Callum Devine is the latest Irish Tarmac Rally Championship contender to roll out a Volkswagen Polo R5 on Easter’s Circuit of Ireland Rally.
The 27-year-old has had a difficult start to the season behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta Rally2. Misfires and set-up struggles put him out of Galway’s lead battle while transmission failure left him stranded in West Cork.
It’s easy to assume that those stumbling blocks directly resulted in Devine’s decision to swap Fiesta for Polo. In fact, Devine has been eyeing up Volkswagen’s discontinued R5 for quite a while.
“We always would have liked to try out a Polo at some stage,” Devine told Rally Insight. “In a way it was a bit of a shame for the Fiesta because it was going really well in West Cork but the end result was disappointing.
“The Polos seem to be going well everywhere when they get a chance so when this one became available we couldn’t miss the opportunity as they are hard to get at the moment.”
2021’s three-time rally winner bought the car out of Kenya and joins Declan Boyle as a Polo debutant on the third Irish Tarmac round of the year.
Although Devine has been investigating his Polo switch for a while, it wasn’t until the past couple of days before he committed to the move.
A test on Tuesday helped solidify the decision.
“It was a bit touch and go whether we would be in it for this rally, but we are.
“It feels nice,” Devine added. “The turn-in is quite good in the Polo, it is fabulous actually. The delivery of power is maybe better for the Fiesta. To be fair, all the R5 cars are not far off each other at the moment.
“Definitely though, the all-round package should be a bit better for me now as I feel feel the car suits my driving style that bit better.
“More importantly, I’m looking forward to getting out to the stages. I haven’t done them before but they are looking good.”
That leads us to another interesting part of Devine’s Circuit of Ireland intentions. Despite living within an hour of the rally’s headquarters, out of ITRC’s frontrunners, Devine has the least experience of this weekend’s stages.
2016 was the last time Devine made pacenotes for Cairncastle and Glendun – only completing the former before his Opel Adam suffered driveshaft failure. Those two stages form half of the Circuit of Ireland’s itinerary. Reversed variants complete the other half.
The Park pilot knows that there is no room for excuses this weekend though. Josh Moffett is blazing ahead in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, 22 points in front of fifth-placed Devine.
“A good result here is key for my championship,” he confirmed. “We need to be on the ball and especially if Josh gets another win then he is going to be hard to catch.
“Hopefully we will get a good recce and find a nice rhythm. It would be nice if it stayed dry so we can build our confidence in the new car as quick as possible.”
Photo by Ruaidhri Nash