After the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship got underway in its usual fashion in the west with the Galway International Rally, the circus now rolls up to the home of the title sponsor Clonakilty Blackpudding for Round two, the West Cork Rally.
The event has always been popular with large entries and in its third year as part of Ireland’s premier rally series it is no different, with over 140 main field entries, 19 Historic and 23 Junior. In this piece we will look at the top runners who should be competing for crystal this weekend.
2017 marks 40 years since the first running of the St Patrick’s weekend rally, and to mark the occasion, COC Greg McCarthy and team have a special stage running in the dark on Saturday night. Seeing the cars cut through the darkness with their spots and light bars is something that people should witness for the sheer insanity and feast for the senses that it is.
Leading the way is three time winner Donagh Kelly, with Conor Foley on the notes in their Focus WRC. Kelly had been quiet on the stages in 2016, but a third place finish in Birr a few weeks ago showed that he had lost none of his speed and being one of only three WRC cars on the entry list he could be well in contention to win fourth consecutive West Cork rally.
Behind Kelly is the ITRC leader after Galway, Alastair Fisher. Having won the opening round of the Championship, Fisher is the man with the target on his back for the rest of the R5 drivers. He and Gordon Noble will be hoping to keep their current form but will also be looking to make up for last year’s visit to West Cork where they failed to finish.
Sam Moffett is behind Fisher in the standings and on the entry list this weekend, and the first of the Combilift R5 Fiesta duo. He is fresh from a win in Birr in the WRC-Spec Fiesta and will want to get a maximum score on the board early. Younger brother Josh is fourth on the road in his similar car and after a disappointing Galway but a win in the forest, the 2016 Billy Coleman winner and recently announced ERC competitor could find himself at the sharp end of the times this time around.
With number five on the car door, Robert Barrable will debut the new Hyundai i20 R5 on Irish Tarmac. Robert will have limited seat time in his new car but if Galway was anything to go by, the Dublin car dealer will be an interesting one to watch but will he take a while to adjust to the new car before getting into a winning position?
In the national section, we are spoiled for competition, with over 20 cars running in Class 14 alone. We have the top three from Galway, – Kiernan, Tourish and Eves – but there is also Adrian Hetherington, Wesley Patterson and Frank Kelly among those in the mix, as well as last year’s winner, Brian Brogan. The entry list is a treat for spectators with plenty of sideways entertaining action, and it will be hard to split any of these fast Escorts over the weekend and it could go either or any way depending on how the cards fall.
In the Junior section there is one driver to keep an eye out for, Eric Calnan. The Carrigaline native is back in his Civic-killing 106 and is always entertaining to watch on the stages. He was one of our top drivers of 2016 with his impressive times, and could be one to watch again this year. There is also John McCabe who was the winner in Galway running J3. It is a full entry in the category and often the battles in these classes are as good as any you will see up the field.
All will be reviled on Saturday morning when the stages get underway, and the action will run until Sunday afternoon where we will know who came out on top
Aaron’s predictions for West Cork
O/A – Donagh Kelly
A fast driver in a WRC car. Kelly is very competitive and in a field of R5 cars I feel he could pull away into the distance to win comfortably – all going well.
1st ITRC – Sam Moffett
This was a tricky decision. There are so many quick drivers in R5 cars this weekend, and realistically it could go any way. I can see it being another Moffett/Fisher battle in West Cork, being just that bit faster than the pack and I think that it could this time swing in favour of the Monaghan man.
Modified – Gary Kiernan
Like above, there is any number of drivers capable of winning. I fancy Gary Kiernan based of how quick he was in Galway in difficult conditions, he showed maturity in staying on the road and being able to pull a gap when the stages dried to suit him better.
Junior – Eric Calnan
I’ll be honest I don’t have a full knowledge of all the drivers lining up in the Junior classes but it is always difficult to see past someone who has shone bright like Calnan. He will have his work cut out for him but I think he should be fit to make it through at the front.