Josh Moffett made it two wins from two in 2022 as he controlled Sunday’s Mayo Stages Rally from start to finish alongside co-driver Keith Moriarty.
The Hyundai i20 R5 crew was fastest on every Mayo stage except the final 6.22-kilometre Cottage Bridge test. Robert Barrable was fastest on Mayo Stages Rally’s finale as he capped off an impressive runner-up finish on his return from a two-and-a-half year rallying break.
Stephen Wright and Gerard Conway completed the top three, one minute behind the rally winners.
“We’ve never won this rally before so it is a nice one to add to the list,” said Moffett. “It’s a good start to the championship and we’ll continue on with both the National and Tarmac Championships to see how we get on.”
Moffett ran first on the road in Mayo and was a firm favourite for victory on the opening round of the National and Border Rally Championships. The Monaghan driver had set the pace on the Irish Tarmac Championship’s opener in Galway a month earlier and headed to Mayo with some expectancy on his shoulders.
A soft tyre choice for Mayo’s first loop of two stages meant Moffett had to manage his speed, especially on the 15 km Woodstock test. He was still fastest but Barrable completed the opener a slender 1.4 seconds down on his in-form rival. A half spin on Stage 2 cost Barrable a likely fastest-time and allowed Moffett to build his early advantage to 3.7 seconds.
After the opening stages the front two had already built a gap to third-placed Wright who was almost 18 seconds behind Moffett.
Brendan Cumiskey dropped from fourth to seventh on Mayo’s second stage after suffering intercom issues through Logboy.
Aidan Wray, Paul Barrett, and Tim McNulty inherited fourth, fifth, and sixth overall. Wray joined Moffett on the list of drivers managing soft tyres on the dry asphalt roads.
Seamus Leonard’s Rally2 debut took a hefty hit on Logboy. He finished tenth overall on his first stage in the car but his sub-optimal tyre selection didn’t help him catch a slide on Stage 2, the impact breaking his Fiesta’s steering arm. He managed to complete the stage and finish the rally.
Back at the front, Moffett maximised the performance of his hard Michelin tyres to extend his lead over Barrable. The Dublin driver was consistently second-fastest but had no answer to Moffett’s controlled pace in front.
A scrappy second loop for Wright left him in no man’s land in third but a confident approach to Mayo’s afternoon action left the Fiesta R5 driver happy with his podium finish.
With Mayo’s top three rallying with comfortable margins, the battle for fourth was hotting up.
McNulty nipped ahead of Barrett to claim fourth at Mayo’s halfway point. Only 12 seconds separated him from Eamonn Kelly who was charging up from eighth overall.
Stage 5, the final pass of Woodstock, was Gass’s time to shine as he jumped three places to move into fourth overall. Meanwhile an overshot hairpin resulted in McNulty’s Rally2 Fiesta sliding sideways into a bank. It cost him 20 seconds and dropped him four places to eighth.
Stage 6, marked Barrett’s moment to claim fourth overall but his high was ended on Mayo’s next stage. Barrett’s impressive run ended when he crashed with issues under braking and had to retire with front-end damage.
Gass inherited fourth and left Cumiskey and Kelly to fight for fifth. Junior British Rally Championship runners-up Kelly and Conor Mohan were finding their feet as Mayo came to a close. A second-fastest time on the penultimate test put them within touching distance of a top-five finish. Another top-five time on the final Cottage Bridge test was enough to seal fifth, 1.6 seconds ahead of Cumiskey’s similar Volkswagen Polo R5.
While Moffett controlled a 27.9-second lead at the front, Mayo’s two-wheel-drive battle was rarely separated by more than a couple of seconds.
Gary Kiernan and Darren O’Brien claimed an early eight-second lead over Jason Black and Karl Egan as the latter took a cautious approach on the frosty opening stage.
Black reclaimed five seconds straightaway on Logboy, a tighter stage that was more suited to his Class 13 Toyota Starlet.
Kiernan lost time on Stage 3 as a faulty gauge messed up his tyre pressures. But any time lost was regained on the next one as Black slowed, through a slippery section, thinking he had a puncture.
The battle continued as Kiernan and Black traded places right up to Mayo’s final stage. Kiernan held a 0.4-second lead in his 2.5-litre Ford Escort but a third-fastest overall time by Black was enough to steal the two-wheel-drive win and tenth overall on Cottage Bridge.
Black and Egan’s giant-killing performance was instantly recognised by Kiernan who admitted his rivals deserved the win.
“It was an unbelievable battle,” said Black. “We were nip and tuck all day with Gary, it was great craic.
“We just pushed a bit harder on every corner of the last stage and we were delighted to come out on top.”
Sam Moffett improved his pace throughout the Mayo Stages Rally to finish third in two-wheel-drive on his Toyota Starlet debut. The Monaghan driver clearly enjoyed his new rally office as he nipped ahead of Ed O’Callaghan, Chris O’Callaghan, and Johno Doogan who had all held third at various points of the rally.
Michael Carbin was the first non-R5 home in Mayo. He finished eighth overall in his Mitsubishi Evo, 1.8 seconds ahead of Stuart Darcy who had oil splashing onto his Proton’s windscreen at the start of the event.
Ryan Caldwell claimed his second Class 2 tarmac win of the year in his front-wheel-drive Fiesta, 11.6 seconds ahead of Kyle McBride.
Shane Quinn had set the early pace in his Fiesta but its brakes boiled on Stage 3, ruling him out of contention. Caldwell and Grace O’Brien picked up the lead with Joseph Kelly’s Peugeot 208 Rally4 in hot pursuit. Unfortunately for Kelly, his 208 slid off the road on Mayo’s penultimate stage allowing 18-year-old McBride to sneak into second.
Jack Brunton won Mayo’s Junior Rally by 48.5 seconds ahead of Dylan Eves who jumped Jack McKenna on the final stage.
2022 Mayo Stages Rally results
1 Josh Moffett – Keith Moriarty (Hyundai i20 R5) 55:43.4s
2 Robert Barrable – Paddy Robinson (Volkswagen Polo R5) +27.9s
3 Stephen Wright – Ger Conway (Ford Fiesta R5) +1:00.2
4 Darren Gass – Noel O’Sullivan (Citroen C3 Rally2) +2:01.7
5 Eamonn Kelly – Conor Mohan (Polo R5) +2:05.2
6 Brendan Cumiskey – Darragh Mullen (Polo R5) +2:06.8
7 Tim McNulty – Paul Kiely (Fiesta Rally2) +2:27.0
8 Michael Carbin – Dean O’Sullivan (Mitsubishi Evo 8) +2:34.3
9 Stuart Darcy – Liam McIntyre (Proton S2500) +2:36.1
10 Jason Black – Karl Egan (Toyota Starlet) +2:49.6
Photos by Mark Mc Cullagh and Kevin Glendinning