The Quality Hotel Clonakilty West Cork Rally which takes place on 12th & 13th March has attracted one of its best ever entries and promises to make the second round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship one of the rallies of the year.
There are a total of 185 cars listed across all of the categories with some of the best drivers in Ireland heading for the south west. 151 cars are scheduled to start the two day, 14 stage event, with thirteen entered to date for the Historic Category and 21 for the Junior Rally.
Top seeds are Donagh Kelly & Conor Foley in a Focus WRC with Kelly the reigning Tarmac Champion looking for an unprecedented three in a row in Clonakilty. After his recent win in Birr he will be on top form and will prove a difficult man to beat if he gets off to his customary flying start.
Garry Jennings & Rory Kennedy are at 2 in a Subaru Impreza WRC, and after a dominant win in Galway, Jennings now turns his attention to an event he has never competed on before, but will still be expected to be on the pace.
Declan & Brian Boyle are at three and hoping for better luck than last year when their Impreza WRC stopped only two miles into the first stage which eventually led to their withdrawal from the rally. They had a heavy accident in Galway and it remains to be seen if this will have upset their confidence but their Fiesta WRC is one of the best cars in Irish rallying today.
Daragh O’Riordan & Tony McDaid are past winners of the event and will be looking to get their names on the trophy again, as their Fiesta WRC has racked up several victories to date. The first of the R5 cars run at number 5 in the hands of Keith Cronin & Mikie Galvin in a Citroen DS3.
This pairing currently lead the Tarmac championship after an excellent second place in Galway and will be strong favourites to add to their points total in Clonakilty. Alastair Fisher & Gordon Noble are appearing for the first time in West Cork and once again are expected to present a challenge to Cronin in their Fiesta R5 as they did in Galway.
Sam Moffett & Karl Atkinson were very impressive in Galway and are at seven in another Fiesta R5 with Sam finishing as runner up in West Cork last year. Desi Henry makes his first trip to West Cork with Corkman Liam Moynihan on the notes and his Skoda Fabia has been repaired after its heavy accident in Galway when lying fourth overall. Local driver Kevin Kelleher is at 9 in a Subaru Impreza WRC and for this event will have vastly experienced Welshman Gwynfor Jones as co-driver.
Gwynfor co-drove John Dalton to many fine results over the years and will see the West Cork stages as home away from home. Rounding off the top ten is Roy White & James O’Brien in a Fiesta WRC as he looks to get more seat time in his new car. This is Roy’s first attempt at West Cork since 1997 when he drove a Peugeot 205.
There is much more quality outside the top ten with drivers such as Owen Murphy, Josh Moffett, Alan Ring, Stephen Wright, Jonny Greer & Joe McGonigle all in class five cars, while David
Guest will be looking to extend his lead in the Group N category of the Tarmac Championship in his Lancer Evo 9, Other drivers to feature on the list include the spectacular modifieds of Wesley Patterson, Eugene Meegan, Frank Kelly, Mark Straker and Brian Brogan to name but a few.
Current Billy Coleman Award winner Rob Duggan has also entered in a class 2 Peugeot where he will take on drivers such as Callum Devine, Marty Gallagher and William Creighton.
The Historic Rally will be led away from the fifth stage by John Coyne & Christy Farrell in their iconic Sunbeam Lotus while they will be followed by several Escorts in the hands of James O’Mahony, Dewi Bowen, Wyn Hughes, Frank Cunningham and Philip Wylie to name but a few.
The Junior Rally is currently oversubscribed and is led by Mitchelstowns Colin Roche in a Toyota Starlet with Fergus Hurley next up in a Mk2 Escort and Galway Junior Category winner Kieran O’Donoghue at three in a Civic. The Rally is also the opening round of the FIA Celtic Trophy which features four rallies in Ireland and Rally Isle of Man. There is no registration fee and any FIA homologated car is eligible. The top three in each class qualify for a final shoutout against the other regional winners in November to become FIA European Rally Trophy Champion.
As always the event is the opening round of the PlasticBags,ie Southern 4 Rally Championship and this clubman championship is always very popular. Parc Ferme is in the Model Railway Village as usual and the cars will leave here at 10.30am to tackle the first stage of eight stages on Saturday. Service will take place after every two stages at Darrara Agricultural College.
The first car is due back into Parc Ferme on Saturday evening at 6.15pm. Sunday will see the first car leave Parc Ferme at 11am and head into service before tackling three stages before returning to service again. These three stages are then repeated before the first car is due at the finish ramp at 4.15pm.
The Stages for the weekend are as follows; Stage 1 & 3 Inchybridge, Stage 2 & 4 Ballinascarthy, Stage 5 & 7 Ring, Stage 6 & 8 Dunworley, Stage 9 & 12 Shanaway, Stage 10 & 13 Sams Cross, Stage 11 & 14 Ardfield.
You can keep up to date with live results on http://results.westcorkrally.com over the weekend while there will also be updates on Twitter (@westcorkrally) & Facebook (West Cork Rally). Brian & Liz Patterson will be providing their usual excellent “Rallynews” bulletin service.