On a scorching hot day in the Ballyhoura mountains, it was a similar relentless heat being put on championship rivals as Ryan Caldwell & Arthur Kierans battled an incredibly strong field of rivals to claim back-to-back victories in this years Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship as they win the Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally by just 2.2 seconds!
Returning to the Mallow Autograss complex to claim the top spot of the podium, the battered-and-bruised Skoda Fabia R5 of Caldwell’s showed all the signs of the intense battle raged across eight great Cork stages. By the mid-day service, the Motorsport Ireland Academy supported youngster had a lead of just under seven seconds, but this would be trimmed to just over two by the time the cars lined up for the eighth and final stage.
Applying the pressure were a pair of VW Polo Gti R5’s, that of Jason Mitchell & Paddy McCrudden as well as Championship leader coming into the event Mark Donnelly & Sean Ferris. Both would be tackling Gravel for the first time in their respective Polo’s, but it was the sharpness of Mitchell & McCrudden, fresh from completing the Ulster Rally only yesterday, that saw them open a seven second gap over Donnelly & Ferris who would come home third.
The standings at the start of the final stage would stay the same, as such was the insane push made by the leading trio that they would all beat the Bogey Time and receive the same result for the stage meaning Ryan Caldwell & Arthur Kierans would take victory and gain the Championship lead by a single point.
In the 2WD, it would be another back-to-back victory as Mickey Conlon & Paul McPhillips sprayed the victory Champagne on Round 4 in Cork just like they had on the previous Moonraker Forest Rally. Once more having to battle a stacked field of rivals, the MC Blinds Escort MK2 would have 28.9 seconds to spare over the BDA-powered Ford of Hugh McQuaid & Declan Casey, while an incredible push in the Class 11F Vauxhall Corsa would see Ruairi Maguire & Grace O’Brien claim the third spot.
The J1000 battle raged throughout the day, with seconds being swapped right from the start although the fast and flowing Cork Forest stages would prove the undoing of some crews as mechanical issues and off-road excursions would end the day early for some J1000 crews. At the head of the field, it was Danny Brady & Conor Smith who would go fastest on Stage One, ahead of Tommy Moffett & Domhnall Lennon and evebtual winners Jack Harris & Aaron O’Regan.