BY MARTIN WALSH
IT'S been a pulsating day of action in this Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally where after eight stages Monaghan’s Josh Moffett, driving a Hyundai i20 R5, holds an 18.6 second lead over the VW Polo GTi R5 of Welsh driver Meirion Evans with Derry’s Callum Devine, also in a VW Polo GTi R5 a further 9.4 seconds behind in third.
The Clonakilty-based event, that has drawn huge crowds, is the second round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and round one of the regional IPS Packaging Southern 4 Rally Championship.
On a wet morning as misty rain swept southwards, it was Welsh ace Evans that set the pace on the opening and slippery Clogagh stage taking a three second lead over Monaghan’s Sam Moffett in his Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car. On the second stage at Ballinascarthy, Devine set the best time but Evans continued to lead by 2.9 seconds as conditions began to dry.
At the Darrara service park, tyre changes proved crucial as last year’s winner Josh Moffett took control. Fastest times through the repeat of both stages and also on the first run over both the classic Ring stage and the stage at Dunworley saw the defending Irish Tarmac champion stretch his advantage to 14.6 seconds with early leader Evans in second spot and 7.1 seconds in front of Devine.
Even though Devine was quickest on the day’s penultimate stage, Josh Moffett punched in the best time on the day’s eighth and final stage to lead Evans at the overnight halt in Clonakilty by 18.6 seconds. Devine is another 9.4 seconds behind in third, however, with six tough stages tomorrow (3x2) this is far from over and rally leader Moffett will be mindful that Evans overturned a bigger deficit on the opening round in Galway last month.
Former winner Dubliner Robert Barrable (Citroen C3 Rally2) occupies fourth in a top six that also features Sam Moffett and Belfast’s Jonny Greer (Citroen C3 Rally2).
Ovens driver Owen Murphy (Citroen C3 Rally2) is the top Cork driver, he lies ninth overall.
Elsewhere, Dunmanway’s Jason McSweeney (Ford Fiesta R5) and Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy (Citroen C3 Rally2) are 14th and 17th respectively.
Retirements included Dubliner Gareth MacHale (VW Polo GTi R5), Derry’s Desi Henry (Citroen C3 Rally2) and Dunmanway’s David Guest, who retired after his Ford Fiesta Rally2 hit a boulder that broke a wheel and damaged the gearbox.
Sunday's three stage locations are Shanaway, Sam’s Cross and Ardfield with the finish celebrations in Pearse St. Clonakilty shortly after 4pm.