Monday 27 May 2019

Hayes has Wexford at the top

Determined assault on the Irish Tarmac Championship

James Bradley and Maria Kehoe. Photograph: Gary Nolan.
James Bradley and Maria Kehoe. Photograph: Gary Nolan.

It's been quite some time since Wexford had a representative at the top of Irish motorsport.

For years, the county was spoilt with Eamon Boland's presence at the sharp end of the stage times year after year.

However, all that changed at the start of 2018 when local man Andy Hayes teamed up with Monaghan's Josh Moffett for an assault on the Irish tarmac championship.

The Moffett name has long been associated with Irish motorsport, and in more recent years, Josh and his older brother Sam have been at the forefront of both tarmac and forestry rallying.

On the opening round in west Cork, Josh and Andy took top points with second overall, following home the Ford Focus WRC of Donagh Kelly and Conor Foley, with the older generation WRC cars no longer eligible to score points in Ireland's premier motorsport championship.

On the following round, the crew went one better and took victory on the Easter stages, the replacement event for the Circuit of Ireland which had taken a year's sabbatical.

After two maximum scores, their championship challenge was looking good but a problematic Killarney Rally of the Lakes saw the pair finish a disappointing sixth which meant brother Sam and also Robert Barrable were now very much within striking distance for the championship.

All the contenders gathered in June for the jewel in the crown of Irish rallying, the Donegal International. Josh and Andy made a superb start to the event and at the end of day two, they were a fine second overall to double Donegal winners Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett.

However, on the final day, older brother Sam, navigated by Karl Atkinson, poured on the coals to overtake Josh and Andy and relegate them to third overall.

Andy still leads the navigators' standings while Josh has slipped to second by the smallest of margins in the drivers' standings, behind his brother Sam. With two rounds remaining it's still all to play for!

On the local rallying front, it has been a quiet year until recently, with the Carlow Car Club and their new-look mini stages event kicking off a busy summer of motorsport.

The Carlow rally experienced something of a renaissance, with over one hundred crews taking to the start. The event as always incorporated the famous Mk2 challenge, and last year's event winners, David Condell and Michael Coady, led the field away.

However, history was not to repeat itself as an accident on the second stage ended the local crew's hopes of repeating their 2017 win.

Instead, a battle ensued between a clatter of Escorts, headed in spectator fashion by Cork's Barry Meade and Colin Fitzgerald, with the Darrian of Ian Barrett and Eoin O'Flaherty mere seconds behind.

The Escorts of Frank Kelly, with his daughter Lauren on the notes, and Enda O'Brien and John Butler, were also in close pursuit, leading to a fascinating shoot-out over the final loop of stages.

In the end, Barry Meade and Colin Fitzgerald held on to claim a start to finish victory with a very impressive drive.

Frank Kelly kept the push on to climb to second overall at the end, with Ian Barrett's Darrian dropping back after his wipers failed in the rain on stage five. Enda O'Brien took the final podium place after a fantastic battle.

Top Wexford crew were James Bradley and Maria Kehoe, who finished a fine eleventh overall and were the winners of class 11F in their Honda Civic.

Tomás O'Rourke and John McGrath survived a charge with a bail in their Mitsubishi Evo 9 to take third in class 4, although a similar collision saw the end of Eoin Neville and Tommy Hayes' event in their similar Evo 9.

Majella Wickham navigated for current south-east stages champion Richie Dalton and they took fourth in the class. Barry Hennessy has been dominant in class one, and with Brian Rowan on the notes, they took another class win and 49th overall.

Other local crews to make the finish were Adam Darcy and Noel Byrne who took fourth in class 9, with John Barry and Liam Fitzgerald fifth in the class and Mick Boland and David Doyle sixth.

Andrew Leacy and Megan Leacy-Murphy took third in class 11R, Ciarán Forrestal and Fran Kinsella took second in class 10, while Des Forrestal and Davy Creane had a very sideways drive to third in class 24.

Three weeks later the rally party rolled into Portlaoise for the Laois Heartlands mini stages event. It was once again a Mk2 Escort affair, with the Mitsubishi Evo 10 of Alan Smyth and Mac Kierans providing the variety.

At the end of the six-stage event, Cavan's Jonathan Pringle with Paul Sheridan on the notes took victory, with Enda O'Brien and John Butler once again making the podium, this time claiming second overall.

Rounding off the top three were Alan Smyth and Mac Kierans, having led the event in the opening stages.

Upholding Wexford honours on this occasion were Leon Galvin and Ger Foley, who took a fantastic sixth overall and the class 13 honours.

Taking fourth in class 11R and 23rd overall were Mark Hayden and John Pettit in their Mk2 Escort, closely followed by the very sideways twin-cam Corolla of Derek and Shane Walker who took fifth in the class on their return to the stages after a two-year break.

Eoin Neville with Daymon Nicoli returned after their accident in Carlow to finish just behind the Walker brothers and take third in class 4. Robbie Hennessy navigated Pascal O'Shea to fourth in class 14, while Ger Power and David Busher took third in class 9 with P.J. Doyle and Peter Ryan right behind them taking fourth.

Ciarán Cloke and David Doyle were runners-up in class 3, while Ciarán Forrestal and Noel Byrne had a great run to take top honours in class 10.

The most recent event saw the crews head to Waterford in blistering sunshine for the Raven Rock rally. The event saw Cork's Daniel Cronin and Shane Buckley give a dominant display to take the overall victory.

Number one seed and local crew Andrew Purcell and Mark Wiley had given chase, but a differential problem caused their retirement on stage 5.

It was the flying Darrian of Welsh visitors John Dalton and Gwynfor Jones who took the runners-up spot, with that man Enda O'Brien, as ever with John Butler on the notes, next in line.

James Bradley and Maria Kehoe were once again Wexford's top representatives, with the crew taking a giant-killing sixth overall, first in class 11F, and the 1600 modified masters trophy, a truly fantastic performance.

Richard Cleary navigated John Hendy to 16th overall and second in class 11F. It was a red letter day for Eoin Neville and Tommy Hayes, who finished 19th overall, class 4 winners and winner of the Pat Neville memorial trophy.

Barry Hennessy was once again dominant in class 1. Navigated by Stephen Scallan, they took the class honours and 23rd overall.

Ger Power and Liam Fitzgerald were also class winners, taking class 9 honours with Mick Boland and David Doyle taking second in class.

Ciarán Cloke and Davy Creane were third in class 3, while Andrew Leacy and Alan Hourigan took third in class 11R.

Wexford People