A pacey performance from Callum Devine and Noel O’Sullivan secured victory on the 2023 Circuit of Ireland. The Volkswagen Polo R5 pairing led from the opening stage to claim a 10.2-second win over Irish Tarmac Rally Championship leaders, Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes.
Devine’s determined drive on demanding stages surrounding Cookstown puts him back in the Irish Tarmac hunt. The championship now has three winning crews after three rounds.
In fact, the successful trio completed the Circuit of Ireland podium as Galway International Rally winners Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson finished third on the eight-stage event.
“It is fantastic to get our name on the Circuit of Ireland trophy,” said Devine. “It was crucial for our championship fight to get a good result here because we’ll probably be dropping our scores from the first two rounds.
“It will be good to push on from this and it is nice to be going into Killarney next where we went well last year. Of course, Donegal will be after that – two big events that we want to be pushing for the win on.
“Three different winners after three events. It is brilliant and exciting for the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.”
Devine braved the bumps of the Circuit of Ireland’s opening Wolf’s Hill test to set a benchmark 3.8 seconds faster than Josh Moffett.
Desi Henry and Sam Moffett were third and fourth after stage one while Meirion Evans was left 9.4 seconds adrift in fifth. Evans was fighting with his Polo R5 which was wandering across the road, following the undulating road surface.
Cathan McCourt’s Citroen C3 Rally2 was an early Circuit of Ireland casualty. The Citroen broke its driveshaft on the first junction, costing McCourt three minutes before getting it fixed in the next service halt.
Josh Moffett responded straightaway by winning stage two. His fastest time cut Devine’s lead to 0.3 seconds heading into the Circuit of Ireland’s first service period.
Desi Henry held third after two stages, 1.6 seconds ahead of Evans who jumped ahead of Sam Moffett on stage two.
Callum Devine unleashed his unrelenting best on stage four, the tight and twisty 14.5 kilometres of Shanmaghry. Devine went fastest by an incredible 13.3 seconds, banking on his ability to keep his Polo R5 out of the scenery as he blitzed through the narrow County Tyrone sideroads.
Josh Moffett witnessed his 0.8-second deficit to Devine dramatically increase to 14.1 seconds at the Circuit of Ireland’s halfway point. The West Cork Rally winner had a big moment over a Shanmaghry crest, finishing the stage with a puncture. Defying the odds in his typical fashion, Moffett still managed to set a second-fastest time through stage four.
Sibling Sam also suffered some damage on Shanmaghry. He lost the power steering in his Hyundai after an abrupt landing after yet another crest. Moffett lost three seconds to Greer who had now moved into fourth ahead of Desi Henry.
Josh Moffett upped the ante, taking a hat-trick of fastest times between stage five and seven.
Evans was back on form at the start of Saturday afternoon’s stages. He was 10 seconds faster than his time on the dusty opening stage and now held a six-second margin in third.
Greer continued to struggle with the compressions on Wolf’s Hill, allowing Henry to slide back into fourth. Sam Moffett hit more trouble, losing over 10 seconds stuck in one of stage five’s initial chicanes.
A puncture on stage six cost Henry a minute and dropped him down the leaderboard to eighth.
Sam Moffett completed his eventful day in fifth, continuing to relearn the Rally2 ropes behind the wheel of his new Hyundai. Jonny Greer was getting faster and faster as the competitive kilometres started to run out. A second and third-fastest time on the final two stages brought the County Down driver to within three seconds of the podium positions.
Third place was Meirions Evans, though. The Welshman continues his streak of podium positions to keep his Irish Tarmac title bid under control.
Callum Devine and Noel O’Sullivan ensured they didn’t let their first international rally win of 2023 slip, going fastest on the Circuit’s Shanmaghry finale by 0.8 seconds over runners-up Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes.
Shane Quinn bagged top points in Irish Tarmac’s Rally4 section for the first time this year. Quinn, alongside co-driver Stephen Reynolds, finished second in the front-wheel-drive category to unregistered Northern Irish driver Kyle White.
Quinn was focused on ITRC rivals Joseph Kelly and Casey Jay Coleman throughout the eight-stage Circuit of Ireland.
Coleman held a 13-second advantage over Kelly and a 23-second advantage over Quinn after three Circuit stages. The championship battle flipped on its head on the difficult Shanmaghry test, though.
Quinn bettered his rivals, Kelly and Coleman, by 20 and 45 seconds respectively to pave the way for his maximum points haul.
McEvoy Motorsport Modified ITRC
Jason Black and Karl Egan held off a threatening Kevin Eves fightback to seal Circuit of Ireland’s modified honours by 3.9 seconds.
Black put a pre-stage electrical scare to the back of his mind to set modified’s fastest time through the opening Wolf’s Hill test. Marty Toner was Black’s nearest challenger, 1.2 seconds behind with Eves a further eight seconds back after stalling on the stage’s first chicane.
A throttle issue cost Eves another handful of seconds on stage two before Toner’s two-wheel-drive challenge suffered a setback on stage four – a broken half shaft costing the BMW pilot 30 seconds.
Four stage wins in a row brought Eves within touching distance of Black’s Toyota Starlet. Three seconds separated the modified rivals with two stages remaining.
Black and Egan responded with the fastest time on stage seven which proved to be enough to seal their first two-wheel-drive win since switching to Ireland’s 2.5-litre class in 2023.
Eves had to settle for second with Class 6 winners, Oliver Benton and Kyle Diffin, rounding out the top three in their 2.0-litre Ford Escort Mk2.
Synergy Motorsport Engineering Historic ITRC
Trevor Wilson and Paul Mulholland secured their first Historic ITRC win with a 20.5-second victory on the Circuit of Ireland over championship leaders Duncan Williams and Guy Weaver.
Tommy O’Connell took the category lead on stage one, finishing the flat-out bump-ridden stage 1.3 seconds ahead of Williams and Weaver.
The early pacesetter dropped out on the subsequent test with Wilson taking his first stage win of the day to move within two seconds of Williams’ Ford Escort RS1800.
A string of fastest times followed for Wilson and Mulholland, as their Porsche 911 stretched its legs across the Cookstown countryside. Their splendid drive will catapult them up the Historic ITRC standings as they become the fourth different winner after four rounds.