By Adam Hall
Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes survived a brutal final day of the Donegal International Rally to take their maiden Donegal win.
Callum Devine started Sunday morning with a 17.7-second lead over Wales’ Matt Edwards. With Alastair Fisher and Josh Moffett over 25 seconds further back, it looked like Donegal would be a straight fight between the top two with Devine bagging important points in his bid for the Acesigns Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.
That quickly changed, however, when Devine’s Volkswagen Polo R5 took out a round bale in Sunday’s opening Gartan test. Gartan has form for upsetting Donegal leaders and Devine became the latest victim as he was forced to retire mid-stage with radiator damage.
Edwards, who isn’t registered in ITRC, inherited the lead with a 19.1-second advantage over Moffett who took 12 seconds out of the Welshman on Gartan.
With the first run of High Glen cancelled, crews headed to Atlantic Drive to complete Donegal’s first of two Sunday loops.
Edwards’ Citroen C3 Rally2 opened the stage but suffered a hefty rally-ending, and stage-stopping crash on a fast left-hander.
As a result, Josh Moffett headed back to Donegal’s final service with a one-second lead over ITRC rival Alastair Fisher.
Moffett extended his advantage over Fisher on Gartan to 3.8 seconds but with High Glen and Atlantic Drive still to go, Fisher knew he still had a chance to fight back
Heading into Donegal, Moffett topped the championship standings thanks to two wins and two runner-up finishes compared to Fisher’s sole win and a runner-up finish.
Unfortunately for Fisher, Donegal wasn’t to be his as he picked up a puncture on High Glen. It cost him 50 seconds and left Moffett with a clear run to victory should he complete the rally’s final Atlantic Drive test.
Fisher’s woes were compounded as he had no brakes through the final stage and dropped from second to fifth at the finish, losing more valuable championship points.
Sam Moffett, Meirion Evans, and Declan Boyle all jumped up above the Fermanagh driver to make up the top four.
Evans and co-driver Jonathan Jackson were rewarded for their continued efforts over Donegal’s three days by securing second-place ITRC points. Sam Moffett was unable to score overall points as he piloted a Ford Fiesta WRC.
The Welsh duo’s third runner-up score moves them into second in the championship.
“It is unbelievable,” said Josh reflecting on his first Donegal win. “It has been such a long, hard weekend.
“We had a tough start losing a lot of time on the wrong tyres but we pushed hard all weekend. The moments were starting to become normal.
“To come home with the win is pretty special.”
Fisher, Garry Jennings, and David Kelly completed the top five ITRC runners in Donegal.
Kevin Gallagher and Ryan Moore claimed a brilliant national victory in Donegal, beating fellow Darrian T90 crew James Stafford and Thomas Scallan by one minute.
The Donegal driver’s victory looked likely since conditions dried on Friday eveningbut his home assault became more difficult with clutch trouble on Sunday.
Gallagher isn’t registered in this year’s Tarmac Championship so Stafford was able to pick up his second top-score of the season to move into the modified championship lead.
Declan Gallagher and Derek Heena completed Donegal’s modified top three in their Toyota Starlet and secured his first ITRC points of 2022.
In fact, all three modified crews mentioned finished in Donegal’s top ten overall.
Gary Kiernan and Darren O’Brien finished 13th overall and bagged third-placed points in ITRC’s modified championship. That result will boost Kiernan further up the standings as he hadn’t scored on an event since his opening round success in Galway.
Tommy O’Connell and Thomas Wedlock won the Donegal Historic Rally by 31 seconds over Michael McDaid and Declan Casey who clinched top ITRC points. Duncan Williams’ fifth-place finish was enough to secure runner-up ITRC points to bring him closer to the lead Historic championship battle.
Craig and Guy MacWilliam completed Historic ITRC’s podium positions in Donegal – a result that would put Craig at the top of the drivers’ standings after pre-Donegal leader Luke McCarthy was forced to retire his Ford Escort Mk2 on Saturday.
Ryan MacHugh jumped ahead of Dylan Eves on the final stage to win Juniors by just over five seconds after the latter spun on Atlantic Drive. MacHugh now leads the Junior Championship thanks to his second win of the season.