By Cian Donnellon
On a scorching afternoon where heat and dust were battled with for over 59km on six high-speed stages, it would conclude with Craig Breen and John Boden claiming victory on the 2022 Crafted Fitted Furniture Group Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally, doing so with 22-seconds to spare.
The current WRC star, and M-Sport Ford factory driver, Breen set the time sheets alight from the start, being paired with an ageing Ford Focus WRC and a rookie Navigator in friend Boden didn’t stop the march as he claimed fastest time on every test and was able to hold the prestigious Jim Walsh Cup aloft.
Opening the day in the heart of the Boggeragh Windfarm complex, the Waterford pair, who were very late entries to the event, managed to pull a 4.5 second advantage on the 11.8km stage from Patrick O’brien & Stephen O’Brien in their Skoda Fabia R5.
The O’Briens, 2019 Irish Forest champion Cathan McCourt & Liam Moynihan (Hyundai i20 R5) and Jordan Hone & Paul Hone (Ford Fiesta R5) were all expected to be in the mix, and so it proved as the trio of crews battled to stay in touch with Breen.
For O’Brien and Hone, the focus is on the 2022 Motorsport Ireland Forest Rally Championship title, and the youngsters both knew pushing hard to catch the WRC ace could end up in disaster. For O’Brien, a second place ensures another maximum haul of points due to Breen not being registered, while a strong second loop saw Hone overtake Cathan McCourt on the timesheets and fill the final podium slot, while maintaining the lead in the Championship.
For all the racing at the front of the field, the 2WD section saw a truly red-hot duel amongst some of the fastest modified competitors in Irish gravel. Four crews would set stage winning times throughout the day, but returning to Donoughmore Community Centre on Sunday evening it was Adrian Hetherington & Gary Nolan (Ford Escort Mk2) that would spray the victory champagne, and claim the Ears Motorsport MK2 Master Trophy.
Alongside Hethrington on the podium for the 2WD section were David Condell & Paul Kelly (Ford Escort Mk2) as well as Shane McGirr & Denver Raftery (Toyota Starlet), both being previous Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally 2WD victors.
In front of a massive crowd at the finish ramp, COC Ger Hayes was delighted to present the Danny Creedon Cup, in the presence of his family, to Eamonn Creedon in recognition of being the leading Cork Motor Club competitor on the event, while the Ger Fahy Cup, celebrating the Spirit of the Rally, was presented by the Fahy family to Leonard Downey in recognition of his incredible support of the event this year, and in the past, and his passion and help in bringing the rally to the area.
Of all the battles though to be seen on the 2022 Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally, it would end up being the Junior1000 competitors that would see the tightest scrap. As has been the case for a lot of the season to date, the pace amongst the leading crews has been incredible, and drama often plays out right at the very end. Jack Brennan & John McGrath (Skoda Citigo) would claim victory on the event, but it looked like it wasn’t to be until the end.
Jack Harris & Aaron O’Regan (VW Up) had led going onto stage 6, but losing nearly 19 seconds on the final test would see them come home in 2nd, 7.6 seconds behind his fierce rival. Mossie Costello & Tom Murphy (Peugeot 107) would finish third, 9 seconds off Harris.
As the dust settles on an incredible event, the Motorsport Ireland Forest Rally Championship moves onto the Omagh based Bushwacker Rally on September 17th, while for motorsport fans in Cork, gravel action returns on December 29th with the Cork Motor Club’s Boggeragh Rallysprint.
- Craig Breen & John Boden
- Patrick O’Brien & Stephen O’Brien (+22.6 Seconds)
- Jordan Hone & Paul Hone (+53.9)
- Adrian Hethrington & Gary Nolan
- David Condell & Paul Kelly (+13.2)
- Shane McGirr & Denver Raftery (+20.7)
- Jack Brennan & John McGrath
- Jack Harris & Aaron O’Regan (+7.6)
- Mossie Costello & Tom Murphy (+16.6)