Samdec Security International ITRC
The Irish Tarmac Rally Championship is perfectly poised heading to its biggest event of the year, round five, the Donegal International Rally. International, Modified, Historic, and Junior categories have been at their unpredictable best and each are all to play for with three rounds remaining.
Several crews have staked a strong claim on the coveted Irish Tarmac title but last year’s champions, Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes, have consistently recorded podium finishes to once again lead the championship heading to Donegal.
Driving the same Hyundai i20 R5 that brought them success on the Donegal International Rally 12 months ago, Moffett and Hayes have only managed one victory from ITRC’s first four rounds.
They had no answer to Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson’s searing Sunday speed on Galway’s Irish Tarmac opener. A couple of errors meant Moffett had to settle for second on round one but it wasn’t long until he rekindled his form.
Moffett jumped to the top of the Samdec Security Irish Tarmac standings after an assured victory on the West Cork Rally. The south coast success proved that his dated Hyundai still had winning potential at the hands of the on-the-limit Monaghan man.
A repeat of Moffett’s dramatic Donegal win this time around would make him a strong favourite for his third Irish Tarmac title.
Managing to do the Donegal double is not going to be simple, however. Especially with 2022’s long-term rally leader, Callum Devine, coming into form at a dangerous time in the season.
Devine and co-driver, Noel O’Sullivan, struggled to make things work aboard their Volkswagen Polo R5 in both Galway and West Cork. That lack of pace left the languishing outside Irish Tarmac’s top positions and wondering whether they had any chance of challenging for this season’s silverware.
Two seriously impressive April performances on the Circuit of Ireland and Rally of the Lakes secured a brace of maximum scores that are invaluable for a championship chase.
The Derry-Kerry duo’s rapid run in Donegal came to a gutting end after colliding with a baled chicane on the final day of last year’s rally. They know they have the pace to add Donegal to the list of their recent victories but will know that a repeat of last year’s result could bid their Tarmac hunt farewell.
Meirion Evans will be hoping to bounce back from his disappointing retirement on Killarney’s Rally of the Lakes. The Welshman was gathering some momentum on Saturday’s Beara Peninsula tests when a roll on Cod’s Head put him out of the running.
Evans and Jackson’s campaign got off to the best possible start with a stylish victory on the Galway International Rally. They’ll crave a Donegal International Rally challenge and with their pace increasing across Ireland, you’d be foolish to put them out of the running.
Robert Barrable is another dark horse who could well spring a surprise this June. The Dubliner has adjusted well to his Citroen C3 Rally2 – narrowly missing out on victories in West Cork and Killarney.
Barrable’s circuit-racing style could well shine through on the fast stages north of Letterkenny. If they do, he’ll be in with a chance of turning the 2023 Irish Tarmac Championship into a four-horse race.
Donegal Rally winners, Sam Moffett, Garry Jennings, and Declan Boyle, have shown glimpses of their spine-tingling speed this year and join a host of top names capable of winning Ireland’s only three-day rally.
Matt Edwards and David Moynihan have once again thrown their names in the hat for Donegal honour this year, hiring a Volkswagen Polo R5 for June’s epic three-day event.
The Rally4 category has been one of the best classes in the 2023 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. With seven or eight potential winners on each Irish Tarmac event, it is no wonder that there have been four different victors so far this year.
Casey Jay Coleman and Adam Coffey set the benchmark with a front-wheel-drive win in Galway. The Ford Fiesta Rally4 pairing has been regular pacesetters since but a couple of incidents since have put Coleman third in the championship standings, 14.5 points off top spot.
Keelan Grogan and Ayrton Sherlock were forced into super-rally after breaking a driveshaft on the Galway International Rally. They excelled on their Peugeot 208 Rally4 debut, sealing a dominant victory on a treacherous West Cork Rally but hopes of a Killarney victory were dashed when they collided with a chicane on Moll’s Gap’s Sunday opener. Sitting sixth in ITRC 4, Grogan is in desperate need of a strong score in Donegal – like all his Rally4 rivals, he’ll be one to keep an eye on.
