Callum Devine / Brian Hoy (Ford Fiesta R5) from Derry had the honor of winning the O’Connell Group Cork ’20’ International Rally, Ireland’s first asphalt rally in around 18 months.
After the nine specials of the day, they finished 20.3 seconds ahead of the VW Polo GTi of Welsh driver Meirion Evans and co-driver Jonathan Jackson. Monaghan’s Josh Moffett and his Wexford co-driver Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5) were third – 37.6 seconds behind.
Devine was the fastest in the opening stage – just 1.6 seconds ahead of Moffett with Evans – 2.9 seconds more to establish a top-three pattern. At the end of the three-stage opening loop, Evans led the standings – 5.1 seconds ahead of Devine, who felt he wasted time when he encountered Donagh Kelly’s VW Polo GTi hit at a chicane after the man from Donegal lost his brakes on stage three.
At the service park, Evans said he was careful on the last section of SS 1 which was rather muddy as his service team made some adjustments to the suspension settings. Devine’s Fiesta had a misfire in the lower gears, but this was fixed at the service park by its engineers. Moffett was equally cautious as he considered the conditions difficult – a factor Devine had similar concerns about as well.
Monaghan’s Stephen Wright (Fiesta R5) had a strong race and was happy with his pace in fourth. Former race winner Roy White (Fiesta WRC) took fifth place after recovering from an opening stage problem when the wipers did not go off and kept shining. run until all washer fluid has been drained. A quiet Daniel Cronin (Fiesta R5) took sixth place.
Devine dominated all three stages of the repeat loop and duly took the lead, but Evans was only 2.5 seconds behind with Devine showing a good pace in SS 4. Moffett stayed third and had slipped from 25.5 seconds on second place, most of the time lost during two passes on the fourth stage.
Donagh Kelly failed to get out of the second loop due to a repeat of the brake issues that troubled him on the third stage. A downpour made conditions greasy for the first third of stage six.
The opening leg of the final loop saw Devine extend his advantage over Evans as Derry’s ace missed a convincing winner. Evans was happy with his pace – beating many Irish regulars to grab second place. Moffett, third, was followed home by Daniel Cronin of Ballylickey in his old model Ford Fiesta R5 to achieve one of his best international results ever.
In what was their second event in as many days, Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan (Ford Fiesta R5) scored fifth – sealing the position with the fastest stage time on SS 9. Stephen Wright (Fiesta) of Monaghan served one of his best performances to finish sixth in a top 10 was completed by Roy White (Fiesta WRC) and the Fiesta R5s of Sam Moffett, Owen Murphy and David Guest, the latter overtaken during of the fourth stage of the day.
Meanwhile, in the McKelvey Asbestos Bushwhacker rally in Omagh, local ace Patrick O’Brien (Ford Fiesta R5) claimed a 7.7-second victory over compatriot Cathan McCourt, also driving a Fiesta R5. O’Brien was ahead of the second stage and with four fastest stage times he had a buffer of 10.9 seconds before the sixth and final stage. McCourt and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan made a brave effort but only managed to reduce the deficit by 3.1 seconds. Vivian Hamill, also driving a Fiesta R5, was 28.1 seconds behind in third position.