A composed Callum Devine took a well crafted win on Sunday’s Cork 20 International Rally, beating Wales’ Meirion Evans by 20.3 seconds. It is Devine’s first international win after picking up his maiden rally win two years ago.
Evans had held the rally lead after Cork’s third stage as several crews were held up following Donagh Kelly’s collision with a baled chicane. Stephen Wright completed the test fastest but confusion was the overriding feeling heading into Cork’s second loop of stages.
Evans, Devine, and Sam Moffett all lost varying amounts of time as Kelly eventually recovered to finish the stage. Donegal’s Volkswagen Polo R5 driver explained that a brake issue had hampered him through the stage.
Sam Moffett’s Ford Fiesta Rally2 was delayed for a minute on the stage which pushed him well down the overall leaderboard. His drama continued on the next running of Ballylusky as his Fiesta refused to start on Stage 6’s start-line. A push-start did the trick though and a fired-up Moffett completed the stage joint-fastest with Devine.
Sam provisionally finished the rally in eighth but if his third stage time is corrected he could be rewarded with a podium place.
If times are corrected, Sam’s brother Josh will lose his provisional third-place finish. The Hyundai i20 driver fell away from the lead battle after the opening three stages. An overshoot on Stage 8 cost him further time as a mix of wet and dry conditions tested the crews on Cork’s deciding loop of stages.
Devine, and returning co-driver Brian Hoy, didn’t let the different situations get in the way of their performance, however. The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver’s European Rally Championship experience was evident as he set the pace without making any mistakes.
“It’s brilliant to get our first win of the year,” said Devine. “It has been challenging, especially with the weather and Meirion has been driving well all day, and the Moffetts as well.
“The pace is still strong back at home.”
Runner-up Evans was full of praise for his celtic rival and was more than happy with his showing alongside trusty navigator Jonathan Jackson.
“The only difference between our match fitness is that Callum’s has been at a really high level,” explained Evans.
“I think that showed on the last loop because he probably had the wrong tyres on and he still was able to put in the times.
“For me, to come here and race him [is great]. Two years ago Callum was untouchable for us.”
The Fiestas of Daniel Cronin, Cathan McCourt, Stephen Wright, and Roy White were embroiled in a tight fight behind the podium contenders. White’s World Rally Car looked to have the edge but strong times from the others pushed him down three places on Cork 20’s penultimate stage.
A stage win on Cork’s Ballylusky decider wasn’t enough for McCourt to move ahead of Cronin, losing out by just 0.6 seconds.
Wright, who survived a high-speed twitch on a narrow, bumpy section in Stage 5, stayed ahead of White to provisionally finish sixth.
Local drivers Owen Murphy and David Guest rounded out the top ten in their Fiesta R5s. Murphy couldn’t believe the pace of his new car but finished the day disappointed that he couldn’t match the speed of Cork 20’s frontrunners.
James Stafford claimed a commanding victory in Cork 20’s national section. The Darrion driver was grateful of a healthy margin heading into the final loop of stages as he lost fourth gear with two tests remaining.
Damian Toner was Stafford’s closest rival, however, an impressive fightback from Gary Kiernan brought him dead level with Toner after 115 kilometres of action.
Kiernan’s result was all the more impressive considering he finished Cork’s first loop of stages over 40 seconds behind Toner. Kiernan stiffened his Ford Escort Mk2’s suspension and made a tyre change during service which aided his rise up the national leaderboard.
Chris Armstrong and Richard Moffett provisionally finished fourth and fifth. Richard’s brother David had a tough debut in his Mk2 Escort. He crashed out the third stage with heavy front-end damage.
Photos by Roger Dawson and Adam Hall