Last weekend Irelands top rally drivers headed to Galway City for the first stop on the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship’s calendar, the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally. Clontibret’s Josh Moffett with Wexford’s Andy Hayes on the notes took a hard-fought victory after two days and fifteen stages in the Hyundai i20 R5 over the VW GTI Polo R5 of Welsh driver Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson with Callum Devine/Brian Hoy finishing 3rd. The rally began early Saturday morning with nine stages based in the greater Loughrea region. Treacherous conditions due to strong winds and heavy rain left it difficult for drivers to keep their cars on the road, this was evident from the number of videos of overshoots, slides and offs circulating on social media. On the opening stage Evans/Jackson set the pace with a time 2.2 seconds quicker than Moffett/Hayes. Moffett hit back on SS2, setting the fastest time to go into the lead by a slender 0.5 seconds. On the third stage Evans would set another fastest time to cut Moffett’s lead to the smallest of margins going into the first service. On SS4 it was Cathan McCourt/Liam Moynihan’s turn for a stage win moving them up to 4th overall, but in the battle for the lead, Moffett took 3 seconds out of Evans. It was on SS5 that Moffett really began to stretch his legs setting a blistering time in the torrential rain going almost a full 6 seconds quicker than Evans. SS6 saw Declan Boyle with Monaghan’s James O’Reilly on the notes take a stage win in the older WRC spec Fiesta, but more importantly Josh took another 1.2 seconds out of Evans to lead the event by 10.2 seconds at the second service.
An extremely tough stage 7 where the wind and rain picked up seen Moffett’s lead trimmed to 7.6 seconds after his car got sucked into a couple of drains, but luckily for him Evans ran wide on a corner and dropped “four or five” seconds struggling for traction on the grass. Moffett immediately hit back on stage 8 going to lead by 15.4 seconds with only stage 9 remaining on day one. On SS9 Evans could only manage to go 1.3 seconds quicker to leave Moffett/Hayes a lead of 14.1 seconds overnight. Devine/Hoy finished the day third, just 3.4 seconds behind Evans/Jackson. Six stages lay ahead on Sunday with Brady’s Yard and the 20km The Black Road stages each being repeated three times. Moffett/Hayes began day two on a mission and set another fastest stage time on SS10 to push their lead out to almost 20 seconds. A too cautious approach on the stage for Evans resulted on Devine overtaking him and going into 2nd place. There was to be slight drama on SS11 where Moffett would struggle with power-steering problems after passing through sections of standing water. Evans would set a dominant stage time to leapfrog Devine and go into 2nd, only 5.1s behind Moffett. A determined Josh would set another fastest time on the second pass of Brady’s Yard to increase his lead to 10 seconds and over the last three stages, Josh and Andy held onto their lead and eventually took the win by 14.1s seconds.
Darragh Kelly, navigating for Paul Barrett finished 9th OA and 6th in class 7. Unfortunately, Eamonn Kelly navigated by Ballinode man Conor Mohan had a minor off early in the rally and damaged the radiator resulting in retirement. Declan Boyle navigated by James O’Reilly retired on day two with gearshift problems. In the National Rally, Cavan men Gary Kiernan/Daren O’Brien ran out comfortable winners in the end over Jason Black/Karl Egan with Damien Toner/Denver Rafferty finishing 3rd. Kevin Eves had led the rally until SS5 where a high speed overshoot resulted in a damaged back axle and instant retirement. Black/Egan inherited the lead but it wasn’t to last long as a puncture on SS8 would drop them to 6th. This promoted Daniel McKenna/Andrew Grennan into the lead, with Kiernan/O’Brien just 3.8s ahead. McKenna would hold the lead until SS13 where a high speed impact with a bank on an extremely wet square right caused extensive damage to the front left. With McKenna out, Kiernan/O’Brien were the new leaders with Black/Egan back up to 2nd after setting some blistering stage times. With over a three minute lead, Kiernan/O’Brien were able to back off over the remaining stages to eventually win by two minutes thirteen seconds.
Ashling McArdle would navigate Des Lyons to 17th OA and 2nd in class 11F, while John McQuaid/Thomas Treanor finished 41st OA and 11th in class 14. Unfortunately, Trevor Burke navigating for Mervyn Deane retired after SS10 while 25th OA while Shane Farrell navigating for Quintan Park also failed to make the finish with mechanical trouble. The Junior Rally took place over the six Sunday stages and Emyvale man Jack McKenna with Conor Mohan on the notes…Yes, you read that right…took an impressive overall victory in the newly built Civic. Conor now joins an exclusive group of navigators who can say that they competed on the same event on the same weekend with two different drivers.
Top 3 Results:
1st Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5) 1:46:40.8,
2nd Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson (VW Polo GTI R5) 1:46:54.9,
3rd Callum Devine/Brian Hoy (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 1:47:09.5.
1st Gary Kiernan/Daren O’Brien (Ford Escort) 1:53:09.6,
2nd Jason Black/Karl Egan (Toyota Starlet RWD) 1:55:23.3,
3rd Damien Toner/Denver Rafferty (Ford Escort) 1:55:34.4.
1st James Ford/Neil Shanks (Ford Escort) 2:01:59.2,
2nd Duncan Williams/Declan Casey (Ford Escort) 2:05:27.4,
3rd Maurice Meskell/Stephen Meskell (Ford Escort) 2:05:59.5.
1st Jack McKenna/Conor Mohan (Honda Civic) 1:05:40.4,
2nd Jason Farrell/Robert Duggan (Honda Civic) 1:07:01.4,
3rd John Michael Kennelly/Eoin Corcoran (Honda Civic) 1:08:29.5.
Thanks to Oisin Sherlock Monaghan Motor club for report.