Josh Moffett & Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5) were pushed to the limit as they took overall honours in the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally for the second year in succession. They held what seemed a solid overnight lead of just under just under 20 seconds from Meirion Evans & Jonathan Jackson, but they found themselves under severe pressure after the first loop of three stages from Robert Barrable & Gordon Noble (Citroen C3 Rally 2).
Barrable was lightning quick over the treacherous opening stage at Shanaway and was also quickest on Sam’s Cross and Ardfield to move from fourth to second. Moffett steadied the ship with a fastest time with two stages to go only for Barrable to cut the lead to six seconds with a 20km Ardfield stage to go. Heavy fog rolling in from the sea failed to slow the leading pair with both drivers giving it everything, and a time two seconds quicker was enough to seal an eight second win for the Monaghan driver.
Behind them, poor tyre choices hampered their rivals challenge, with Meirion Evans taking the final podium position ahead of Callum Devine. Jonny Greer had a strong second day to move ahead of Sam Moffett for fifth place. Cork crew Jason McSweeney & Liam Brennan took a superb seventh overall moving ahead of Gary Kiernan and Cathal Mulgrew on the final stage. The Cavan driver had the consolation of being the top modified crew home after his rivals hit bother on the second day. Daniel McKenna broke a driveshaft, Jason Black lost a huge amount of time with electrical problems and Chris Armstrong had engine problems which forced him out.
Aaron MacHale and Derek Brannigan took ninth place ahead of local crew Cal McCarthy & Eric Calnan. Notable retirements during the day included Cathan McCourt who went off the road, David Kelly who had mechanical problems in his Citroen on the Sam’s Cross stage. Owen Murphy & Anthony Nestor had been battling for sixth until they slid off the road and got stuck, pushing them well down the order.
The Historic category was equally dramatic with overnight leaders Neil Williams & Anthony O’Sullivan suffering a puncture on the days third stage at Ardfield which cost them over two minutes, but they recovered to finish fourth overall. Sebastian Ling in second place overnight only got a few miles into the opening stage at Shanaway before crashing out. Duncan Williams then edged ahead of Wayne Evans and with just one stage remaining the gap stood at 22 seconds. Evans put an incredible effort in over the Ardfield stage, only to fall short by just 0.5 seconds after an exciting battle. Tom Clark & local co-driver Alistair Wyllie took third place over forty seconds behind the leading pair.
The Junior rally was a very one sided affair as local crew Darragh O’Donovan & Michael White blitzed the opposition to take victory by almost four and a half minutes in their Honda Civic. With their first stage at Shanaway being cancelled the Clonakilty driver put a marker down on the Sam’s Cross stage going almost a minute quicker than his nearest rival Evan McEvoy. When McEvoy was forced to retire on the next stage at Ardfield the lead was almost three minutes. The last loop was more about protecting what they had after a very impressive showing. Jamie O’Rourke & Conor Cross took second overall on the final stage when they edged past Ben McIntyre & Andrew Wedlock.
1 – Josh Moffett & Andy Hayes Hyundai i20 R5 2:00:19.6
2 – Robert Barrable & Gordon Noble Citroen C3 Rally 2 2:00:28.5
3 – Meirion Evans & Jonathan Jackson VW Polo Gti R5 2:01:11.2
1 – Gary Kiernan & Cathal Mulgrew Ford Escort Mk2 2:08:26.8
1 – Duncan Williams & Guy Weaver Ford Escort Mk2 1:36:30.8
1 – Darragh O’Donovan & Michael White Honda Civic 0:54:26.9