Former champion Tim McNulty is currently putting the finishing touches to his Irish Tarmac Rally Championship (ITRC) comeback plans for 2022 following a 5-year sabbatical from the competition.
2016’s Galway International Rally was the last time McNulty featured competitively on the stages, with that ending in disappointment when he left the road on the opening test and had to retire.
He had hoped to be back in action this year, but the cancellation of the cross-border Tarmac series due to ever-changing COVID-19 rules meant this had to be pushed back by another 12 months.
McNulty was recently reunited with the Ford Fiesta Rally2 car he bought from M-Sport Ford last June for the Tarmac Championship after finally parking up his title-winning Subaru Impreza WRC.
He reported a positive test session with McGeehan Motorsport – the Draperstown-based team that will run his supermini on each of the seven rounds that make up the 2022 ITRC calendar.
He also intends to make a number of appearances in his Michelin-shod Fiesta – which has been successfully converted from left- to right-hand-drive – in the Irish National Rally Championship.
“It’s shaping up to be a busy year,” said McNulty. “I’m looking forward to getting back out there. I’ve spent some time in the car and I’m really liking it. It’s nimble and quick and we’re making some big steps forward with the set-up. As things stand, I’m feeling very confident.
“I’m going back to enjoy it but there is still a competitive edge there, too,” he added. “I’m under no illusions about how quick the top six guys in the Irish Tarmac Championship are – guys like the Moffett brothers Sam and Josh, Callum Devine, and Alastair Fisher if he decides to do it. If we can get close to them, and see real progression at the end of each round, then I’ll be more than happy.
“If we finish fifteenth at the first round in Galway at the beginning of February then that’s fine with me – at least we have something we can build on. We’ve the experience, so we can sit down afterwards and look at where we are strong and where we’re weak and make the right changes.”
McNulty’s new Fiesta will not run the latest round of upgrades devised by M-Sport, which include new software for the ECU for a torquier engine on top of a revised bonnet design, although he is keeping his options open.
“Right now, there’s no point having them but if we need them going forward then of course we will pick up the phone to M-Sport and get them,” said the Irishman.
“The new parts will only help us once we’re close to our maximum in the car and when we start to really exploit the Fiesta’s potential. In its current guise it is still a very fast and competitive car.
“I think coming back a year later than planned is no bad thing,” added McNulty. “I’ve been talking to different ones involved with the Tarmac Championship and they feel 2022 is going to be a great season. To be a part of it again after a few years away is going to be exciting and a real privilege.”