All things considered, it has been a pretty dry winter in Ireland, on the east coast at least. I can't re-call a day in the last few weeks where poor weather has made me stop and take notice. Until last Saturday, where in typical Galway International Rally fashion, a years worth of wind and rain hammered the country in the space of 24 hours.
A 6AM start allowed me to make the two hour drive west for SS2 and by the time the first 'zero' car arrived, my boots were soaked through and the rain coat was struggling to stay watertight. The stages were hectic too, covered in a thick layer of mud and slime, grip at an absolute premium.
And that premium was a price some top drivers would pay early on, Chris Armstrong throwing away his chance at modified class victory by understeering off the road on SS2 into a rapid flowing river.
SS2 was eventually stopped, a crew rolling their MK2 Escort just 200m from my viewing point and blocking the road. Conditions were deteriorating fast with no let-up in sight.
The heated seats in the Land Rover became a luxury and we headed for SS4.
With the morning loop complete, the leading crew of Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson began SS4 looking to build on their advantage but Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes had other ideas, mastering the tricky, mud filled roads and reeling the Welsh crew in by mid-day.
Declan Boyle was piloting the only world rally car in the field and although plagued by gearbox issues and struggling in the mud, it was wild to see this machine tackle the narrow lanes.
Down the field, Gary Kiernan was playing it safe in the modified class, avoiding standing water and deep cuts in his rally winning Ford Escort. Luckily for him, his tactics would pay off with his two main rivals crashing out before the finish.
This was my first time shooting the Galway International and it wasn't easy in the slightest. Tight, narrow roads with hedgerows on both sides meant vantage points to shoot from were almost non-existent. I tried to add some variation in the shots with some wide angles.
Our final stage of the day, after a brief stop at midday service, was SS8 the penultimate stage of day one. Moffett, in his Rally2 Hyundai i20 had extended a decent lead and was visibly quicker than his rivals through our section.
With no let-up in the wind and rain, fingers frozen to the bone, I called a day on my first taste of the Galway International, hoping that in a months time, West Cork would be just a little bit drier.
Event: Galway International Rally 2022