Why WRC Fiesta makes sense for Moffett in Donegal

Donegal is the only international rally in Ireland that is yet to be won by an R5 or Rally2 car. World Rally Cars have won every edition since James Cullen’s mesmerising fightback in 1999.

Two of those WRC wins came courtesy of Sam Moffett and the Monaghan driver is sticking to his faithful Ford Fiesta WRC this year.

Moffett is one of few World Rally Car contenders that could keep Donegal’s roll of honour void of Rally2 machinery for one more year. With the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship’s pace stepping up in 2022; Josh Moffett, Callum Devine, and Alastair Fisher will tackle the asphalt series’ fifth round expecting to break Donegal’s WRC dominance.

Sam Moffett’s choice of machinery has been a major focal point of Donegal International Rally’s annual pre-event speculation. A World Rally Car hasn’t won a rally in Ireland since 2019 and Moffett has only driven his WRC Fiesta once since bettering Craig Breen in Donegal three years ago.

But Moffett’s mind is made up, he’ll tackle the three-day spectacular behind the wheel of the fearsome Ford.

Why?

Supply and demand.

A hint at Moffett’s busy, not-so-nine-to-five, career is one reason. He hasn’t had any scope to prepare for Donegal like he normally would and with limited choice in the R5 hiring market, Moffett opted to utilise a car he already owns.

It leaves Moffett and co-driver Keith Moriarty, and potentially Declan Boyle and James O’Reilly, as lone wolves in WRC machinery at the front end of Donegal. The 2017 Irish Tarmac Champion knows the Fiesta’s greater grunt will give him an advantage on certain stages but with a limited rallying programme this year, he’ll need any advantage he can get if he is to retain that Donegal crown.

“I haven’t had time to study pacenotes or prepare,” explained Moffett. “I’ll just be doing my best when I get there.

“I have an advantage going to Donegal in a World Rally Car but at the same time if you look at Craig and I’s times in 2019 – there were a few stages where Josh, Callum, and Alastair were within a second or two of us.

“There are a lot of people saying that the R5 cars are as developed as the world cars. I don’t believe they are just as quick but there are definitely stages where you don’t get to use the power advantage of a World Rally Car.

“With having no seat-time and it being so close, I would be worried about not getting into the top three.

“I just hope that I will be racing them at all. Okay, I might have a bit of an advantage but I think I will need the advantage to be able to stay with them. The pace of those boys at the minute is crazy.

“I would hope we could gain some time on the likes of Knockalla, that’s the type of stage that lends itself to a world car. But on a tight, technical stage – the damper development and braking is much better in an R5 car.”

Knockalla.

It’s Donegal’s picture-postcard stage and one that Moffett mastered three years ago to create a decisive double-digit gap over Breen.

He was over 10 seconds faster on Knockalla’s second pass than the closest R5 three years ago. The high-speed stage could be instrumental in Moffett’s Donegal defence this time around.

But what is the key to Moffett’s mastery of the 19-kilometre cliff top test?

“Knockalla goes right back to 2014,” reflected the 32-year-old. “Declan Boyle cleaned us on that stage in the [Subaru Impreza] S12b.

“That cost us the rally, it literally lost me the rally. He took 20 odd seconds off me over the two passes.

“I put a lot of effort into 2019. I studied the DVDs, wrote my notes, and checked them over again.

“The commitment was there, the tyres were right, I knew I was quick through it.

“The first time over it I had a good time compared to Craig so I pushed like hell and he had an overshoot on it.

“I knew from other years that I lost time on it, I knew that if you could go hard on it that you could take time.”


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Rallying is taking a back seat in Moffett’s life at present. You can’t argue with his prioritisation and it is great to see him commit to Donegal with number one on the door and some determination to give co-driver Moriarty his first victory in the Hills.

Moffett has played a Joker by taking his WRC to Donegal but in many ways, he is an underdog for overall honours come Sunday evening.

If he needs any encouragement, Moffett only has to look back to how he won the rally nine years ago, the then 23-year-old’s maiden international victory.

Rallying is a funny game – anything can happen.

“That rally is a complete blur, I could not believe what was happening. Everything went by so quickly.

“There is only one stage in that whole rally that I remember. It is High Glen, coming down into Glen Village.

“It was intense, everything was tense over the weekend. I suppose I had nothing to lose.

“In 2019 I had my own expectations whereas back then I was just going with the flow. I never thought that I would win that rally.

“Now I have an expectation, you want to win it, you know you have the ability. Sometimes it is worse when you put yourself under that pressure but it is what it is.”

Pressure. Expectation. Is Moffett feeling either of those this week? I don’t think he is. The two-time Donegal winner is certainly downplaying his potential this year.

But as the history books tell us, there is no way you can rule out a WRC-powered Moffett in Donegal.

Photos by David Harrigan

Adam Hall

Brought up in the Irish countryside, Adam was never far away from the world of rallying. From following local events like the Circuit of Ireland and the Ulster Rally, Adam now puts the stories from stages all around the world into words through his website Rally Insight.

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