MAGNIFICENT MOFFETT HAD A YEAR FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS
The winners of the 2017 FIA Celtic Rally Trophy received their trophies at the Motorsport Ireland Awards Ceremony at Mansion House in Dublin in early December.
The overall titles went to Monaghan’s Sam Moffett and Karl Atkinson, who lifted the Trophy after a year-long battle that came down to a final stage decider on the last round. It was the icing on the cake as Moffett lifted four titles in a record-breaking year, dominating the sport on the Emerald Isle.
Younger brother Josh Moffett, with James Fulton, held the early sway however when they took victory on the season-opening Quality Hotel Clonakilty West Cork Rally, after late drama on the traditional St Patrick’s weekend event.
Robert Barrable/Damien Connolly, making their debut in a Hyundai i20 R5, led initially before Sam Moffett/Karl Atkinson moved ahead, whilst Josh held third ahead of Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble, all in Ford Fiesta R5’s.
Three stages from home however both Sam Moffett and Robert Barrable punctured on the same corner, allowing Josh to take top points ahead of Fisher.
The following month Swedish driver Fredrik Åhlin claimed a second successive victory on the Pirelli International Rally as the FIA Celtic Rally Trophy took to gravel for the first-time on its only mainland UK event.
Åhlin and Torstein Eriksen were fastest on only one stage in the famous Kielder forest in a Skoda Fabia R5 but that was enough to hold off the Fiesta of Osian Pryce/Dale Furniss and the Skoda of Martin McCormack/David Moynihan, as reigning Trophy title holders Keith Cronin/Mikie Galvin (Fiesta) ended their rally in a ditch.
Come mid-June, Ballinamallard’s Fisher and Gordon Noble (Ford Fiesta R5) swept to the top of the title chase with a hard-won victory on the three-day Joule Donegal International Rally, getting the better of a three-day head-to-head duel with Sam Moffett, brother Josh just behind in third.
Cronin/Galvin took victory on August’s John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally, right back on form in difficult conditions, as Fisher was an early retirement with engine problems on his Ford. Åhlin took second with an excellent third for Jonny Greer/Kirsty Riddick (Citroen DS3 R5).
Despite driving to protect his Irish title run, Sam Moffett collected enough points to move into a tie for the FIA Celtic Rally Trophy lead with Fisher as the series headed into the 138.com Rally Isle of Man, with Josh right in the mix too.
Cronin took the British title on the Manx, but it was Åhlin who moved to the top of the standings, followed by the Cork driver, with eventual victor Moffett third.
Neither Cronin or Åhlin however, entered the Acesigns Cork 20 International Rally finale, making it a straight fight between the Moffett brothers and Fisher on the Macroom based event.
Fisher dropped time early on, leaving a superb battle between the Monaghan brothers, swapping the lead almost by the stage. They tied on the penultimate test as the title came down to a last stage of the year thriller, Josh going into the final test 2.3s ahead, but he went off the road, leaving Sam to follow Cronin onto the FIA Celtic Rally Trophy roll of honour.
“That was such a battle, I’m devastated Josh hasn’t made it to the finish”, he said at the end of the last stage, having already secured the Irish title by simply starting. “Now we’ve landed the FIA Celtic Rally Trophy to cap a phenomenal year!”