The 2022 Modern Tyres Ulster Rally fires into life tomorrow evening with two days of eagerly anticipated rallying action set to take place in the lanes of Northern Ireland.
To whet the appetite, we have helped to pick some of the drivers to look out for this weekend.
1 – Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes – Hyundai i20 R5 (RC2)
There can be no doubting that Josh Moffett has been in the form of his life this year and as such enters the Ulster this year as unofficial favourite, a legacy of his position atop both the Irish National and Irish Tarmac Rally Championships. Moffett heads the standings, but must still secure over 20 points from Ulster (a double-points scoring round) to be re-crowned Irish Tarmac Champion for the first time since 2018.
You can bet your bottom dollar that both Moffett and co-driver Andy Hayes will be taking nothing for granted as they prepare to blast into the classic stages around Newry this weekend – though it’s a fair assumption that the pair will be quick right out of the blocks in their Hyundai i20 R5.
2 – Meirion Evans/ Jonathan Jackson – VW Polo GTI R5 (RC2)
Moffett can count upon encountering a veritable who’s who of all-wheel drive talent on the Ulster, not least Meirion Evans. The Welshman has carved himself an enviable reputation for ballistic pace on Irish tarmac in recent years (and this year in particular – he sits second overall in the Irish Tarmac hunt) and no one doubts that both he and co-driver Jonathan Jackson have the naked pace within themselves and their Polo GTI R5. But as we all know, pace on paper doesn’t always translate to stage wins and outright victories all of the time.
But you better believe the pair will be out to lead the field from the get-go, particularly as Evans still has a chance, even if it’s a somewhat slight one, of denying Moffett the Irish Tarmac Championship.
3 – Desi Henry/Paddy Robinson – Ford Fiesta Rally2 (RC2)
The last few seasons have seen Desi Henry sample an impressively diverse assortment of all-wheel drive machinery, culminating in his decision to swap his trusted and time-served Hyundai i20 R5 for a brand-new Ford Fiesta Rally2 at the end of 2021. Henry wasted no time in getting acquainted with the new M-Sport creation and has spent much of this season becoming ever quicker and more committed, culminating in outright victory on the Dogleap Rally earlier in the month, his fourth win of the year so far.
Henry and co-driver Paddy Robinson will surely be out to add to their 2022 tally this weekend in Ulster
4 – Martin Toner/Ben Teggert – BMW E87 1M (N7)
A firm fan favourite, Marty Toner won the N7 modified class on the Ulster this year and will seek to repeat the feat in the same car in 2022. The car in question is a BMW 1M, and thus a treat for anyone blessed with functioning eyes and ears, and evidence that, whilst the sound of a BDA or a Millington is hard to beat, there other mechanical rally soundtracks available.
Toner and co-driver Ben Teggert will need to replicate their immense form from last year if they’re to retain class honours, form that saw the pair humble a brace of all-wheel drive R5 cars on these very roads last autumn. We can’t tell you whether or not the pair will ultimately be successful in their endeavour, but we can assure you all that watching them try will be more than worth it.
5 – Gareth Black/Connor Dunlop – Toyota Starlet (N6)
Anyone who had the good fortune to witness Jason Black’s drive to eleventh overall in his KP Starlet on the Ulster last year will be saddened to learn that the Armagh man has opted to give this year’s rally a swerve. Fret not though as his brother, Gareth, will be on hand to defend family and Starlet honour, no doubt by employing the same flat out, ultra-aggressive technique demonstrated to effectively by Jason less than a year ago.
Expect to see Black and co-driver Connor Dunlop make a concerted ‘push’ up the leader board from the very first stage, and especially so if the conditions remain dry and better suited to their rear-wheel drive Starlet.
6 – Camilus Bradley/Crawford Henderson – Mk2 Escort (N7)
Evidently a man of many talents, when Camilus Bradley isn’t ringing the neck of a heavily modified Mk2 Escort he’s selling others the equipment to enable others to do the same, as anyone who’s ever chanced upon the C.Bradley Motorsport website will attest! Bradley will be out once again in his distinctive red Mk2 Escort on the Ulster this time around and will surely seek to improve upon a promising season that has so far brought him and pacenote-screamer Crawford Henderson a brace of impressive points hauls.
Going one better will be no mean feat given the standard of competition in the premier N7 modified class, but the man from Draperstown has proved time and again that he has the tools, means and conviction to do just that.
7 – Paul Britton/Peter Ward – Subaru Impreza (N8)
It’s a measure of the passing of time that Paul Britton (joined once more in the co-driver’s pew by Peter Ward) fields the only Subaru Impreza slated to take the start of the Ulster Rally this weekend, a state of affairs which would’ve been all but inconceivable just a decade ago. Still, the pair will no doubt put on a show all of their own despite being the sole entrant in the N8 class for all-wheel drive production cars and will be well worth watching if boxers occupy a similar place in your affections as BDAs and Millingtons.
8 – Trevor Wilson/Paul Mullholland – Porsche 911 (H2)
A veteran of British and Irish rallying for over forty years, Trevor Wilson has opted to contest this year’s Ulster in a class H2 Porsche 911. The air-cooled icon will no doubt present a fresh challenge for Wilson and co-driver Paul Mullholland, not least as the last time the former tackled an event of this calibre was back in 2016 – and that was at the wheel of a Mk2 Escort.
9 – David Armstrong/Ashley Trimble – Mk2 Escort RS1800 (H1)
David Armstrong stamped his authority on the Historics on last year’s Ulster by taking class honours in his stunning Mk2 Escort RS1800, something he’ll doubtless seek to replicate this time around. His charge up the order last year was aided by a somewhat attrited entry list, with a handful of his H1 rivals falling by the wayside. That’s not to detract from an impressive performance, nor does it preclude the likelihood of he and co-driver Ashley Trimble doing the same this year.
10 – Malcolm Pedlow/Billy Regan – BMW 2002 Tii (H2)
Another perennial Ulster favourite, Malcolm Pedlow will be back in his BMW 2002 Tii once more. Both car and driver are firm fan pleasers, not least as it’s never not refreshing to see a car as distinct in appearance – at least in the sphere of the special stage – as Pedlaw’s hard-charging Munich saloon. He and co-driver Billy Regen will hope that the plucky little BMW goes the course this year, however, as last time the pair found their Ulster Rally curtailed by reliability issues just four stages in.
For more information on the 2022 Modern Tyres Ulster Rally – head to ulsterrally.com. Or alternatively follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.