 year olds which entered its second season and last year’s champion Jason Murphy from Shrule took up where he left off last year, dominating the event winning 8 out of the 9 forest stages.
The traditional Irish Forestry series opener took place a couple of weeks earlier this year, filling the void left by the Galway International Rally which announced last November that it would not be running in 2018, but this did not detracted from the quality and quantity of entries with 80 crews crossing the start ramp on Saturday morning.
17 year old Jason who had his uncle Matthew in the co-drivers seat of his 1litre Peugeot 107 faced stiff opposition with Aoife Gahan geared up for her first full championship season in a Chevrolet Spark and British Rally Championship regular Peter Beaton from Scotland taking part, also in a Peugeot 107.
The opening stage in the Faugheen forests seen Beaton quickest out of the blocks but with only 3.6 seconds separating the top 3 of Beaton, Gahan and Murphy in that order, fans of the J1000 series knew they were in for a cracker. On Stage 2 which seen the crews head for the Anner Forest area Murphy exerted his ability stopping the clocks 12 seconds faster than Beaton and moving in to an 8 second lead, a lead which he refused to relinquish and when Aoife Gahan retired after an off road excursion resulted in her damaging the steering in her Chevrolet on stage 6, the last 3 stages which were ran in the darkness were a battle between Ireland and Scotland. Although Murphy held a lead of 40 seconds over Beaton, this could change instantly as the crews bolted on the lamp pods to their cars and headed into the most challenging part of the rally for the competitors and the most exciting for all the spectators.