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MIJRS Battles Rage on Moonraker

On a crisp day spent blasting through the woodland lanes surrounding Ballyvourney, the Moonraker Forest Rally proved to be an incredibly exciting fifth round of the 2023 Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series, and one that will be remembered for a series of really impressive breakthrough performances.

Leading away a field of fifteen registered competitors, a lot of talk pre-event had been focused on the J1000 battle between Killarney winner Jack Kennedy and Tipperary winner Tommy Moffett, but neither could have foreseen the stunning drive of Tommy Cronin that would see the local youngster claim a dominant class victory, and with it leave himself still in with a chance of battling for the MIJRS Junior1000 title.

For Kennedy, a second event on Gravel in a row would be cut short, with his Rally finishing on stage 3, but by that point the battle at the front was really starting to get interesting. Leaving stage one of the event Cronin would lead the field by over five seconds, and by stage three the lead had swung back to Moffett but this was not to last long as the Corkman would begin to turn up the pace and eventually finish the event with a 36.6 second advantage over his great rival.

While Tommy’s Cronin and Moffett duked it out for the victory, a similar battle raged for the final podium spot. Claiming three stage victories along the way, things looked good for Jack Harris as he used all his experience of the J1000 car especially on some of the shorter more technical stages, but the watersplash would prove his undoing (twice!) as his car spluttered and gave up vital time, allowing Ross Ryan to edge past and grab yet another podium this year.

Kalum Graffin once again showed incredible speed in his debut year, and was at pain to tell how much he had been enjoying the longer stages on offer, including two runs over the 15.6km Knocknabro test. Indeed, it would be on that monstrous final stage the Graffin would do enough to climb past Danny Brady. Tommy Furlong would cap an exciting fortnight, following up a second-place finish on the Wexford tarmac round of the 2023 MIJRS J1000 series with his best result on Gravel this year.

Conor Ryan would retire at the Watersplash on Stage 8, the same spot that claimed massive time delays for Ryan Caldwell, Aaron Hughes and Ger Hartigan, while David Travers and Ciara Duggan both had incidents that saw them drop places, but both are still gaining valuable seat time as they progress through this year’s series.

In the Rally4/R2 class, it proved to be a worthwhile journey south to Ballyvourney for Aoife Rafferty as she claimed a maximum points haul on the way to an impressive 15th place finish overall on the event. The Motorsport Ireland Academy driver, currently competing in the European Rally Championship including the recent Rally Liepaja in Latvia, took the wheel of an older Ford Fiesta R2 and drove impeccably, setting some remarkable stage times along the way to claiming maximum MIJRS points.

For Mossie Costello, the event would see him step up the classes with the debut of a newly acquired Ford Fiesta Rally4, and it was a day of learning for the Kerry youngster as he made the swap from the J1600 Civic. The times were improving strongly throughout the day, and he would claim vital MIJRS points as well as precious experience in the new car. Sadly for Dan Nash his day would end on stage six, but he can look back at what was a really tight battle with Aoife Rafferty up to that point.

The final MIJRS competitor to tackle Round 5 of the 2023 series was Jack McKenna in the J1600 Class. Having claimed victory on the two Tarmac rounds so far, the switch to Gravel, while necessitated by the MIJRS regs, seemed to take him by surprise as there was a huge smile emanating from behind the wheel of the Honda Civic, and some impressive times filtering back from the stages. By Stage five, McKenna looked incredibly comfortable on what was his very first loose-surface event and sat right on the cusp of the top-20 overall, but the Civic would splutter to a watery stop on Stage 6. With overall aims dashed, the final two stages would see the J1600 leader right back within the pace of the leading FWD crews.

With some incredible stories forged throughout the day, perhaps the biggest of all was the overall victory on the 2023 Moonraker Forest Rally of Ryan Caldwell. The MI Rally Academy driver had competed in the MIJRS last year in the Rally4/R2 Class, and the step up to a R5 Skoda has seen him take a remarkable result in his debut year in the 4wd machine.

The 2023 Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series bolts back on the slicks as we head to Sligo for the Connacht Stages Rally on July 16th, where our Rally4/R2, Rally5 and J1600 crews will do battle on Tarmac, while the J1000 competitors have a nice break before they return on Round 7 for the Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally on August 20th.

Text by Cian Donnellan


2023 Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series – Counting Rounds

J1000 (Class 21)

Rd 1 - Killarney Forest - 19/02/2023 - Gravel

Rd 2 - Tipperary Forest - 14/05/2023 - Gravel

Rd 3 - Wexford Sprint - 11/06/2023 – Tar

Rd 4 - Moonraker Forest – 25/06/2023 - Gravel

Rd 5 - Cork Forest - 20/08/2023 - Gravel

Rd 6 - Carrick Sprint - 27/08/2023 – Tar

J1600 (Class 16)/ Rally4 & R2 (Class 2)/ Rally 5 (Class 1)

Rd 1 - Killarney Forest - 19/02/2023 - Gravel

Rd 2 - Midland Stages - 05/03/2023 - Tar

Rd 3 - Tipperary Forest - 14/05/2023 - Gravel

Rd 4 - Cavan Stages - 28/05/2023 – Tar

Rd 5 - Moonraker Forest – 25/06/2023 - Gravel

Rd 6 - Connacht Stages - 16/07/2023 - Tar

Rd 7 - Cork Forest - 20/08/2023 - Gravel

Rd 8 - Clare Stages - 24/09/2023 - Tar



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