Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes were forced to pull out all the stops as they defended their West Cork International Rally crown to win the second round of the 2023 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.
After a few slip-ups on the Galway International Rally, Moffett was back at his breathtaking best aboard his trusty Hyundai i20 R5. A brave tyre call on Saturday brought him to the front of a hot-paced West Cork pack and he finished day one with an 18.6-second lead over Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson.
But it was Robert Barrable and Gordon Noble, who finished Saturday in fourth, who defied their 36.1-second deficit to challenge Moffett for victory in the closing stages of the 2023 West Cork Rally.
Tyres were the talking point in Sunday morning’s Clonakilty Parc Ferme as rain lingered overhead. Josh Moffett and Robert Barrable both opted for Michelin’s wet tyres for the intense loop of Shanaway, Sam’s Cross, and Ardfield tests that totalled over 50 stage kilometres.
Their decision was the right one as the rain plummeted from the skies around Clonakilty.
Meirion Evans and Callum Devine’s hopes of threatening Moffett in front disappeared as they struggled for grip on the wrong tyre compound.
Evans was left to rue his tyre choice for the second time in two days. His early lead on Saturday vanished when Josh Moffett’s hard tyre gamble paid off to lead after a brace of fastest times on stages three and four.
Despite his two nearest rivals drifting away, Moffett’s claim on his second West Cork victory looked to be shifting into the hands of Robert Barrable.
In wickedly wet weather, Barrable kept the foot down to secure a hat-trick of stage wins on Shanaway, Sam’s Cross, and Ardfield. His Citroen C3 Rally2 stopped the clocks on Shanaway an incredible 10.5 seconds faster than Moffett.
Barrable repeated the feat on stage ten, Sam’s Cross, cutting Moffett’s lead by a further 11.3 seconds and moving into second ahead of Evans. Barrable later described his fastest times as feeling comfortable. He was about the only one enjoying the treacherously wet roads but there was no denying Barrable had found an unlikely sweet spot amid all the madness.
Meanwhile, Josh Moffett felt out of sorts. He reset himself for Sunday morning’s final test before service, Ardfield’s 19-kilometre coastal classic. The Hyundai i20 R5 driver was happier with his performance on West Cork’s 11th stage but still Barrable bargained him for four more seconds.
The gap was ten seconds with one more loop of three stages remaining.
As the rain continued to fall around Clonakilty, all eyes were on an epic showdown between Josh Moffett and Robert Barrable. They shared a stage win apiece over the last runs of Shanaway and Sam’s Cross to leave Moffett with a 6.5-second margin ahead of a frighteningly foggy Ardfield.
Barrable was fastest through the famous stage on the preceding loop and he left no stone unturned in his attempt to steal a last-gasp victory from Moffett.
Moffett had no interest in giving up his West Cork title. Along with Andy Hayes, he tramped his Hyundai through the guttery test and flew to an eventual 8.9-second rally win.