Driving for glory

irish rally entrants looking to rule the tarmac

Two stunning Toyota Starlet rally cars will next week start a ten-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on a Geest Line freighter from Portsmouth on the English south coast, heading for Sol Rally Barbados 2013 which comes off on June 1 and 2.

Their Irish owners, however, will arrive in Barbados from different directions; Maurice Moffett from his homeland in the east, Danny O’Brien from New York in the west.

The Starlets are among 30 International entries heading to the 24th running of what has become the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport International, a two-day tarmac rally with a spectator turn-out usually in excess of 20,000. The previous Sunday’s (May 26) Scotiabank King of the Hill offers International visitors the chance for a ‘shakedown’ on local tarmac at competition speed, with the results used to seed the entry for Sol Rally Barbados 2013.

O’Brien’s involvement is poignant, as he is competing to honour the memory of a fellow member of the Irish rallying community in New York, Celsus Charlie Donnelly, who posted an on-line entry for Sol Rally Barbados 2013 last November, only days before he died.

Co-driver for Sol RB13 will be Barry McNulty, a multiple Irish and British title-winner – he was British Rally Champion in 2010, with Keith Cronin – who explained more about the Donnelly/O’Brien situation.

“A few days before his sudden passing, Charlie had signalled his intent to do Rally Barbados and told the lads how excited he was. When he suddenly passed, Danny thought it would be a fitting tribute to buy the car and do the event in his memory . . . and the car carries the legend ‘Going sideways for Charlie’.”

Born in County Cork, O’Brien emigrated to the United States in 1983 and began rallying 12 years ago, since then he has won the USA National Rally Championship three times, competing against Donnelly regularly. He currently campaigns a four-wheel-drive Open Class Subaru Impreza. His Midtown Concrete-backed Starlet has been refurbished for its trip to Barbados by MMG Rally Preparation in Aghadowey, County Londonderry.

The second Starlet is one of three regularly campaigned by members of the County Monoghan-based Moffett family, although only father Maurice will be in action in the Caribbean. Having learned of Rally Barbados from previous Irish visitors, including double-winners Kenny McKinstry and Kris Meeke, the Moffetts realised it was an event not to be missed.

Moffett’s 325bhp Millington Diamond-engined car, which is prepared by MS Motorsport, has carried him to two National class titles, in 2006 and 2008, plus a number of individual class wins, including the 2009 Donegal International. With his previous Toyota Corolla, he was a class-winner in the International Tarmac Championship in 1988.

Perhaps his most memorable victory came on the Midlands Moto Stages in 2009 but not without the help of many of his rivals, among them double Sol Rally Barbados winner Kris Meeke, who was entered in a Renault Clio. The front right wheel fell off Moffett’s Starlet on the final road section some distance from the finish, one fellow competitor towed the car, while a handful of others sat in and on the back to balance it up, with Meeke prominently positioned holding up the tailgate.Moffett’s co-driver that day, Jason ‘Wee Pete’ McKenna, has sat with him since 2002, and will be making the trip to Barbados. (RB)††

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