Irish Tarmac titles to be decided on Ulster Rally
IT all comes down to this. Two days, and 150 kilometres of tough Ulster Rally stages. The 2022 Acesigns Irish Tarmac Rally Championships has been asphalt rallying at its best. Looking at the Ulster Rally itinerary you wouldn't rule out one last twist in this ultimate Irish Tarmac tale.
The Irish Tarmac performances thus year of Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes have been superb. Four wins and two seconds from six appearances is a testament to the Hyundai i20 R5 crew's speed, consistency, and all-around rallying ability.
But somehow, the 2018 Irish Tarmac Rally champions head to the Ulster Rally, around Newry and Loughbrickland this weekend, with a job still to do. Moffett and Hayes must score 20 points on the double-points finale to be certain of sealing this year's ITRC title.
Irish Tarmac Rally Championship crews will be scored on Friday's overnight leaderboard in the usual 17-14-12-10 format. The clocks will be reset on Saturday morning with another 17 points up for grabs on the next six stages.
So two fourth-placed finishes on Friday and Saturday are all Moffett needs to secure the title.
Meirion Evans and Callum Devine completed the Cork 20 as Moffett's only remaining challengers. Alastair Fisher had looked like Moffett's most likely rival up until his unfortunate accident on Cork 20's 10th stage.
With both Devine and Fisher opting to miss the Ulster, Evans and co-driver Jonathan Jackson will be the only crew standing in the way of Maffett and Hayes.
Northern Ireland's Jonny Greer returns to ITRC action after skipping the Cork 20 and could well find himself in the hunt for his first ITRC victory come the end of this weekend's Ulster Rally.
Ryan Caldwell, Joseph Kelly, and Jason Dickson continue their three-way battle for ITRC 3's Rally4 honours.
Dickson might be the outside bet, 25 points off leader Caldwell, but he has been the recent pacesetter with a hat-trick of top scores in Killarney, Donegal, and Cork.
ITRC's modified battle is one to keep a close eye on throughout the Ulster Rally. South coast drivers James Stafford, Colin Byrne, and Simon Reid fought for the modified championship's top spot on last month's Cork 20.
Stafford started out in front before a collapsed rear suspension forced his Darrian into retirement. Bryne picked up the lead which he gradually built over Reid before his Ford Escort Mk2 collided with a baled chicane on Sunday.
Suddenly, Reid found himself leading Cork's national race and set to score a maximum haul of points that would propel him to the top of ITRC's modified leaderboard.
Reid now leads Byrne by 12 points ahead of Ulster's double-points decider. James Stafford is sandwiched between the Mk2 Escort pilots, four points adrift of Reid, but it looks like he won't compete on the final round.
Gareth Black and Damian Toner are within touching distance as well - if they secure strong scores on their home rally a surprise modified title could be an unbelievable reward.
Six drivers are still in with a chance of winning the Irish Historic Tarmac Championship heading into the final round - the Ulster Rally. Neil Williams holds a three-point lead over Luke McCarthy after topping the competitive class in Cork.
Duncan Williams, Maurice Meskell, Berian Richards, and Craig MacWilliam all finished ITRC's penultimate round within 24 points of the championship-leading Welshman. Meskell looks set to be the only one missing the Ulster Rally, leaving the remaining five to fight for the sweet-sounding historic series.