There was an exciting and dramatic conclusion to the Wastewater Solutions Circuit of Ireland Rally as Fermanagh’s Alastair Fisher and his Tyrone co-driver Gordon Noble powered their VW Polo GTi R5 to an 11.6 second victory over the Monaghan / Wexford pairing of Josh Moffett / Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5). The Derry / Donegal duo of Callum Devine / Shane Byrne (VW Polo GTi R5) were 30.3 seconds further behind in third.
The event was not without controversy when the organizers scrapped the bogey times for the stage at Cairncastle and the times were adjusted retrospectively, however, and in line with the rules, it transpired they should not have been applied in the first instance.
Although Moffett and Fisher traded times on Saturday morning’s opening pair of stages, Derry’s Desi Henry (Fiesta R5) led the former by 14.3 seconds. The second run over Cairncastle (SS 9) brought the first major change when Henry retired with a sensor issue and Moffett moved into the lead. All the time, Fisher was on a charge.
Significantly, both he and Moffett beat the “bogey time” on the second run over Cairncastle where Fisher was actually quickest. At arrival into the final service, Moffett was shown as a rally leader by 5.2 seconds with Fisher in second.
Meanwhile, Devine, 22.5 seconds further back struggled when he spun and stalled on one stage and his Polo developed a misfire. Jonny Greer (Citroen C3) was untroubled in fourth from Cathan McCourt (Skoda Fabia R5) with top two-wheel drive contender Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna (Escort) completing the top six. Welsh ace Meirion Evans and Donegal’s Declan Boyle (Polo GTi R5’s) both retired.
On the way to the final stage, the third run over Cairncastle, competitors were informed that the “bogey times” were removed and subsequently, Moffett’s lead was cut to 0.2 of a second. The 14.05 mile stage that was shrouded in fog for the morning opener became the clear event decider. Fisher, who was quickest on the three previous stages was full of confidence.
Moffett, running ahead of his nemesis clocked a time of eleven minutes and ten seconds and waited anxiously to see if it was enough. Fisher came into view within a minute – posting a sensational time of ten minutes 58.2 seconds that yielded his first Circuit victory leaving Moffett disappointed and somewhat disillusioned.
Devine came home third from Greer but there was a final stage disappointment for Cathan McCourt and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan when their Skoda Fabia R5 stopped with a transmission related issue, promoting Daniel McKenna (Escort) to fifth with Derek McGarrity (VW Polo GTi R5) sixth.
1. A. Fisher / G. Noble (Volkswagen Polo GTi R5) 1h. 37m. 53.9s; 2. J. Moffett / A. Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5) + 11.6s; 3. C. Devine / S. Byrne (Volkswagen Polo GTi R5) + 41.9s; 4. J. Greer / D. Mullen (Citroen C3 Rally 2) + 2m. 11.1s; 5. D. McKenna / A. Grennan (Ford Escort) + 4m. 43.2s; 6. D. McGarrity / G. Henderson (Volkswagen Polo GTi R5) + 4m. 45.5s; 7. J. Mitchell / P. McCrudden (Ford Fiesta Rally2) + 5m. 09.9s; 8. A. Carmichael / A. Kierans (Hyundai i20 R5) + 5m. 58.3s; 9. N. Henry / B. Mitchell (Ford Fiesta R5) + 6m. 26.4s; 10. S. Biggerstaff / A. Nestor (Ford Fiesta R5) + 8m. 00.8s.
1. J. Moffett 48points, 2. A. Fisher 35pts; 3. C. Devine 24pts.