Sam Moffett & Karl Atkinson rounded off a perfect season when they won the final round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship, the AceSigns Cork 20 International Rally. In second place almost five minutes behind came Alastair Fisher who edged out Joe McGonigle on the final stage by just 0.7 seconds. This however doesn’t even begin to tell the story of an event full of drama right up to the final stage when Josh Moffett led Sam by just 2.3 seconds only to go off the road and retire on final Fuhiry test.
With Sam Moffett crossing the start ramp of the event it was enough to clinch the Tarmac Championship for 2017 and without the pressure of needing to get a result, potentially intriguing battle lines were drawn as everyone was in a race for victory. On the opening stage near Crookstown Sam took the early lead as rain and slippery conditions made life tough for the drivers. Aaron MacHale was the one who suffered the most as he crashed his Citroen DS3 out and blocked the stage. The second stage near Johnstown was even wetter with standing water in places and Josh set a fastest time to lead the event. Fisher was back in third, nine seconds off the lead with McGonigle already 27 seconds back in fourth. Sam retook the lead after stage 3 and with stage 4 being cancelled he held a lead of just 1.3 seconds going into the second service.
Fisher & McGonigle were still third and fourth while Owen Murphy was making a rare appearance this year in his Skoda Fabia S2000 and held a solid sixth place. The #ITRC 3 battle was in full swing with James Wilson just ahead of William Creighton on the fringes of the top ten. Paul Rowley in his beautiful Citroen was just outside the top ten closely followed by Willie Mavitty who was having misfire problems in his Mitsubishi.
The afternoon loop of stages brought the crews through the classic Kilnamartyra and Lough Allua tests twice as the weather began to improve slightly. Sam extended his lead on Kilnamartyra but Fishers challenge effectively ended when his car stopped for several minutes which dropped him back to sixth. McGonigle and Murphy were the main beneficiaries as they move into third and fourth respectively and the positions remained static for the rest of the day after Creighton had moved ahead of Wilson to hold seventh overnight just 31 seconds ahead of his rival.
On last year’s Cork 20 it was an opening stage charge on the second day that set Josh up for his win, and he attempted the same tactic this time on the Mushera stage. With very wet and foggy conditions he stopped the clock a full ten seconds quicker than his brother to close the gap to just 0.8 seconds. This would be the theme for the remainder of the rally as it was nip and tuck between the siblings. Fisher was also on a real charge hoping to make up lost ground and secure second place in the championship and began to reel his rivals in rapidly. Creighton crashed out on stage 11 to leave Wilson in the driving seat in the class while Mavitty soldiered on with persistent problems to lie just outside the top ten.
With three stages to go Josh led by 2.3 seconds and when the brother tied for times on the penultimate stage it setup a grandstand finish. However Josh went off the road and into instant retirement to give Sam his second international win of the year round off an extremely successful season. Alastair Fishers charge went down to the wire as he snatched second from McGonigle on the final stage by just 0.7 seconds. Paul Rowley (sixth), James Wilson (seventh), William Mavitty (eighth) and championship sponsor Ed Twomey (ninth) were the other championship crews to finish the international section of a very demanding event.
Provisional Overall Points
1 – Sam Moffett – 81 – Tarmac Champion 2017
2 – Alastair Fisher – 68.5
3 – Joe McGonigle – 56
4 – Josh Moffett – 42
5 – Stephen Wright – 37
Group N Champion (#ITRC 2)
International 2WD (#ITRC 3) Champion