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Tuesday 13 November 2018

Ace navigator Andy

Hayes and Moffett win tarmac title

Andy Hayes
Andy Hayes
Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes in action

Motor sport

The Cork 20 International played host to the final round of the 2018 Clonakilty Black Pudding Irish Tarmac Championship.

The event saw the Ford Fiesta WRC of Roy White and James O'Brien take victory, but at that stage, the overall championship had been decided, with Monaghan's Josh Moffett, partnered by Wexford man Andy Hayes, taking the overall honours.

It is a fantastic achievement for Andy, with this year seeing his first full assault on Ireland's premier rally championship.

Fellow Wexford navigator GARY NOLAN spoke to Andy to discuss his achievements in 2018, and also to look back at his career to date and what may lie ahead.

We'll start by saying congratulations! The 2018 Clonakilty Black Pudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship winning navigator! What a year for you…

Thanks very much. It was certainly nice to get the championship. I will be rallying ten years this October so it was a long time coming! The I.T.R.C. is a tough championship so it's great to come out the right side of it.

You've navigated for many drivers over the years both at home and abroad, with a great deal of success too. The seat with Josh for the 2018 Tarmac Championship, when or how did that come about?

Like a lot of the rallying I am doing these days, it came through Tom Gahan and Craig/Ray Breen. The lads have been very good to me and set me up with Josh as well as Daragh O'Riordan. I've done a few rallies with Craig too and one with Ray earlier this year.

As we've said, you've had many seats over the years. Where did it all start from?

It all started in 2008 when Eoin Neville decided he wanted to go rallying and asked me to sit in. Neither of us had any experience and while the craic was 90, despite the best efforts and advice from Nicky Cahill and N.C.R.S., as most people know we had more hits than the Beatles!

Over the next few years, I just did more and more, sitting mostly with Eoin as well as his cousin, Niamh Neville, Jack Maguire and J.T. Warnock.

Then, I was on Twitter in July, 2012, and saw a driver from the U.K., Nick West, was looking for a navigator to do WRC Rally France with. I had never rallied outside of Ireland then and had only watched a handful of WRC rallies.

Still, I chanced my arm and got in touch. We ended up getting on well together and did both WRC Germany and Rally San Remo in 2013. Along the way I met Craig Breen and Andrew Purcell. Both Craig and Andrew have since opened a lot of doors for me.

You've had a few tumbles (keeping it politically correct!) along the way…

Yes, I've had a right few bangs along the way. One poor Saxo even met its maker on our lane before it ever even got to a rally. On top of that, we managed to go off on the first bend of the first stage more than once.

Although, I did three rallies with Liam Howlett and only one ended up in a wall, so that's not bad going! Luckily, only one of my accidents resulted in a hospital visit, in Wexford 2014. We got a bit over-excited coming through Marshalstown and ended up in a concrete pier.

You tried the driver's seat yourself for a bit, didn't you?

I did…that's how I ended up in the pier in Marshalstown…I should have known driving wasn't meant for me when I hit the same tree, three times in my second-ever rally. Looking back, the signs were there really.

Still, I was hoping to get a rally in the driver's seat this year but it hasn't worked out yet. Hopefully I will in 2019, providing my brother Homer doesn't hide the keys of the car on me.

Moving onto a more positive note, you've had a lot of success in recent years. What was your first major success?

I did a round of the Portuguese Championship in a DS3 R5 with Craig last year and that got me my first win. After waiting nine years for a win, or even a podium, my luck changed then and thank God.

Daragh and I won the Fastnet rally a month later and myself and Josh managed another win in the Easter stages this year. I've been very lucky to be sitting with good drivers in good cars and thankfully a few results have started to come my way.

A championship-winning season is always something special. What was your stand-out moment from it?

It would be the Saturday of West Cork this year. It was my first time sitting with Josh. We kind of caught everyone on the hop a bit that morning and pulled out a good lead on everyone else that we kept over the weekend.

It set the tone for the rally and for the year. I didn't know what to expect before the event and it was a nice feeling to know that winning the championship might be a possibility.

Outside or your navigating commitments at home, you play a pivotal role within Craig Breen's WRC effort, joining former WRC star Mikko Hirvonen as Craig's gravel note crew. What's it like being part of a WRC 'works-team' set-up?

I wouldn't say pivotal, but sure I get brought along for the spin! I have been doing gravel notes for Craig since 2014, first with Peugeot and now with Citroen. It's a great experience and a chance to see how the WRC boys operate.

It's hard to believe in the effort that goes into it - we have our own service crew for the gravel notes who follow us around with a spare car. Nothing is left to chance, apart from having me there.

From that, I have got a couple of spins navigating for Craig on the pre-event tests. The Finland test this year was a definite highlight. It's hard to believe the speed they are carrying.

Even working with Mikko must be a 'pinch-yourself' moment? A man with 15 WRC victories under his belt, over 60 podium finishes and also viewed as an all-time WRC fans favourite…

To be fair to Mikko, he's great craic, as well as a great experience working with him. He's obviously used to working with WRC professional co-drivers but even when I end up navigating us into a farmyard in the middle of nowhere, he would never say a word.

When I won the Tarmac Championship a few weeks back, he was one of the first men on to me with congratulations - that says a lot really.

What's in the pipeline for 2019, and beyond?

At the minute, I haven't talked to anyone about plans for 2019 yet. As I said, I'd like to get an event in the driver's seat and all going well, I will keep on the gravel notes with Craig. After that, we will see what fits in with work - it would be nice to do it all over again!

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