A rapid time through Stage 13, Badgers Hill, was enough for Callum Devine and Noel O’Sullivan to claim their fourth Irish Tarmac event win in a row on the Cork 20 International Rally.
The Volkswagen Polo R5 crew finished the two-day event 2.7 seconds ahead of day one pacesetters Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson who had to settle for second despite scoring seven stage wins over the weekend.
Devine and O’Sullivan were fastest out of the blocks on Saturday morning’s opening Caherduggan stage but subsequent fastest times from Evans and fellow ITRC title contender Josh Moffett paved the way for a three-car fight for Cork 20 honours.
A hat-trick of stage wins on Saturday afternoon put Evans out front and the Welshman eventually finished day one with a 6.8-second overnight lead. Devine ended the day as Evans’ nearest challenger. A scary high-speed spin for Moffett cost him ten seconds on stage five.
Devine and Evans shared stage wins on mixed-condition stages on Sunday morning with Evans’ advantage narrowing to 3.6 seconds after Stage 10.
A storming run through the second pass of Badgers Hill rewarded Devine and O’Sullivan with a time 8.2 seconds faster than any of his rivals. It put the Derry-Kerry duo into the rally lead for the first time since Cork’s opener, holding a 4.6-second advantage over Evans.
Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes fell away from the lead fight as they struggled for confidence in slippery conditions aboard their Hyundai i20 Rally2.
Evans set himself up for a final stage shoot-out with his seventh fastest-time of the weekend on Cork’s penultimate Chimneyfield test. Unfortunately, a red-flagged finale cut the Mullentaura showdown short with Devine and O’Sullivan able to assert themselves as title favourites ahead of ITRC’s final round – the Ulster Rally.
Moffett and Hayes completed the Cork 20 podium ahead of Ryan Loughran and Gareth Doherty who claimed fourth from James Ford and Neil Shanks on Stage 10. The Ford Fiesta and Citroen C3 competitors enjoyed a weekend-long battle for fourth overall, both showcasing their development as top-line Rally2 contenders.
Ioan Lloyd and Sion Williams were the ones to beat in Cork 20’s Rally4 category – shining in tricky conditions to beat second-placed Casey Jay Coleman by two minutes and fifty-two seconds. Cian Caldwell and Shane Quinn had been fighting for a podium position in their brace of Ford Fiesta Rally4s but retired on Cork’s final day of action.
McEvoy Motorsport Modified ITRC
Eddie Doherty and Tom Murphy claimed a popular modified win in their Ford Escort Mk2, 13.1 seconds ahead of Frank and Lauren Kelly. Doherty’s second top modified score of the season was enough to crown him 2023’s McEvoy Motorsport Modified Irish Tarmac Champion.
Colin Byrne and Stephen Quin completed the modified podium, finishing a creditable 13th overall.
Synergy Motorsport Engineering Historic ITRC
Drama on Cork 20’s final stage allowed Trevor Wilson and Paul Mulholland to clinch their second Historic victory of the year. The Ulster-based crew finished 27.1 seconds ahead of 2023 Synergy Motorsport Engineering Historic Irish Tarmac Champions Duncan Williams and Paul Mulholland.
Tomas Davies and Dai Roberts looked set to seal Cork 20’s Historic honours as they headed into the final stage with a 20.4-second lead. After two gruelling days of rallying, their Ford Escort went off the road ending hopes of victory.
Michael McDaid and Declan Casey were another crew who had a chance of Cork victory snatched out of their hands. After fighting back from intercom issues on Saturday morning, the Ford Escort crew moved into a three-second overnight lead from Davies and Roberts. McDaid’s hopes ended when he was left stranded with clutch failure on Stage 10.
Paul Browne Plant Hire & Civil Engineering Junior ITRC
Darragh O’Donovan and Michael White secured an impressive third Junior win of the season, beating title rivals Robbie O’Hanlon and Oisin Joyce by over a minute on the Cork 20 Rally.
O’Donovan had been locked in a tight battle with Ben McIntyre over Sunday’s initial tests, moving into a two-second lead on Stage 13 before McIntyre’s retirement on Stage 13.
Words: ADAM HALL/ITRC Press Officer | Photos: DAVID HARRIGAN [Images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]