Gareth MacHale and Brian Murphy rolled back the years to secure a controlled victory on the 2022 Galway Summer Rally. It was their first win since the Cork 20 International Rally, 12 years ago, which sealed that year’s Irish Tarmac title.
The Volkswagen Polo R5 crew set four fastest stage times on their way to winning the Galway Summer Rally by 15.2 seconds over Andrew Purcell and Andy Hayes.
MacHale’s win also marks the first rally success in Ireland for a right-hand-drive R5.
“It is 12 years since our last rally win so I am delighted,” MacHale told final-stage interviewer Andy Walsh. “I am delighted to get the win in Galway as well, it is a great feeling to be back.
“There are 10 drivers capable of winning on any international or national round now which is great.
“The car is fantastic, it is really starting to come together for us now but obviously there are still a few more steps to go back up the ladder.”
MacHale’s winning margin makes his popular victory look deceptively comfortable. It was David Guest, however, who set Galway’s early pace.
The Cork driver carried his form from July’s Cork 20 into Galway, heading the way with two stage wins through a shortened opening loop. MacHale could only manage a fourth-fastest time on stage three, Knockroe, behind Peadar Hurson, Brendan Cumiskey, and Guest.
MacHale knew the source of his time loss, though. Galway’s second stage had been pulled from the route and at 17.6 kilometres it was just under half the loop’s entire distance. As a result, MacHale didn’t get a chance to utilise his hard compound tyres – 5.1-seconds behind Guest, it was game on.
Pre-event favourite Robert Barrable was down in sixth position after Knockroe, albeit only 10 seconds off the lead.
Fifth-placed Purcell went fastest by 2.6 seconds on stage four, Tiaquin, to jump up to third and only 1.4 seconds off new rally leader MacHale. Guest dropped a bundle of time on the 10.5-kilometre test, undoing the advantage he had built before service.
The flip in form intensified the rally fight with 3.8 seconds separating the top four of Cumiskey, Purcell, Guest, and MacHale.
Galway Summer Rally’s competitors now faced the 17.6 kilometres of Greenhills for the first time. Unbeknown to them, it was to shape the rest of the rally.
MacHale, who was left to rue the stage’s cancellation earlier that morning, tackled Greenhills in domineering fashion to grab his first fastest time of the day, nine seconds up on closest challenger Barrable.
Stage five’s remarkable benchmark was overshadowed by the demise of Guest’s Ford Fiesta Rally2. Guest and Jonathan McGrath found themselves on their side after going off through a tricky loose section of Greenhills.
Purcell should have been another driver to benefit from Guest’s retirement but he overshot his Skoda Fabia R5 at a junction early in the stage. Tim McNulty was another to encounter drama, although his came on the start-line, stalling his Polo R5 twice.
0.6 seconds separated MacHale, Hurson, Cumiskey, and Purcell on stage six but it was still Kildare’s MacHale-Murphy combination on top with a lead of 13.8 seconds heading into Galway’s final three stages.
The leading crew inadvertently found the limit of their Polo’s braking power, narrowly avoiding a costly overshoot at Knockroe’s final junction.
Galway Summer Rally looked set to be Cumiskey’s best result since the same event four years ago. He was locked in a stiff battle for second with Purcell and Hayes, who were 1.1 seconds back with three stages remaining.
Cumiskey and Niall Burns renewed their charge on stage seven but their strong showing was ruined with one square-left to go on the 10.5-kilometre Tiaquin test.
The Polo R5 was flung up onto its side and into a soft hedge after clipping the inside of the slow left-hander. It was game over for Cumiskey, leaving Purcell and Barrable to fight for second.
Purcell ended up extending his margin over Barrable to seal second place in Galway with the fastest time on the rally’s final stage.
Barrable had a quiet day running first on the road. The Dubliner made a sluggish start to the rally and rightly stated he was only getting up to speed after missing a few events since June’s Circuit of Munster.
The Galway Summer Rally was all about MacHale and Murphy, however. The pair used their wealth of experience to bring the right-hand-drive Polo R5 home with 15.2 seconds in hand at the front of the field.
It marks an important point in MacHale’s return to rallying and taking a well-deserved win on just his fifth event back should give him great confidence going forward.
Richard Moffett and Darragh Kelly clinched an equally impressive 11.4-second modified win in their Class 14 Toyota Starlet. The Monaghan crew just about made it to stage one’s start-line after suffering an early misfire.
Moffett didn’t let it upset his concentration as he claimed a two-wheel-drive lead, that he wouldn’t surrender, on stage two after finishing second-fastest to Dessie Keenan on Galway’s opener.
Keenan was well in the mix, just behind Gary Keirnan who held second, up until the Monaghan man’s Ford Escort ran into mechanical difficulty on stage six.
Padraig Egan, Ed O’Callaghan, and Jason Black were three other leading modified contenders to develop problems early in the nine-stage event.
2017 Irish Tarmac Rally Champion Sam Moffett was enjoying his best outing to date in his Starlet. Moffett and Keith Moriarty moved into the lead of a competitive Class 13 after stage seven.
Unfortunately for Moffett, and despite the best efforts of his rivals, his Starlet cried no more halfway through Galway’s penultimate stage.
Johnny Jordan, who was only 0.9 seconds behind Moffett with two stages to go, inherited the lead to secure a 27.9-second Class 13 win.
In the overall modified battle, Kiernan had no answer to Richard Moffett’s turn of pace. The Cavan pilot had to settle for second and Galway’s “King of the Mk2” Trophy.
Moffett finished the rally on fire, setting a brace of fourth-fastest times to claim a personal best National Championship event finish of fourth overall.
The modified winner’s brother, David Moffett, rounded out a difficult day with the fifth-fastest time on stage nine. He fell out of contention on stage five when his Escort slipped into a ditch, losing over a minute as co-driver Martin Connolly had to push it back onto firm ground.
Photos by Ruaidhri Nash and Ruthann O’Connor