By Sean Hynes
The Mayo Stages Rally 2022 went off in sublime fasion around the roads of Claremorris and south Mayo on Sunday, bringing the much loved event back the county for the first time since the pandemic hiatus. As a round of the national rally championship this incredibly popular event attracted competitors and spectators from all over the country, with the top machinery and drivers Ireland has to offer ready to put their skills on display in what is truly a spectacle to behold. Much like the frosty roads, many other competitors were slowly thawing out after the long lay off but as the blistering sunshine began to work its magic the competition also quickly began to heat up. One man eager to lay down a marker was the defending Irish Rally champion Josh Moffett in the Combilft Hyundai I20 R5 who was quickest off the mark to lead the after the first two stages by 3.7seconds from Robert Barrable, who was just recently back in R5 machinary and was only going to get quicker as the day progressed, with Stephen Wright ready to pounce on any mistakes keeping a watching brief in third. Top Mayo Motorclub crew Brendan Cumiskey and Darragh Mullen were seventh overall after a spin and a stall on the opening loop, and were looking to move forward. Just down the order however, a major battle was erupting in the modified class, as Gary Kiernan and Jason Black lined up to go toe to toe, separated by just 2.7second after the first two stages, it got as close as just 0.6 seconds before Michael Carbin and Stuart Darcy came to make use of their 4WD advantage and take the lead. So the script for the day was written, with Josh Moffett gradually showed his class and kept Robert Barrable at arms length, pacing himself perfectly to the overall win by 27.9 seconds from Barrable, with Wright rounding out the podium some 32 seconds behind. Brendan Cumiskey bounced back and was delighted to come home fifth in his VW Polo machine. The battle for the Modified class win however was only heating up. Jason Black was ding dong with Gary Kiernan all day and indeed it was the latter who had the slightest of margins heading into the last stage of the dat. Black in the Toyota Starlet was not out to just beat Kiernan for two wheel drive honours however, and put in a magnificent final stage to snatch the overall modified victory from the 4wd machinery with just 1.8 seconds between first and fourth place after a fast paced 58minutes of rallying - it doesn't get any closer!
Class 11 proved a happy hunting ground for the locals as it brought a brace of Mayo victories, with the brotherly pairing of Brian and Lorcan Moore out preformed their machinery in a major way, putting in spectacular times to grab the class 11F honours by over a minute. A really talented pair and definitely one to watch this was their first mayo stages and although the first stages didn't suit their car with its long straights and point-and-squirt nature, they were able to make up time on much more powerful and less grip limited machinery with supreme commitment in the medium speed sections. Similarly Barry Cuffe and Michael Loughney had a hugely committed drive to set the stages alight and take victory in class 11R. It was evident from this spectators point of view that they were leaving very little on the table despite building a commanding lead, with impressive speed carried through the tight sections of stage 6.
The home favourite McHale green-machine of John Warren and Ruthann O'Connor were also back in action and going well sitting second in class 13 before a broken half-shaft brough a halt to their challenge. They were able to get back going later in the day and no doubt will be back for more later in the year. Westport's David Carney had a good run in his Fiesta R5 and was very much enjoying the fantastic stages when we caught up with him in the middle of the day. He was focused on getting the finish and so they did, coming home 18th overall and ahead of Monaghan ace Sam Moffett in his RWD Starlet. Gerry Ronan and Eddie McLoughlinn in their Mitsubishi Evo 9 came home 7th in class 20 which wasn't a bad return for their first event in twelve years. The Ronan transport machine was looking well as they navigated the south Mayo laneways, with Ronan Transport also generously a stage sponsor this year. Elsewhere David Healy and Stephen McGing took some time to warm into the event, hitting a bump on stage 2 as the technical sections turned slippy in the early morning thaw. However with a set of harder tyres and some higher temperatures they pressed on well to clinch 4th in the competitive class 11F by sixteen seconds.
Castlebar's Gerry Casey was out in flying form enjoying the stages in his Ford Escort Mk2. A bump to the rear was not enough to put a dent in their day as along with Co driver Martin Flynn they came home to take 6th in Class 12. Enniscrone native Keith Jacob along with Michael Carr spent the morning getting to grips with their newly acquired Subaru Impreza with two good runs to set them up nicely, before a bit of a scare on stage four reminded them of the step up a 4wd machine brings. Its been five years since Keiths last event, and this is his first in a four wheel drive so they were suitably delighted to claim second in class 15. Father Daughter pairing of Keith and Sara McFadden had a solid run in class 3 to take third in their Renault Clio, while similarly Gordon and daughter Zoe Nimmo were teamed up for a good performance in class two to take fifth in class. This was Zoes first day out in the Navigators seat so to get the finish will give her great confidence and experience for the next time out. Meanwhile Colm Connor and Journalist Ger Flanagan also both were getting to grips with rallying in their Honda Civic. The pair showed no lack of talent however, putting their inexperience to one side to claim third in class 1. Ballinas Martin Cawley and Kenneth Langan were out in their freshly built Davy tool hire car and enjoyed every minute of the stages. Always great supporters of Mayo Rallying it was great to see them collect first in Class 10.
Jamie Lally and Nathan Maguire aren't ones to shy away from a challenge as the novice pair entered the highly competitive class 11F in their ex Tony Landon Honda Integera. The pair showed good speed however for their first day out, with a mostly clean run bar for a slight issue on the final stage. The Conway motors mechanic proved his metal coming home eleventh in class and bagging some solid experience to boot for their next time out. In the Junior class, the father son pairing of Oisin and Seamus Coffey were out in action for their Oisin's first rally. The Rochford Motors and Cold Call Refrigeration backed Mitsubishi Mirage had a good run with consistent milage that will provide a solid foundation for what will no doubt be a long and fruitful rally career.
The main story of the weekend however has to be the Foxford man James McGreal and John Golding who are competing in the Mayo Stages rally on the 40th anniversary of their first rally together back in 1982 when the then Ballina Motorclub were running 'Copa's NiteClub' Stages Rally. The two, who haven't rallied together in the intervening years, were reminded of this milestone in the weeks leading up to the rally by former Secretary John Duffy and were encouraged to mark the occasion appropriately. After some consideration they decided the only way was to enter it again. The car was prepped, a crew was formed and an entry submitted. Despite pacenotes having not been invented yet some forty odd years ago, and notwithstanding that John only saw his first set of notes the weekend of the event somewhat adding to the difficulty, they need not have worried. Together they came through with a clean run and good pace to take third place in class 15. A great achievement and reminder for us all of what club rallying and community is all about. There are not many people who can claim to have competed on the fortieth anniversary of their first rally. Congratulations to both and it really capped off what was a great weekend of Rallying.
Due to the two year Rally calendar adopted this year by Motorsport Ireland there will be no event next year, with the Mayo stages rally due to return in 2024. Special thanks to all the volunteers, Marshalls and officials who put an immense amount of time and effort into the planning and running of this fantastic event, without whom it would not be possible. Also huge thanks to all our sponsors who made it possible particularly title sponsors McHughs Service Station in Ballindine.