Rallying is a demanding game. Just ask one of Ireland’s young stars who have sought to make a name abroad while keeping work life afloat at home.
For 2017 Irish Tarmac, National, and Forest Rally Champion – Sam Moffett – that balance is proving difficult to strike even closer to home. Moffett is one of Ireland’s most talented R5 and World Rally Car drivers. Two rally wins in 2021 proved he didn’t lose his touch over lockdown.
Sunday’s Mayo Stages Rally will be the Monaghan driver’s first asphalt event of 2022. But rather than challenge for an overall victory, Moffett finds himself in the midst of a hotly contested modified category.
Mayo marks Moffett’s first appearance in a Class 13 two-litre Toyota Starlet. Quite the change from his usual R5 and WRC attire. So, what brought the change? Well this is where my introduction comes in.
“If I want to be at the top of my game in R5,” the 32-year-old started, “I have to put in so much homework.
“The effort required to compete at that standard is very high and with my work I just don’t have the time to put that effort in. We are just too busy at work, and that is a great complaint to have.
“It gets frustrating finishing fourth and fifth and the enjoyment comes out of it. When you have been racing at the top before, the only place you want to come is number one.
“You are fighting tooth and nail to get to that and when you can’t put the effort in it is hard not to get annoyed with yourself for it.
“If I can’t put the effort in and I’m not enjoying it then it is hard to justify the cost of running in such a high class.
“Once I know that I am happy to go back at it, then I probably will. I know going into the Starlet, I will have a bit of craic. I will just enjoy it and not take it seriously.”
Mayo’s opening round of the National Rally Championship has attracted a strong entry of two-wheel-drive competitors. Moffett has jumped in at the deep-end for his first serious dabble in two-wheel-drive.
Although Sam has never competed in a Starlet before, the Moffett name has an iconic affinity with the rear-wheel-drive Toyota. Sam’s uncle, Maurice, helped cement Ireland’s modified rallying reputation while Sam’s cousins David and Richard followed in their Father’s Starlet-shaped tyre tracks.
David swapped his Starlet for a Ford Escort Mk2 in 2020 and the car has gone full circle with Sam picking up the two-litre Toyota for his switch to two-wheel-drive. Moffett spoke to Rally Insight just after his first spin in the new car.
“It is very different,” admitted Moffett. “The hardest thing is going back a step because the brakes aren’t as good, the steering isn’t as good, and it doesn’t absorb the bumps as well.
“If you went from a Starlet to an R5, everything is just better. Whereas with this I’ll have to tame it.
“In saying that, I was more nervous about it being difficult to drive but it was actually fantastic to drive. I was able to really go at it and attack it, I really enjoyed it today to be honest.
“These boys are going to be very quick so I won’t be worrying about [keeping up with] them.
“It doesn’t mean I’m not going to go anyway hard. But I’m not going to try to win the national or win the class. It is all new to me so I’m not going to go out to do anything heroic.
“I’ll not tiddle around but I’ll go at a steady pace to see how I get on.”
It is fair to say, Moffett’s move to modified isn’t just a one off. He did, however, hint at a return to rally-challenging machinery for his home event in Monaghan as well as Donegal in June.
Moffett has far from lost his desire to compete at the highest level of rallying in Ireland, that you can be sure of.
For now, however, he knows a bit of scaling back makes sense. And as the saying goes, a change is as good as a rest.
“I’m more excited about doing this rally than I have been doing R5 stuff in a long time, you can get stuck in a routine.
“I’ve got different competition this weekend, I’ve got a new toy, and it is all a bit of an unknown.”
Photos courtesy of British Rally Championship and Adam Hall