Cronin tops Moonraker entry, third round of Forest Championship

The Irish Forest Rally Championship returns on Saturday’s Moonraker Forestry Rally, two months after its last round in Carrick-on-Suir.

Current British Rally Championship leaders, Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin, are seeded first in their Volkswagen Polo R5. Cronin is using his local gravel rally to prepare for BRC’s opening loose-surface event of 2022, the Nicky Grist Stages.

“The first two BRC rounds were on tarmac,” explained Cronin, “and we’re now heading into two gravel rounds.

“We haven’t done a forest rally since the Cambrian last October and that was in a [Ford] Fiesta. Plus, we’re on Pirelli tyres now so there’s some learning to be done.

“The Moonraker suits in every way, it’s only a week before the Nicky Grist and it’s only about 40 minutes from home.

“It’s possible that it will be our only outing in Ireland for the rest of the year.”

The Jim Clark Rally winners lead the forestry field ahead of Paddy O’Brien and Jordan Hone who continue to duel for this year’s championship honours.

O’Brien won the Forest Championship’s last round on his Skoda Fabia R5 debut. Hone finished second, 29-seconds behind, picking up enough points to move into the championship lead.

Keith Power is seven points behind Fiesta pilot, Hone, and is seeded sixth for the 45-kilometre event.

Conor McCourt and Mark Donnelly complete Moonraker’s top five in another brace of Skoda Fabia and Ford Fiesta R5s.

Niall McCullagh is seeded seventh overall, like Cronin he is preparing for the Nicky Grist Stages in his Rally2 Fiesta.

Seeded eight, Derek Mackarel leads the Mitsubishi runners which includes Gerard Lucey, PJ O’Connor, and Lucakz Czapnik.

John Gordon, Michael Conlon, David Condell, and Adrian Hetherington will provide a good two-wheel-drive battle in their four Ford Escort Mk2s. Gordon pipped Conlon to two-wheel-drive honours by five seconds last time out in Carrick-on-Suir.

The front-wheel-drive Class 2 is headed by Ryan Caldwell who is 14 points behind Kyle McBride in Motorsport Ireland’s JR2 Championship.

McBride will be joined by fellow Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Aoife Raftery on the Moonraker.

The highly-rated Junior 1000 category has 12 entrants for the eight-stage event. J1000 championship leader Jack Brennan will be hoping to continue his perfect streak in 2022. Brennan goes into the Moonraker fresh from winning Midland Motor Club’s autocross last weekend.

He’ll face stiff competition from championship rivals Jack Harris, Jack Kennedy, and Mossie Costello in a mix of Volkswagen, Peugeot, and Nissan one-litres.

Tommy Moffett represents Monaghan’s rally-mad family in County Cork as his elder brothers compete 300 kilometres north on the Loughgall Stages Rally. Another familiar rally name in juniors is Gary Kiernan who will co-drive his cousin Danny Brady.

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Photos by British Rally Championship and Gavin Woods.