If everything had gone to plan, Callum Devine would be travelling across the Atlantic Ocean to the island-based Azores Rally right now. Instead, Devine is preparing for his first closed-road Irish rally in almost two years – this weekend’s Cork 20 International Rally.
The County Derry driver had no time to dwell on finishing seventh on Barum Rally two weeks ago, his best result in the European Rally Championship this year. His Ford Fiesta Rally2’s engine was recalled for a rebuild by M-Sport and it was all systems go to make Azores work.
In the end, the rebuild time coupled with the logistics of getting to the remote North Atlantic islands meant Devine had to make the tough call to miss ERC’s next round.
But ERC’s loss is Ireland’s gain as Devine joins a Cork 20 top ten filled with potential rally winners. It’s fair to say Motorsport Ireland’s international star is looking forward to Sunday as well.
“I wasn’t planning this at the start of the year,” admitted Devine, “or actually even as far as the Barum Rally. We were still planning to do our full ERC campaign like we had set off to do.
“When we knew Azores was out of the equation we decided to do Cork. Sure you can’t do much better than go back for Ireland’s first closed-road rally.
“I’m actually really happy to be competing at home again. I still enjoy rallying at home, the stages are great, the competition is great, and the atmosphere and welcome around Cork is always brilliant too.”
Devine started the last running of Cork 20 seeded first on the road. Holding a comfortable 27-second lead after four stages it looked like he would end an impressive Irish Tarmac Rally Championship run in perfect fashion.
Unfortunately his Fiesta R5 broke a rear driveshaft through a puddle of water on Cork 20’s final stage of day one. It cost him the rally lead and Devine’s weekend ended in a shuck the next morning with seven stages still to go.
“We want to put that right this year,” Devine declared after describing 2019’s drama. “Of course we need to see where our pace is at after the first stage but we do want to be at the front.
“Our pace was strong in 2019. We’ve pushed on a right bit since then but it has maybe been a bit more about getting acclimatised to rallying in different countries and on different surfaces.
“The pace back home is very strong and there are a lot of boys there that will be going hard.
“It is going to be good and hopefully we’ll be right at the front with them all too.
“That’s where we want to be – going down there and setting off with a good strong pace.”
Devine has been focused on his development across Europe over the past 14 months. Most recently his speed on asphalt in Italy and the Czech Republic showed his forward progress.
The extreme competitiveness of ERC post-Covid has made getting into the top ten feel like a rally win. This Sunday, Devine will start a rally knowing his skill, speed, and on-the-edge commitment will be rewarded with a shot at victory.
Dialling in M-Sport’s Rally2 Fiesta to Irish tarmac and regauging his own driving to the unique demands of home – they’re all side stories for Devine. His focus is firmly fixed on switching his top ten ERC aims to battling his home friends and rivals for a win on Ireland’s return to rallying.
Photos by European Rally Championship and Barronpix