The start of a new season is always exciting. There are new crews itching to go, new cars ready to be learned and a host of off-season learning and preparation set to be put on the line in the hunt for glory. There’s a buzz in the air, a heady mix of nerves and tension being balanced with focus and determination. Heading to the first stage of the 2023 Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series (MIJRS), I’m sure all of these emotions and more were pulsing through these future Rally stars.
Ireland’s sole Mix-Surface championship, the MIJRS is quickly becoming a vital step in the development of a host of upcoming and exciting Irish rallying talent, and looking back now a day after the finish of Round 1, its clear just how close and enthralling the battles are set to be for the 2023 crown.
Designed for future stars under the age of 25, the Rally4/R2 class is the spearhead of the
Championship, and the winners here are competing for some incredibly prizes that are designed specifically with their development in the sport at the core. Not only will the winner receive a Training Coaching program to the value of €15,000 through the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, they will receive a nomination for the Billy Coleman Award. 2 nd and 3 rd place in the Class will also receive support packages.
The race for the 2023 MIJRS crown was always going to be red-hot just by looking at the entry list, but as the stage times dropped in it became clear just how tight things were set to be. The opening three stages would see a trio of drivers each topping the timesheets, with Kyle McBride, Dylan Eves and Casey-Jay Coleman, all in a Ford Fiesta Rally4, swapping seconds back and forth over the Killarney Forestry Rally stages.
By the time crews returned to service in Castleisland, it would be Coleman who led McBride by just 2.5 seconds, with Eves a further 11.4 seconds back in 3 rd . Aoife Raftery, in her Peugeot 208 Rally4, had suffered with a few mechanical issues with the new car, and sat in 5 th behind Conor Wilson. Cian Caldwell was using the event to get more experience in the Fiesta, while Dan Nash hit bother on stage 2 and so would finish the day in SuperRally but gaining valuable seat time in his Fiesta Rally4.
But with the battle for the lead, things would change on Stage four with Kyle McBride, making his debut in the Rally4 car, blitzing the field with a storming run that would be matched with victories as well on stages five and six to claim the Rally4/R2 class win by 33.8 seconds from Casey-Jay Coleman, with Dylan Eves, another making their Rally4 debut, finishing third.
In the Junior 1000 series, the Championship is even more compact with just six events being
contested to crown a winner. A bumper entry of 18 drivers took to the start, and just like in the Rally4 class, the battles were being raged over the smallest of margins. Open to competitors from 14-17 years of age, this truly is the starting point for drivers aiming to rise through the sport of Rallying, and 2023 sees quite a number of new competitors experiencing the sport for the 1 st time.
Most impressive of the debutants was Kalum Graffin, wasting no time getting up to speed with his Skoda CitiGo posting a 3 rd fastest time on only his second stage. Graffin would spend most of the day in a tussle with Danny Brady, even if a collision with a chicane had left his Peugeot 107 looking decidedly beaten up the times were still strong on what were slippery conditions.
Ahead of the pair, Ross Ryan drove an incredibly impressive event in Killarney and fully deserved a firs podium appearance, and with it a strong haul of Championship points, but the talk of the event was the tussle for the win that went down to the very last stage. Behind by 1.5 seconds with the final Mount Eagle test left, Jack Kennedy knew he would have to push his VW Up to the limit to overhaul his friend and rival Tommy Moffett and his Toyota Aygo.
Kennedy knew he had pace if he could learn from small mistakes made on the first pass, and this would prove key. Coupled with a massively committed attack over the 10.2km Gravel stage, a 5.4 second victory ensured plenty of smiles in the Kennedy camp, but a renewed focus for Moffett and the rest of the competitors before the next, the Moonraker Forest Rally on April 15 th .
In the Rally5 Class, Jack Brennan is very quickly showing the talent that saw him achieve the J1000 crown last time out as he gets up to speed with his Renault Clio Rally5. Decked out in the beautiful Motorsport Ireland Academy livery, the event was a further opportunity to learn and develop in his newly acquired car.
A similar approach was being followed for fellow J1000 graduate Mossie Costello, with the debut of his J1600 Honda Civic being beset by teething issues which would see the car complete the event in SuperRally.
For the Rally4/R2, Rally5 and J1600 classes, the action switches to tarmac next with the Midland Stages Rally on March 5 th, before all the classes including the J1000 get set to do battle on gravel again with the Moonraker Forest Rally on April 15 th.
Press Release by CianDon Media