SS3: Moffett Surges Into 8 Second Lakeland Lead

Josh Moffett and Stephen Thornton have arrived into service with an eight-second lead at the Trailer Parts & Spares Lakeland Stages Rally, round five of the McGrady Insurance MSA N.I. Rally Championship!

The Monaghan driver has kept his nose clean over the opening three stages while a number of his rivals have fallen by the wayside. They include Barry McKenna whose Fiesta left the road on the opening stage shortly after hitting a chicane, while Andrew Purcell dropped vital seconds on that first test with some chicane bashing of his own.

“I came down to a chicane and I left the braking too late on the loose gravel,” a dejected McKenna explained after being extracted from a ditch. “We hit the chicane and then the car went into limp mode. We reset the car on the stage and I gave it a burst of power. The boost built up and it put us off at the next corner.”

There were no such troubles for Josh Moffett who has set fastest or joint-fastest times on every stage so far.

“It’s very loose out there but it’s fine apart from that,” Moffett said. “The two guys we were really racing for the championship have hit trouble so we’re going to try and keep our noses clean now to get through it.”

Vivian Hamill and Andrew Grennan are ecstatic to be second overall in what is only their second event with a Ford Fiesta R5.

“It’s a day for learning,” Hamill admitted. “We kept it in the middle of the road. It’s only our second time in the car so we’re just enjoying it.”

Cathan McCourt and Barry McNulty are third overall despite a “big moment” when they lost around 10 seconds at the infamous square left that follows a jump on the ‘Ballintempo’ stage three.

Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan are the leading McGrady Insurance N.I. Championship contenders in fourth overall. Henry has enjoyed a solid run so far but admits that he’s getting used to driving on gravel again.

“We’re getting used to the feel of it again,” Henry explained. “We have a few small issues that hopefully we can sort in service – some driver and some technical!”

Meanwhile, N.I. Championship leader, Derek McGarrity, is at the bottom half of the top 10 having been surprised by some of the tight stage three chicanes.

“Stage three had very, very tight chicanes,” McGarrity explained. “They were very difficult and very tight and narrow. It’s the same for everybody but I just didn’t expect them to be like that!”

Adrian Hetherington echoed McGarrity’s comments, saying he had a few moments when he hit the chicanes, while former N.I. Champion, Kenny McKinstry, has other issues to worry about…

“We have a fuel starvation problem which caused us to stall four times at the start line of stage two,” McKinstry said. “I’m not sure what the problem is.”

Alan Smyth commented earlier that he had some handling problems with his Evo X but he has since discovered that the car isn’t the problem – the driver is! Alan Carmichael is having a difficult day in his Mini WRC with mechanical troubles followed by a puncture on stage three.

“We’ve no handbrake, we got a puncture and there’s something wrong with the rear diffs,” a disappointed Carmichael said. “The car is all over the road.”

Stephen McCann admitted that he’s “not really used to such a loose surface” but is doing his best and trying to learn. As for Marty McKenna, it’s his first event in four years and he’s in a left-hand drive Fiesta WRC, so it’s all proving to be a baptism of fire…but he’s smiling!

Liam Regan was full of smiles too as he arrived into service with his Evo 9. “The stages are always good here,” he said. “It’s been a while since I was last out in the car so I’m happy to be here.”

Niall McGonigle was sporting some damage to the front of his Evo after a heavy landing on stage one. He was literally ‘flying’ after previous competitors through the stage demolished the two chicanes but he is in an impressive seventh overall.

Organisers subsequently stopped stage one on safety grounds and are attempting to rebuild the chicanes in time for the second loop of stages.

In the two-wheel-drive category, David Crossen is a man on a mission. Navigated by Aileen Kelly, the crew are ninth overall and are leading the category by almost 20 seconds, despite their car bottoming out on a few occasions.

Frank Kelly and Sean Ferris are second among the 2WD crews in spite of a big overshoot on stage three.

“We’re having a serious amount of fun!” a typically enthusiastic Kelly said. “We did the usual stupid thing at the big jump on stage three and overshot the next junction. I do it every year – you’d think I’d remember to brake before the crest!”

Shane McGirr said he was struggling to find traction on the loose surface while Oran Donnelly was in a ditch on stage one and he damaged a brake disc while trying to get back on the road. “We had a dodgy brake pedal for the rest of the loop,” Donnelly said.

Crews are now getting ready to contest the final loop of stages before returning to the former Grosvenor Barracks site in Enniskillen where the Trailer Parts & Spares Lakeland Stages Rally winners will be crowned.

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