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Moffett masters Galway Rally’s opening day washout

Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes completed Galway International Rally’s opening day of treacherously wet stages with a 14.1-second lead over Irish Tarmac Rally Championship rivals Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson.

Evans held an initial advantage over Galway’s first pass of three stages, however, Moffett reeled him in as the rain continued to pour down on ITRC’s 2022 opener.

Moffett’s mastery of the tricky conditions, especially on the 14.9-kilometre Foolagh test, gives the Hyundai pilot an overnight cushion in his bid to win Galway for the first time.

“Everything just seems to be working well,” said Moffett, “and we are just driving the car accordingly.

“We have to be happy with where we are for sure but we have another long day tomorrow.

“Tomorrow will be tricky, the conditions are obviously very tricky. We are comfortable in the car at the moment, though, so hopefully that will continue.”

When asked what he hoped tomorrow would bring, Evans responded with a popular answer:

“Less rain, I hope. The stages are nice tomorrow, they are quite fast.

“I would say they are stages that I would usually enjoy a bit more but I am sure all of these boys will have their tails up as well so it will be a good fight.”

While their pace was close to Moffett and Evans; Callum Devine, Alastair Fisher, and Cathan McCourt were never able to break into the front duo’s lead battle.

Devine seemed a little disheartened with his early pace, hinting at a struggle with understeer over the first pass of stages.

A set-up change in Galway’s first service helped and led to the Rally2 Fiesta man taking two stage wins over Saturday’s final leg.

Fisher, who won the event two years ago, was locked in an intense battle with Devine and McCourt over Galway’s first six sages. A stall on the start-line of the first stage cost him a few seconds but he was comfortable with his performance otherwise.

Stage 7, Kiltormer, shook the top five up as Moffett and Evans both lost vital seconds running wide in the soaked roads. McCourt spun and stalled, losing 15 seconds and his fourth position to Fisher who built a 24-second gap to McCourt by the end of the day.

Declan Boyle’s hopes of a second Galway Rally win didn’t come together as he lost his paddle-shift mechanism on the opening day. The problem was resolved to help him set three second-fastest times on the bounce in his Ford Fiesta WRC before falling behind again on Saturday’s penultimate day.

Garry Jennings has shown promising pace in his right-hand-drive Fiesta R5. Sixth place overnight is his and Rory Kennedy’s reward for battling through a flooded cockpit.

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Daniel McKenna holds a slender 3.2-second lead in Modifieds over Gary Kiernan. Both Ford Escort Mk2 drivers have benefitted from the turmoil of their Toyota rivals Kevin Eves and Jason Black.

Eves set the early two-wheel-drive pace in Galway including an astonishing Stage 4 time that was just seven seconds shy of McCourt’s Rally2 benchmark.

The Pettigo driver’s near-perfect run came to an abrupt end however on the next stage. He overshot a corner in the trying conditions and got his Corolla stuck in a field.

Black and local co-driver Karl Egan took up the reins at the front of Modifieds but their lead ended when they punctured on Saturday’s penultimate stage. Black and Egan are still sixth in Modifieds and lead Class 13R.

Six stages remain on the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship’s first round of 2022. With more kilometres on offer than day one, and a change in stage characteristics, it is still very much all to play for.

Photos courtesy of David Harrigan

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