12 months on from 2022’s tense Ulster Rally finale, the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship will yet again go down to the wire on the two-day classic.
Callum Devine, Josh Moffett, and Meirion Evans’ consistent three-way rally battles this year put them all in contention for 2023’s highly prized Irish Tarmac title.
After four wins on the previous four rounds, from the Circuit of Ireland to the Cork 20, Callum Devine and Noel O’Sullivan are in a strong position to become Irish Tarmac Rally Champions for the very first time.
Devine needs a fourth-placed finish or higher, on Ulster Rally’s points-and-a-half decider if he is to seal the championship. The Claudy driver has said before, however, he intends to go for rally wins at the end of the season, especially his home Ulster Rally. Will he change his tune with a title on the line?
Cork 20’s runner-up finish keeps Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson in the title hunt heading to the final round. However, seven stage wins and a red-flagged final test left Evans disappointed that he missed out on his second win of the season in Cork.
The Welsh pairing will have to quickly refocus on the Ulster Rally, knowing that a repeat of their 2022 win will be the only way they can sneak a surprise Irish Tarmac title.
Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes are in the same boat, knowing that victory on the Ulster Rally and a finishing position of fifth or lower for Devine is the only way they can retain their ITRC crown.
While the odds are stacked in Devine’s favour, a top-class Ulster Rally entry of Rally2 cars means a top-four finish is not guaranteed.
Gunning for Ulster Rally glory, Jonny Greer, Desi Henry, and Cathan McCourt are all ITRC registered and could inadvertently impact the title fight between Devine, Evans, and Moffett.
Seeded second, Adrien Fourmaux adds a World Rally Championship flavour to ITRC’s championship finale. Can he beat the Irish Tarmac regulars on their home turf?
Jason Mitchell, James Ford, and Gareth MacHale are just a few more of ITRC’s Rally2 regulars featuring in an extremely competitive Ulster Rally top twenty. They’ll be keen to prove their pace against high-class opposition.
The ITRC 4 title is still up for grabs on its final round, the Ulster Rally. Shane Quinn is in a prime position to seal the title after strong finishes throughout the year backing up his Circuit of Ireland win.
Joseph Kelly and Casey Jay Coleman are his main rivals, with both less than 10 points behind after dropped scores.
Wales’ Ioan Lloyd is a real dark horse, though. Lloyd has shown immense pace over the past three rounds, winning in Killarney and the Cork 20. He’ll need a win and his rivals to hit trouble if he is to secure the title.
McEvoy Motorsport Modified ITRC
Recently crowned McEvoy Motorsport Modified Irish Tarmac Champion Eddie Doherty can celebrate his success with a no-pressure run through Ulster Rally’s demanding set of stages.
Doherty will have a few local modified masters to gauge himself against on the County Armagh and County Down roads.
Those local challengers include Toner brothers Damian and Marty who will vie for bragging rights in their Ford Escort and BMW respectively.
Another Armagh man, Jason Black, returns to Irish Tarmac action with his Toyota Starlet alongside trusty navigator Karl Egan. Black has transitioned nicely to his 2.5-litre engine powering his Starlet this year and an Ulster Rally victory would be the cherry on top of an already positive year.
In Class 6 (13), Oliver Benton and Gareth Black will renew their rivalry in a Ford Escort and a Toyota Starlet.
Synergy Motorsport Engineering Historic ITRC
Another crew able to enjoy the Ulster after championship-winning Cork 20 outings is the Ford Escort RS1800 pairing of Duncan Williams and Guy Weaver. They face Historic opposition from a host of Ulster-based drivers including Cork 20 winner Trevor Wilson.
David Armstrong, Andrew Bushe, and Andy Johnston, are a few more local names that will eye up success on the Newy-based event.
Paul Browne Plant Hire & Civil Engineering Junior ITRC
Robbie O’Hanlon and Darragh O’Donovan are set to go head-to-head in Ulster Rally’s Junior decider.
O’Hanlon and his co-driver Oisin Joyce hold a slender two-point advantage going into the final round of the Paul Browne Plant Hire & Civil Engineering Junior ITRC. They have led the series since a top points score on Galway Rally’s opener, however, Darragh O’Donovan and Michael White have been slowly reeling them in after fuel injector woes forced them to retire on round one.
Wins in West Cork, Killarney, and most recently the Cork 20 put O’Donovan and White right back in the mix and now head to the Ulster knowing that it’s going to be a winner takes all final round of the season.
Cover photo courtesy of D Harrigan Images