Robert Barrable made sure the New Generation i20 R5 was the talk of the Quality Hotel Clonakilty West Cork Rally (18-19 March), as he gave the Hyundai Motorsport-built car its debut in the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship. Having held second for most of the event, the 29-year old Dubliner was denied a well deserved podium finish when he collected a puncture on SS13. He was then forced to stop two stages from the end when minor damage to one of the brake discs was discovered.
Despite not reaching the finish, Barrable was on the pace of the regular Irish Tarmac Championship title contenders from the word go, setting four fastest championship stage times in the Michelin-shod i20 R5. Co-driven by Damien Connolly, the Patch Tyre Equipment and Michael Barrable Motors supported car was a huge hit with the fans, who had travelled to Clonakilty in their droves to see the i20 R5 compete in Ireland for the very first time.
As always, the West Cork Rally proved to be a real challenge, with long and bumpy asphalt stages made all the more testing thanks to strong winds, rain, mud and poor visibility caused by Atlantic sea mist. The opening day contained nine slippery stages, with the final one run in darkness. Barrable started well, setting second fastest time overall on the opening test – beaten only by Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley in their Ford Focus WRC. A close battle for the top Irish Tarmac Championship spot quickly developed behind the eventual event winners, between Barrable’s i20 R5 and a pair of Ford Fiesta R5s driven by the Moffett brothers. At the end of a long and tricky day, Barrable was third overall and second in the championship – just 14.1 seconds behind Sam and 5.1 seconds ahead of Josh in a Moffett sandwich.
Conditions were even trickier on day two of the Cork Motor Club organised rally, with a very strong wind blowing rain across the rugged County Cork scenery. There was nothing to separate the top three Irish Tarmac Championship drivers over the first loop of three stages, but on the first stage in the afternoon Barrable picked up a front left puncture, lost three minutes when he stopped to change it and dropped from second to fourth. Unfortunately, despite the crew’s work, they were forced to retire from the rally before the start of the following stage. When damage to the front left brake disc was discovered, they opted to withdraw in order to avoid doing further damage to the car. The Hyundai Motorsport engineers, who supported Robert and his team throughout the event, will work together with their supplier to investigate the exact cause of the retirement.
Robert said: “It was great to give the Hyundai i20 R5 its Irish Tarmac Championship debut. We knew we’d be competitive, but we didn’t expect to be challenging for maximum points against the regular championship drivers – not after just a short test in the car and on only my second rally in almost two years. There was quite a lot of work to do to get the car set up for Irish roads, and we had to drive accordingly and not take any risks. That said, we were still right on the pace from the word go, and we were also competitive in the wet on day two, despite only having driven the car in the dry before the start. We were very disappointed not to finish, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.”
The next round of the Irish Tarmac Championship is the International Rally of the Lakes (29-30 April).