Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes clinched a hard-fought victory on the West Cork Rally, their second win in the 2022 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.
The Hyundai crew finished 23.3 seconds ahead of Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson. West Cork is the Welshmen’s fourth runner-up finish in a row.
Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble completed West Cork’s podium, a further 18 seconds behind their Volkswagen team-mates.
“Such a day, such a weekend,” said a joyous Moffett after the final stage. “Unbelievable. It was a relief to come to the end of that last stage, we had a nice enough run through it.
“We are on a good roll now, I don’t know how long we can keep it up for but hopefully we can.
“Everything is working well at the minute, the car and the team.”
Moffett started Sunday’s six stages 4.4 seconds behind West Cork’s overnight leader Callum Devine. Devine extended that lead on the opening stage of the day, the iconic coastal stage Ring.
But the Derry driver knew his lead would soon come under threat as the soft tyres he selected for his Ford Fiesta Rally2 car were not holding up on the long, demanding stages.
Devine was right, his lead vanished over West Cork’s next two 19-kilometre stages and heading into Sunday’s middle service he was 7.3 seconds behind Moffett.
Moffett’s first loop of stages on Sunday didn’t pass without his own issues. He struggled to get to grips with his car on the different type of stages. Clogagh, the middle stage of the loop, was the worst for the Monaghan driver. His challenging run through Stage 10 was topped off with a near rally-ending moment in dust but he survived to tell the tale.
Evans and Jonny Greer were the big winners from Stage 10. Evans’ fastest time had him just eight seconds behind Moffett and Devine who were both shaken by the morning’s events.
A poor time on the succeeding Ballinascarthy test spoiled Evans’ hard work as he dropped over 14 seconds to Moffett who claimed a dominant stage win.
Fisher was quickest out of the blocks on Ring but his charge back the leaderboard was halted by two overshoots and a stall on Clogagh. His dramas let Greer’s Citroen nip into fourth.
Cathan McCourt’s run in the top five ended with a roll on Ring. A bitter blow to his recent run of form on tarmac.
With three stages to go, spectators lined Ring eagerly awaiting the presence of Devine’s Rally2 Fiesta knowing he’d be on full attack in a bid to challenge Moffett’s lead.
It wasn’t to be, however, as Devine couldn’t complete the short journey from service to Stage 12’s start-line. His Fiesta’s gearbox gave up, leaving them stranded outside Clonakilty.
Moffett’s lead was now insurmountable. Fisher went fastest again over Ring as along with Greer and Evans, he moved up a place courtesy of Devine’s misfortune.
Three seconds separated Evans and Greer ahead of West Cork’s final stage. Greer had looked threatening all day in his Citroen but he was forced to retire on Ballinascarthy after he slid into a bank.
His car was barely damaged but his Citroen’s exhaust was flattened leaving Greer with no power to drive through West Cork’s last stage.
Daniel Cronin and David Guest completed West Cork’s top five.
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West Cork Rally 2022 results (top five)
1 Josh Moffett – Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5), 1:51:08.4s
2 Meirion Evans – Jonathan Jackson (Volkswagen Polo R5), +23.3s
3 Alastair Fisher – Gordon Noble (Polo R5), +41.6
4 Daniel Cronin – Shane Buckley (Polo R5), +2:41.1
5 David Guest – Jonathan McGrath (Ford Fiesta R5), +3:51.6
Photos courtesy of David Harrigan