Irish rallying’s thrilling two-wheel-drive battle is set to intensify further on next weekend’s West Cork Rally. Killarney Historic Rally’s modified winner, Robert Duggan, will make his first appearance of 2022 on the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship’s second round.
Duggan joins this year’s fight for two-wheel-drive honours that has already raged between Gary Kiernan, Jason Black, Daniel McKenna, and Kevin Eves.
Eves started the fastest of the four on February’s Galway International Rally, winning three of the first four stages. However, Eves’ rally came to an unfortunate end on Galway’s fifth stage, Foolagh, when he misjudged a braking point and slid his Toyota Corolla through an entrance into a field.
The 2017 Modified Irish Tarmac champion clipped a concrete pier on his way, breaking the Corolla’s back axle. The damage has kept Eves’ mechanics busy since Galway but the Pettigo driver is raring to go in West Cork with his pacey Toyota.
Fellow Toyota driver Black found himself with an unexpected lead in Galway after Eves’ issues. The Class 13 man then had his own issues when he had to stop and change a punctured wheel on Stage 8.
Kiernan went on to win Galway International Rally’s modified section after a controlled drive on the washout opener paid dividends. Kiernan and Black renewed their rivalry on March’s Mayo Stages Rally with a few seconds separating the duo all day.
Black’s gutsy drive on Mayo’s final stage was rewarded with a two-wheel-drive win in his Toyota Starlet, making amends for his misfortune in Galway.
Daniel McKenna was another man to make his mark on the Galway International Rally. The season opener was only McKenna’s second event in his rebuilt Ford Escort Mk2 but that wasn’t stopping him from pushing his modified rivals to the limit.
McKenna’s impressive run and battle with Kiernan came to an end on Stage 13. HIs Escort locked up in a greasy braking area and slid to a sudden stop against a hard bank. McKenna could go no further, retiring from Galway’s modified lead and seventh overall.
Like Eves, McKenna faced a big task to repair the damage ahead of West Cork. His fight to make Saturday morning’s Ardfield start-line is very much touch and go.
Frank Kelly is another man piloting a 2.5-litre Escort in West Cork. Baby Blue hasn’t blessed Irish rallying with its tarmac trim since 2019 but Kelly is a driver with a fondness for the stages that stretch between Rosscarbery and Timoleague.
Irish Tarmac’s 2019 Modified champion Damian Toner will be keen to throw his name into the mix of those fighting at the front. He finished second to Mikko Hirvonen in West Cork three years ago.
Duggan’s presence provides a nice curveball ahead of West Cork and one name we cannot leave out is James Stafford. The Wexford man’s Darrian might be hard to catch on West Cork’s more suitable stages.
Wales’ John Dalton is a second Darrian driver to watch in West Cork. The three-time West Cork Rally runner-up finished top two-wheel-drive in 2018.
Declan Gallagher and Chris Armstrong will be hoping for an easier ride in West Cork than they experienced on the unforgiving Galway opener.
Sam Moffett could spring a surprise in his two-litre Toyota Starlet after getting to grips with it on his debut top three two-wheel-drive finish on the Mayo Stages Rally.
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2022 West Cork Rally’s top two-wheel-drive entries
21 Gary Kiernan – Darren O’Brien (Ford Escort Mk2)
22 Kevin Eves – Chris Melly (Toyota Corolla)
23 James Stafford – Amy Stafford (Darrian T90)
24 John Dalton – Gwynfor Jones (Darrian T90)
25 Robert Duggan – John Falvey (Escort)
26 Jason Black – Karl Egan (Toyota Starlet)
27 Daniel McKenna – Andrew Grennan (Escort)
28 Declan Gallagher – Eric Calnan (Starlet)
29 Damian Toner – TBA (Escort)
30 Chris Armstrong – Darren Curran (Escort)
31 Frank Kelly – Lauren Kelly (Escort)
32 Sam Moffett – Keith Moriarty (Starlet)
Photos by Adam Hall