Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes have secured their second Irish Tarmac Rally Championship title after finishing fourth on the Ulster Rally.
Four rally wins through the 2022 Acesigns Irish Tarmac season put the 2018 champions in a strong position heading into the championship’s final round. Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson were the only crew that could take the title from them.
The Welsh duo won the Ulster Rally, their first-ever international victory, but it still wasn’t enough to usurp Moffett and Hayes from the top of the championship.
“We are over the moon,” said Moffett at the end of Ulster’s final stage. “It has been a tough weekend, we’ve had to take things back a few gears, but to get here at the end – it is brilliant.
“We have been listening for any noise or rattle in the car over the two days but to be fair the car has been faultless all year. It is a credit to Tom [Gahan] and the boys.”
Desi Henry started the 2022 Ulster Rally the brightest in his Ford Fiesta Rally2, building an 18.5-second advantage after three stages on Friday evening. Unfortunately for Henry, who was looking for his first international win, slippery conditions on Saturday brought his rally to an early end.
Henry’s Rally2 Fiesta slid into a gate post on Saturday’s opening Tyrone’s Ditches test. A narrow muck-ridden lane was the scene of the incident with Henry first to tackle the treacherous conditions as he ran first on the road.
That handed the Ulster Rally lead to Evans, who won the wet stage by 17.1 seconds. Evans had been locked in a battle with Jonny Greer but the Welshman’s fastest time gave him a 23.3-second lead.
Just behind, Jason Mitchell was revelling in the mucky conditions. The Strabane-based farmer slipped ahead of Moffett and into the top three as the latter continued to focus on surviving the challenging championship decider.
Evans and Jackson extended their lead on the next two stages despite completing Mount Pleasant with an odd slick tyre paired with three wets. A puncture on the road section to stage six forced the Welsh crew into running the unusual tyre combination.
A puncture spoiled Greer’s hopes of a final loop fight with Evans on stage seven and dropped the Northern Ireland Rally Champion to third. Evans sealed his fourth stage win in a row on Tyrone’s Ditches and now held a two-minute and sixteen-second lead with two tests remaining.
As it turned out, it was a lead Evans was able to manage perfectly to clinch a popular maiden international rally win and first overall victory in Ireland.
“It was been a long time coming,” said Evans.
“This is only our second year doing the [Irish Tarmac] championship so I think it makes sense to come back.
“There isn’t anything I would rather do instead, to be honest.”
A brace of fastest times for Greer and co-driver Niall Burns secured second place for their Citroen C3 Rally just ahead of Mitchell and Paddy McCrudden.
Stuart Biggerstaff and Anthony Nestor completed Ulster Rally’s top five, the Fiesta crew’s best Irish Tarmac finish of the year.
Jason Dickson and Dylan Doonan produced a perfect performance in their Ford Fiesta Rally4 to seal a one-minute and thirteen-second class victory and Dickson’s fourth top-points finish in a row.
Joseph Kelly and Ronan Comerford finished second after battling through Ulster’s demanding roads.
Third place went to Ryan Caldwell and Grace O’Brien who were managing their pace knowing that podium points were all they needed to clinch the ITRC 3 title. In the end, Dickson finished the seven-round series just one point shy of Caldwell’s winning tally.
Words: ADAM HALL, ITRC Press Officer | Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY
[Images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]