Mr Consistent, Shane Quinn, finds himself leading ITRC 4 with three rounds remaining. The Longford driver scored two runner-up finishes to start his maiden Irish Tarmac campaign with his season getting even better on the Circuit of Ireland. His Rally4 Fiesta was stranded for 40 seconds on round three’s opening stage but Quinn fought back to clinch his first win of the season. A gearbox failure forced them to retire on the Rally of the Lakes, leaving the championship wide open.
Ioan Lloyd and Sion Williams stole a last-gasp victory in Killarney, usurping Kyle McBride on the last stage to win the Rally4 category by 1.5 seconds. It was a perfect result for their first outing of 2023.
McEvoy Motorsport Modified ITRC
If there is ever a rally where modifieds come to the fore, it has to be Donegal. Each round of the McEvoy Motorsport Modified Irish Tarmac Rally Championship has been hotly contested but the two-wheel-drive competition always goes up a level at the Donegal International Rally.
Three different modified crews have claimed victories so far in the 2023 McEvoy Motorsport Modified ITRC. Mark Alcorn and John O’Donnell stole the show with a flamboyant one-minute, seven-second win on a slippery Galway International Rally. Alcorn has opted out of international events since but will be one of the modified aces to watch in Donegal.
Gary Kiernan has perhaps been a bit too critical of his own performances this year; after all, he holds a strong championship position with two wins in West Cork and Killarney’s Rally of the Lakes. Both Kiernan and Alcorn enjoyed battles with Kevin Eves so far this season but the latter’s luck seems to have escaped him. The Pettigo pilot has arguably been the fastest driver this year but three retirements put him in a lowly championship position.
Eddie Doherty is another driver to have performed incredibly well in his Ford Escort Mk2. Although a modified win has evaded him so far this year, Doherty’s string of top finishes put him in a threatening position to clinch this year’s modified title.
Kevin Gallagher, Declan Gallagher, and Damien Tourish are just a few of the usual Donegal suspects that will push ITRC’s championship contenders to the limit in the bid for that famed Donegal National title.
Synergy Motorsport Engineering Historic ITRC
Two wins in West Cork and Killarney’s Rally of the Lakes has put 2019 Historic ITRC champions, Duncan Williams and Guy Weaver, in a commanding position at the top of this year’s Synergy Motorsport Engineering series.
They are seeded third in Donegal’s modified section which will compete over Saturday and Sunday’s north-west stages. Last year’s winners Tommy O’Connell and Thomas Wedlock will lead the way in their Ford Escort RS1800 ahead of Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell who are debuting their BMW M3.
Williams and Weaver are the only double-round winners so far in 2023 with Neil Williams, Meirion Evans, and Trevor Wilson sharing the spoils on the other three rounds.
The Ford Escort pilot may hold a 34-point lead over Wayne Evans but it is by no means a one-horse category. The Synergy Historic ITRC has been highly competitive this year with highly talented drivers like Will Onions, Fergus O’Meara, Ray Breen, and Tom Clark narrowly missing out on top scores.
A host of crews will head to Donegal with hopes of securing a highly prized victory that would in turn give their championship challenge a massive boost.
Paul Browne Plant Hire & Civil Engineering Junior ITRC
18 Junior crews are set to take on the Donegal International Rally this year. Junior BRC frontrunner Kyle McBride is seeded at the front ahead of Gary Cassidy with Darragh O’Donovan, who is second in the Junior ITRC standings, seeded third.
Three strong points finishes have given Robbie O’Hanlon and Oisin Joyce a six-point advantage at the front of the Paul Browne Plant Hire & Civil Engineering Junior ITRC. They are seventh on the road for Donegal.
With Barry McIntyre, Darach Bonner, Ben McIntyre, and Jordan Jervis all in the championship mix and ready for a Donegal challenge – it should be an interesting battle over Sunday’s famous stages.
Photo by D Harrigan Images