The Jim Kennedy Perpetual Trophy is staying in the Moffett household for another year after Josh Moffett scored a quite remarkable victory at the Donegal International Rally yesterday.
Among those who were the first to congratulate a teary-eyed Moffett was older brother Sam – the outgoing champion of the three-day event who inherited the runner-up spot on the final test as Alastair Fisher dropped from second to fifth owing to brake troubles.
“It’s unbelievable to have won,” said Moffett, who tightened his stranglehold on the Irish Tarmac Championship title after making it three perfect scores from the opening five rounds of the cross-border series.
“We have won a lot of rallies to date but to win the Donegal Rally is something I wasn’t expecting. To come off the last stage and take the win is a special feeling.
“We have had to work so hard for this all weekend after we started off pretty badly with a wrong tyre call for the opening loop on Friday. That put us back a bit but we fought back and here we are.
“I think there are enough mobile phone clips online that shows just how hard we have been trying. Moments became normal, so we stopped calling them that. It’s a massive relief to get to the end.
“We had a bit of a breather going into the last stage after Alistair punctured but it didn’t make it much easier – there was still nerves in the car. The pressure to make it through safely was still there,” he added.
The 46.7 second victory margin suggests Moffett had it easy but with two stages remaining a mere 3.8 seconds separated him and the Volkswagen this year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally winner Fisher.
Fans were denied a grandstand finish when Fisher picked up a front-right puncture as he entered Glen village. The impact with a small rock was enough to do the damage and by electing to carry on, a brake pipe broke leaving him with next to no stopping power for the remainder of the rally.
“We worked at the brakes in between stages and with help from other competitors we got them bled and made it through ‘Atlantic Drive’ to the finish to come home in fifth,” said Fisher.
His misfortune opened the door to fellow Irish Tarmac Championship frontrunner Meirion Evans to take third, while Declan Boyle also moved up a place, his perseverance rewarded with fourth having spent all weekend trying to find the handling sweet spot of his Ford Fiesta World Rally Car.
Kevin Gallagher was grateful to those spectators who helped to push start his Darrian T90 GTR for the final few stages as that guaranteed seventh overall and the Modified trophy.
The Friday and Saturday legs of a competition marking its fiftieth anniversary this year were largely incident-free but that changed on Sunday’s opener as overnight leader Callum Devine failed to scrub off enough speed to avoid a head-on crash with a bale chicane near the start of ‘Gartan’.
The front of his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 sustained significant damage and not long after the incident he had to pull off the stage and retire as the broken radiator sent engine water temperatures soaring.
Having chased Devine hard up to that point, triple British Rally Champion and Donegal debutant Matt Edwards got his chance to lead the field. His reign at the top was short-lived, though, as he slid off the road first time over ‘Atlantic Drive’.
Organisers red flagged the test before Edwards and co-driver David Moynihan were conveyed to hospital for treatment having both sustained fractures in the shunt.
Donegal International Rally – Final standings: 1. Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5) 2h 5m 26s; 2. Sam Moffett/Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) + 46.7s; 3. Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5) +2.4s; 4. Declan Boyle/James O’Reilly (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +8.3; 5. Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5) +12.8s; 6. Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy (Ford Fiesta R5) +1m 8.5s; 7. Kevin Gallagher/Ryan Moore (Darrian T90 GTR) +12.3s; 8. David Kelly/Dean O’Sullivan (Ford Fiesta R5) +51.5s; 9. James Stafford/Thomas Scallan (Darrian T90 GTR) +9.3s; 10. Declan Gallagher/Derek Heena (Toyota Starlet) +46.3s.