IN a contest that hung in the balance for almost all of its 14 stages, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Hyundai i20 R5) and his Wexford co-driver Andy Hayes won the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally.
They finished 23.3 seconds ahead of the VW Polo GTi R5 of Welsh duo Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson with the Ulster pairing of Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble, also in a VW Polo GTi R5, some 15 seconds further behind in third.
Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (VW Polo GTi R5) and his Killarney co-driver Shane Buckley finished fourth where they were followed by the Ford Fiesta R5’s of Dunmanway’s David Guest and Ovens man Owen Murphy, respectively co-driven by Mitchelstown’s Jonathan McGrath and Askeaton’s Anthony Nestor.
In sunny conditions, a margin of just 5. 2 seconds covered the top six drivers through the Ardfield stage, the first of the 14-stage event. Devine was quickest 1.7 seconds faster than surprise second-placed driver Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt, also in a Fiesta R5.
Evans was 1.2 seconds further behind in third. Greer, Moffett and Fisher filled the remaining places followed by the Cork trio of David Guest, Owen Murphy and Daniel Cronin, who made a few small errors. Moffett was quickest on the second stage to move into second spot a mere second behind Devine while Fisher stalled at the stage start but remained in sixth. Moffett played around with the suspension set-up at the Darrara service park bringing more stability to the Hyundai.
On the repeat of both, Devine and Moffett traded fastest times leaving 1.8 seconds between the pair as they opened up a gap on the opposition with Greer best of the rest, 12.7 seconds further back followed by Evans, McCourt and Fisher.
Dominating the first two stages of the afternoon loop Moffett led by 1.2 seconds after S.S. 6 but Devine reclaimed the advantage a stage later and went on to lead at the overnight halt by 4.4 seconds, his rival suffered a soft brake pedal. Evans improved considerably to slot into third ahead of his stable mate Fisher, who punched in the best time on S.S. 7, McCourt in fifth, did likewise on S.S. 8 with Greer (sixth) damaging the sump guard after a heavy landing over a jump on S.. 6.
The overnight top ten also featured locals Cronin, Murphy and Guest, the former lucky to survive a lurid spin unscathed. Murphy remarked that he was continuing to explore the capabilities of his car but didn’t know how far it extended, Guest, who was best of the trio on the opening stage, suffered brake troubles. The overnight top twenty also featured Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy (Citroen C3), Dunmanway’s Jason McSweeney (Fiesta R5), Glounthaune’s Denis Moynihan (Fiesta R5) and Kilcrohane’s Jer O’Donovan.
On yesterday’s opening stage (S.S. 9, Ring) Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan crashed their Fiesta R5, both were unhurt.
A frenetic pace over the iconic stage and also on the stage at Clogagh saw the top trio covered by an 8.2 second time frame as Moffett moved into the lead - a mere two-tenths of a second.
On the final stage of the loop Moffett went 7.3 seconds ahead even though he experienced a moment on the stage, the latter part of which was covered in dust from a hard pressing Devine. Evans stalled at a hairpin and lost valuable seconds and from being 8.2 seconds off top spot, that margin became 22.3 seconds, it also put him into the grasp of fourth placed Jonny Greer (Citroen C3), who was only 3.6 seconds away.
The promise of a titanic struggle through the final three stages was over even before it began when Devine’s Fiesta stopped on the way to S.S. 12 with gearbox failure.
Moffett still had to concentrate as Evans held second followed by Greer, who was pressed by Fisher, with that particular chase ending on the final stage when Greer squashed the exhaust and retired following a brief visit to the scenery, leaving Fisher take third spot.
Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (VW Polo GTi R5) lost power steering on S.S. 11 after he landed heavily over a jump, he also overshot on the same stage. Guest and Murphy followed while Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy (Citroen C3) finished eighth overall and Kilnamartya co-driver JJ Cremin calling the notes for Limerick’s Keith Lyons (Fiesta R5) survived clouting a bank on S.S. 13 to claim ninth.
The event, round two of the Acesigns Irish Tarmac Championship drew huge crowds to West Cork with spectators taking up every vantage point along the stages.