Callum Devine and Noel O’Sullivan won the Rally of the Lakes for the first time after an epic duel with Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble ended when the latter crashed out on Killarney’s final stage.
Fisher slid wide on a left hander, dropping off the road, and left stranded as his rivals flew past.
It was a tough ending to a scintillating battle that raged for most of the two-day rally. Recent Circuit of Ireland Rally winners, Fisher and Noble, started Killarney on the front foot by winning four of Saturday’s six stages.
Devine began his attack back on Sunday but his string of six stage wins was only enough to decrease Fisher’s 7.7-second advantage to 3.1 seconds before the Caragh Lake decider.
An equal-fastest time on the famous 17.5-kilometre Moll’s Gap epitomised how close and on-the-limit the two Volkswagen Polo crews were fighting.
Devine had beaten Fisher by 0.2 seconds on Caragh Lake’s earlier running but he completed the final stage knowing victory was his after seeing Fisher’s stricken Polo off the road.
“We pushed hard today,” said an emotional Devine. “I think we were fastest on every stage but that’s not how we wanted to see the rally end.”
Such was the pace of Devine and Fisher’s battle, runner-up Josh Moffett ended up over a minute off the rally lead despite ending Saturday’s action within touching distance.
2022’s in-form man was happy to see the Rally of the Lakes’ finish line after struggling to get into any sort of rhythm in Killarney. When Fisher and Devine edged ahead on Sunday morning’s early Moll’s Gap and Ballaghbeama tests, Moffett seemed to settle for third.
Another haul of runner-up points increases Moffett’s grasp on the Acesigns Irish Tarmac Rally Championship standings.
Jonny Greer and Niall Burns completed the podium on their first event together. It is Greer’s best Irish Tarmac Rally Championship result in the Citroen C3 Rally2 and another encouraging sign of its potential.
Meirion Evans and Daniel Cronin completed Killarney’s top five in another pair of popular Polos.
Ford Fiesta Rally4 driver Jason Dickson secured his first ITRC 3 success of the year ahead of Joseph Kelly’s Peugeot 208 Rally4.
Class leader Ryan Caldwell was forced out of action on Stage 2 but returned under super-rally regulations to gain vital Killarney experience and pick up third-place points.
Kevin Eves and Chris Melly picked up their first Irish Tarmac points of the season by topping the registered modified crews in Killarney. Eves played second fiddle in the Rally of the Lakes’ modified battle to Kerry’s local hero Rob Duggan for most of the rally.
Duggan survived oil and clutch issues to win the national rally but doesn’t impact the ITRC standings as he isn’t registered in the championship.
Conor Murphy sealed second-place ITRC points after an impressive drive that would have put him 12th overall. Simon Reid finished over a minute behind his Ford Escort Mk2 rival to take third-place modified points.
With leading championship contenders Daniel McKenna, James Stafford, and Gary Kiernan all succumbing to mechanical issues on Saturday, it once again tightens ITRC’s modified standings.
Fergus O’Meara finished second in Killarney’s Historic Rally of the Lakes behind Alan Ring’s Subaru Legacy. It was still enough for O’Meara to seal top Historic ITRC points ahead of England’s Neil Williams who has won two of the previous four rounds.
Luke McCarthy pipped Maurice Meskell to third-place points, a result which will put McCarthy just ahead of Meskell at the top of the championship standings.
Jason Farrell won his third Junior ITRC round of the year on his home rally. Farrell finished over two minutes ahead of Robbie O’Hanlon. Gary Healy completed the top three in a similar Honda Civic.
2022 Rally of the Lakes results (Top six)
1 Callum Devine – Noel O’Sullivan (Volkswagen Polo R5), 1:39:54.6s
2 Josh Moffett – Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5), +1:09.8
3 Jonny Greer – Niall Burns (Citroen C3 Rally2), +1:19.2
4 Meirion Evans – Jonathan Jackson (Polo R5), +1:47.4
5 Daniel Cronin – Shane Buckley (Polo R5), +2:10.6
6 Cathan McCourt – Liam Moynihan (Skoda Fabia Rally2), +2:57.6
Provisional ITRC standings after R4/7 (Top six)
1 Josh Moffett // 62 points
2 Callum Devine // 41 pts
3 Meirion Evans // 38
4 Alastair Fisher // 35
5 Daniel Cronin // 25
6 Jonny Greer // 22
Photo by Ruaidhri Nash