The excitement is building as the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship heads south for round 2 of the series, the Quality Hotel Clonakilty West Cork Rally. It’s fair to say that momentum has carried through from the opening round in Galway with the cast majority of registered drivers taking part again in Clonakilty for what promises to be a terrific battle across the classes. The Tarmac Championship leaders are Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin in a Citroen DS3 and Keith is in relatively familiar territory having competed on the event a couple of times in the past, with his best result being fourth overall in 2009. He will be seen as the pre event favourite but the West Cork stages are tough and nothing can be taken for granted.
Alastair Fisher & Gordon Noble lie second in the series, but this is the only round of the championship they have never competed on to date, so could be at a slight disadvantage. However Fisher is an extremely talented driver and he will push his Fiesta to the maximum and if all goes well should be well in the hunt by the end of the event. Sam Moffett / Karl Atkinson in another Fiesta are third overall and have some experience of the West Cork stages and with Sam finishing as runner up in a WRC last year, he should hit the ground running.
Desi Henry & Liam Moynihan bought the new R5 Skoda to Galway and were immediately on the pace; however a heavy accident on the second day meant they left with nothing for their efforts. With the car now repaired they will be looking to clock up their first points of the year despite Desi not having competed in Clonakilty before. Others that will look to build on good Galway performances are Josh Moffett who has John Rowan back in the co-driver seat after missing Galway, with Joseph McGonigle / Ciaran Geaney, Stephen Wright / James Fulton & Jonathan Greer / Kirsty Riddick all having competed on the event in 2015 and who scored points in Galway. Someone who could throw the cat amongst the pigeons is Owen Murphy & Anthony Nestor who have moved from a Mitsubishi Lancer to an ex Freddy Loix Skoda S2000 and could be spectacular to watch.
David Guest & Paddy Robinson lead Group N and for David this is as local as it gets as Clonakilty is his home town. He will be hoping to use this to his advantage in order to extend his lead in Group N. Class 2 looks to be extremely competitive with Callum Devine, William Creighton and Marty Gallagher all scoring well in Galway. Class three will see David Carney battle it out with Ed Twomey who has moved from class 2 to class 3 for this event. There are many others in the mix in what promises to be a very competitive weekend in store.
The Modified Championship sees all of the crews that registered in Galway moving onto Cork, with championship leaders Wesley Patterson & Johnny Baird looking to increase their advantage. Wesley is no stranger to Clonakilty having competed on West Cork for many years now. Eugene Meegan & Sarah Whelan challenged Wesley for much of Galway but an ‘off’ put them out on the second day. Eugene showed some real pace in Galway in the 1M and although this will be his first trip to Clonakilty he could well find the fast flowing coastal roads more to his liking. Jason McSweeney and Stephen Quin had a very good run in Galway and now that the pair are closer to home they should go very well in their Mitsubishi Lancer. Patrick McHugh / Pauric O’Donnell, Ross Marshall / Dave Robson and Davy Armstrong / Martin McGarrity all in Escorts will be hoping to continue their good form from Galway. All of the registered crews from Galway have appeared on the entry list in Clonakilty so a pattern should emerge after the event.
The historic section sees John Coyne & Christy Farrell lead the field in Clonakilty as none of those who scored points in Galway are entered. Coyne retired due to mechanical problems while one of his rivals James O’Mahony / Kerrie Barry had an accident in Galway but should be back on the pace on an event they won two years ago. Frank Cunningham / Ross Forde have forsaken the Sierra for an Escort while English visitors Duncan Williams / Guy Weaver appear in another Escort. Another English driver is Alan Watkins who will also drive an Escort with Grace O’Brien from Cork on the pace notes. Only four drivers registered for the Junior championship in Galway, but all four appear in Clonakilty with Justin Ryan from Galway leading the series from Corks Kevin Horgan. Noel Murphy and John O’Flaherty are also in the hunt and the battle over the Sunday stages should be very entertaining.
There are fourteen stages over the two days, 8 stages on the first day with six on the Sunday. The action begins at 11am just outside Clonakilty with the final stage of the day taking place at 5.25pm. The second day opens at a more leisurely 12pm and the first car is due back at the finish ramp at 4.15pm.
A ceremonial start will take place at 7.30pm in the town centre on the Friday night. You can keep up to date on Twitter (@irishtarmactroa), Facebook
(Irish Tarmac Rally Championship) and the championship website at http://www.irishtarmac.com.