After a two-year hiatus, the Irish Asphalt Rally Championship is back on the country roads (With audio version)
Three years ago, at a very similar time, the first record of Rally Week came to light. It was about the Galway Rally in Ireland in 2019, where a local boy named Craig Breen began his journey back to the World Rally Championship after being left on the ice by Hyundai. Those three years have passed and here Breen already has a full-season contract with M-Sport Ford. Instead of the west of Ireland, he visits places like Monte Carlo. It’s not a direct link to this post, just a little bit of symbolism. Last weekend was really a lot of great action all over Scandinavia. T.Asunmaa took victory in the Finnish championship after a long break. The rallying action also took place south, where the lack of snow was solved by organizing a competition in the mountains. But probably, as you already understand, this record will be neither about Scandinavia, nor about the mountains, nor about the snow.
I’m going back to the Galway Rally for several reasons. The first is symbolic, as a celebration of the third birthday of Rally Week. Secondly, the Irish will finally have a full championship this year, which they did not have for two years. For comparison, we have experienced that Covid shakeup very well here in Lithuania in the sense of a rally. We never had a pause in the championship. Other countries are still recovering. Third – there is such a special place that watching the rally, admiring photos, and video reports is one of the pleasures. While watching it last weekend was a little wet at least.
Galway is a very old rally. Formerly on the European Rally Championship calendar, this rally has legendary status in Ireland. The weather over the weekend was typical. Cold, wet, rain, windy, etc. The roads are narrow between stone fences and embankments. Holes, gravel, and dirt are often placed on the road. Although there are no mountains, the horizontal of the road is constantly changing. Tarmac hell as some say. There is practically no place for error. But the locals are used to it.
From Galway, the rally caravan traveled to the east of the country both days. There were five special stages waiting there. On Saturday, participants took three stages, three times. Because the action takes place on asphalt, it is often the same stretch that is run three times. A bit different from gravel events. On Sunday, the other two sections were repeated three times each. It may not be very interesting to carve the same roads, but it relies on organizational costs, which are particularly relevant at these times. The stages themselves are 11 to 20 kilometers long.
The Irish Asphalt Championship can actually be split into two parts according to the participants. To the first echelon, which rides with R5 / Rally2 equipment, and the second – with rear-wheel drive equipment. If we have BMW cars in the RWD without competition here in Lithuania, then there are no competitors in Ireland for Ford Escort models. Overall, more than half of the cars there are Ford. Between these two whales intersects the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla, and a bunch of other cars. Among the more interesting exhibits, units such as the Darrian T90 GTR, Mini Cooper, Ford Fiesta WRC, Proton Satria Neo S2000, or Talbot Sunbeam can be found.
Returning home with the Galway Rally Cup was in the mind of many very fast drivers from Ireland and Britain. But the extremely difficult conditions put a few obstacles on the road to the victory for the most. Josh Moffett was the fastest and had the least problems with the Hyundai i20 R5 on both the first and second day of the rally. He led almost the entire rally and eventually climbed the top step of the podium. But the victory was far from easy, as Meirion Evans and Calum Devine, climbed on the heels of the rally winner. None of this trio escaped trouble. The winner of the rally had a dewy windshield. M.Evans, trying to avoid the stone he had already clipped in the morning, made the turn a little too wide and ended up hitting one of the thousands of stone fences surrounding the roads. Although the hit was strong, the car withstood the damage and the crew reached the finish line 14 seconds behind the winner. C.Devine could not find his rhythm throughout the rally due to the car’s settings and suffered from understeer. He was half a minute short of first place. This trio was torn apart from the others by a few minutes.
Almost in the top ten, eleventh finished Gary Kiernan with the Ford Escort MK2. He was the fastest among the two-wheel-drive crews. Jason Black with Toyota Starlet RWD and Damian Toner with another Ford Escort MK2 took second and third place, almost two minutes behind the latter.
In a month, the caravan of the Irish Asphalt Championship will move towards the city of Cork, where the second round of the national rally championship will take place.
For those, who have problems with reading the text, I added a possibility to hear the article. It’s not my voice, but automated translation. But it does the job 🙂
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Photos– Graham Service, Clifford Media, D Harrigan Images