This weekend’s Galway International Rally gets the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship underway in 2022. ITRC’s Historic opener in Killarney whet the appetite last November but Galway will take things to the next level with Rally2, Rally4, and modified machinery adding to the competition.
Here are five reasons why you can’t afford to miss Irish rallying’s asphalt 2022 season starter.
1. Pick a winner… I dare you!
Pre-rally favourite? You can throw that tag-line out the window.
Alastair Fisher is seeded first on the road and claimed a dominant win in Galway last time out. But that was two years ago and he hasn’t started a stage in anger since.
Since then, Fisher’s rivals have been racking up the miles and there is no doubt Ireland’s pace out front has taken another step forward.
Callum Devine didn’t compete in Galway two years ago. Instead he was preparing for European Rally Championship events.
Three wins in Ireland last year set himself as a new benchmark. Uncertainty around his Rally2 Fiesta’s handling of Ireland’s notorious bumps on the Donegal Harvest and Ulster rallies, however, is still an area to work on.
Meirion Evans, Josh Moffett, and Declan Boyle, the latter bringing his beastly Fiesta WRC to the party, have all shown speed to challenge for top honours in Galway.
Unfortunately Matt Edwards and Jonny Greer won’t make the start-line but still this top ten has several drivers capable of winning the rally – some I haven’t even been able to list.
2. First two-day rally since 2019
28 months. That is how long it has been since rally cars reached the calm of overnight Parc Ferme after an intense day of Irish rallying.
Finally we all can enjoy a two-day rally again. 15 stages and over 200 competitive kilometres are on offer in Galway.
With three loops of stages on both Saturday and Sunday. Fans can savour plenty of action over the weekend.
3. An intense field of modifieds
Where do we start? The Irish Tarmac Championship has attracted Ireland’s top modified crews down the years. But rarely have they all landed at the same rally, raring to do battle, bar Donegal of course!
Now, it seems like the big names are all after the same crown in 2022 – Irish Tarmac Modified Champion.
Battles between Kevin Eves, Gary Kiernan, and James Stafford were intense last year. Stafford’s Darrian had the edge but Galway offers completely different conditions and he’s now potentially on the back foot.
Daniel McKenna, Damien Tourish, Chris Armstrong, Declan Gallagher, and Damian Toner. The list of modified aces really does go on and on.
Jason Black claimed two-wheel-drive honours in Galway last time around. His Class 13 Toyota Starlet has a huge task ahead of it to defend that win. If anything, though, it is just a reminder of how special this modified entry is.
4. Open to the public
Rallying has been back for a while but with service open to the public and a ceremonial start at Eyre Square, it feels like we are “back, back” now.
Galway City’s Eyre Square is the place to be on Friday night. It always has a warming atmosphere and with an extraordinary list of cars on display this weekend, you won’t want to miss them rev over the start ramp at 8 pm on Friday.
5. Start of new folklore rivalries
Writing rally reports can be a funny game. You can stick to the stage times, you can add in some history, or you can create a bit of a storyline.
When I saw the entry for Galway, however, I smiled with delight at the list of battles we could have. I normally write about duels, but I really do think times traded between just two crews is out of the question here!
Irish rallying is famed for those RPM characterised rallies between Fisher, McKinstry, and McHale; or Nesbitt, Donnelly, and McGarrity. Looking at ITRC’s 2022 line-up, the top ten is filled with names that can stick around rally-challenging positions for many years to come.
Galway promises to be a great weekend. It is difficult to put it into words.
One thing is for sure, you won’t want to miss out on what could be the start of another golden era.
Galway International Rally Top 10
1 // Alastair Fisher – Gordon Noble (Volkswagen Polo R5)
2 // Callum Devine – Brian Hoy (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
4 // Meirion Evans – Jonathan Jackson (Polo R5)
5 // Josh Moffett – Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5)
7 // Cathan McCourt – Liam Moynihan (Fiesta Rally2)
8 // Donagh Kelly – Kevin Flanagan (Polo R5)
9 // Declan Boyle – James O’Reilly (Ford Fiesta WRC)
10 // Garry Jennings – Rory Kennedy (Fiesta R5)
11 // Daniel Cronin – Shane Buckley (Polo R5)
12 // David Kelly – Dean O’Sullivan (Fiesta R5)
2022 Galway International Rally itinerary
SS1 // Killormer 1, 11.4 km – 08:52
SS2 // Foolagh 1, 14.9 km – 09:31
SS3 // Limehill 1, 9.2 km – 10:04
SS4 // Killormer 2, 11.4 km – 11:37
SS5 // Foolagh 2, 14.9 km – 12:16
SS6 // Limehill 2, 9.2 km – 12:49
SS7 // Killormer 3, 11.4 km – 14:22
SS8 // Foolagh 3, 14.9 km – 15:01
SS9 // Limehill 3, 9.2 km – 15:34
SS10 // Edenhill 1, 15.2 km – 09:23
SS11 // Black Road 1, 20 km – 10:02
SS12 // Edenhill 2, 15.2 km – 11:37
SS13 // Black Road 2, 20 km – 12:16
SS14 // Edenhill 3, 15.2 km – 13:51
SS15 // Black Road 3, 20 km – 14:30
Photos by Adam Hall and Roger Dawson