Three wins and two runner-up finishes put Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes in prime position to seal their second Irish Tarmac Rally Championship title this year.
But somehow, despite their steadfast supremacy, Moffett and Hayes still have more than a bit to do to claim Ireland’s ultimate rallying honours.
This weekend’s Cork 20 International Rally is the series’ penultimate round and with three crews bidding to usurp the Hyundai i20 leaders, the 15-stage rally could be 2022’s most exciting yet.
Meirion Evans, Alastair Fisher, and Callum Devine lie over 25 points behind Moffett in ITRC’s standings with two rounds to go. The championship’s requirement for crews to drop their two lowest scores and ability to score double points on its Ulster Rally finale, however, gives all three outsiders a chance to sneak a surprise Tarmac title.
ITRC points will be handed out to finishers after Ulster Rally’s first day of competitive action in the same (17-14-12-10…) format as any other round. The clocks will reset for ITRC crews on Saturday morning with another chance to race for maximum points.
Evans, Fisher, and Devine will have a shot at scoring 34 points on the Ulster Rally, a much-needed tally in their chase of 2022 pacesetter Moffett.
So, how does that affect the Cork 20 Rally which doesn’t have double-points for ITRC’s mainfield crews?
Currently, after dropped scores are considered just one point separates the trio of Volkswagen Polos piloted by Evans, Fisher, and Devine. In the race between each other, it is as close as imaginable.
Secondly, all three must aim for maximum points if they have any hope of heading to Ulster with a chance of pipping Moffett to his second title of the year.
The last reason is perhaps the most interesting.
So far, Moffett hasn’t a low score to his name in 2022. At the moment, his two runner-up finishes on the Circuit of Ireland and Killarney’s Rally of the Lakes will be the rounds he drops, 14 points apiece.
A finishing position lower than first is literally of no benefit to Moffett’s Irish Tarmac campaign because he will end up dropping those points anyway. The only position that can add to his current points tally? First.
If Moffett secures his fourth ITRC win of the season this weekend, he can travel to Newry next month with the knowledge that hovering in third would secure his and Hayes’ second Irish Tarmac title.
If a Cork 20 win evades Moffett this weekend, he’ll have to aim for second on the Ulster to be sure to clinch the championship.
There you go, four crews in equally matched R5 cars with every reason to chase victory in Cork. They have nothing to lose.
One would wonder how Cork could be more exciting, thrilling, or dramatic as ITRC’s recent rallies in Donegal, Killarney, and on the Circuit. Each had its own twists and turns, spinning an Irish Tarmac tale destined for a lofty place in the history books.
Now, with an Irish Tarmac title on the line, anything can happen.
Cork 20 is the first round of the Irish Tarmac Championship that took place in 2021. Devine will be defending his maiden international rally win. But remember, Wales’ Evans was only 2.5 seconds behind the Derryman after Cork’s sixth stage last year.
Moffett’s current form is in stark contrast to his fourth-place finish on the single-day rally last September. Fisher is the only contender who didn’t compete on last year’s rally. His last visit to the Cork 20 was in 2017 but the Fermanagh driver has been on an upward trajectory of pace throughout 2022.
With modified, historic, and junior championships as close as ever, Cork 20 looks set to be a stirring chapter in a magnificent year of rallying in Ireland.
So, what is going through Moffett’s three challengers heading into round six of the 2022 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship?
2nd overall, 52 pts, 42 pts after dropped scores
“It is interesting how the championship points are working,” started 2021’s Cork 20 runner-up. “After Donegal I was sure we would only have a very small chance of winning it.
“The way it is now, no matter what, we will go to the Ulster with a chance of winning the title because we have got good scores behind us already.
“If Josh has a disaster on the Ulster and we have a really good rally, it could change a lot.
“These two rallies should favour us more than the last three or four. Cork and the Ulster were always two events we knew needed to score well on if we were to have any chance of a title.
“We have had two seconds and a third in Cork on our last three attempts so it would be nice to go one better. The other three boys will make it very hard but as always I am really looking forward to going rallying again.”
3rd overall, 47 pts, 41 pts after dropped scores
“We need to take top points home from Cork to continue our championship hopes,” explained Fisher.
“It is vital that we work hard on our recce as we didn’t compete on the event last year.
“Obviously, all three of us are chasing Josh so everyone will be on for a big push.”
4th overall, 41 pts, 41 pts after dropped scores
“We need a win this weekend to try to keep the championship alive,” declared defending Cork 20 winner. “That is the long and short of it.
“That is the aim for Cork and hopefully it goes to plan.
“We had a good run last year but the other boys have been on form this year so no doubt it will be tight racing again.
“There has been a nice break since Donegal but now I am looking forward to the rally.”
ITRC standings after R5/7
1 Josh Moffett – 79 points
2 Meirion Evans – 52 pts
3 Alastair Fisher – 47
4 Callum Devine – 41
Standings after R5/7 (after 2x dropped scores)
1 Josh Moffett – 51 points
2 Meirion Evans – 42 pts
3 Alastair Fisher – 41
4 Callum Devine – 41
Cork 20 Rally schedule:
SS1 Caherduggan 1 (11.72 km) – 10:10
SS2 Glentane 1 (12.65 km) – 10:39
SS3 Ballylusky 1 (13.97 km) – 11:08
SS4 Caherduggan 2 (11.72 km) – 12:45
SS5 Glentane 2 (12.65 km) – 13:14
SS6 Ballylusky 2 (13.97 km) – 13:43
SS7 Caherduggan 3 (11.72 km) – 15:20
SS8 Glentane 3 (12.65 km) – 15:49
SS9 Ballylusky 3 (13.97 km) – 16:18
SS10 Badgers Hill 1 (18.27 km) – 09:49
SS11 Chimneyfield 1 (19.99 km) – 10:27
SS12 Badgers Hill 2 (18.27 km) – 12:21
SS13 Chimneyfield 2 (19.99 km) – 12:59
SS14 Badgers Hill 3 (18.27 km) – 14:53
SS15 Chimneyfield 3 (19.99 km) – 15:31
Photos by DHarrigan Images and Ruaidhri Nash