The AceSigns Cork 20 International Rally is as usual the final round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. Sam Moffett & Karl Atkinson in a Ford Fiesta R5 are champions elect as they only need to start the rally to secure the title and give Sam an unprecedented Triple Crown having already won the National and Forestry Championships. It will be the first time that a driver has won all three major championships in the same season and appropriately Sam starts the Cork 20 with number 1 on the door. He is followed by his younger sibling Josh who won this event last year in fine fashion and although he has missed some rounds this year will still be very keen to take his second successive win here.
Third seed Alastair Fisher lies in second place in the championship with engine failure on the Ulster Rally ruining his chances of bringing the title fight to Cork. The Fermanagh driver has been one of the quickest men in the championship but is still awaiting his first outright win on the Tarmac Championship round, and perhaps this could be his event. He will certainly be hoping for better luck that last year when an accident cost him the title in Cork. Stephen Wright and Joe McGonigle seeded at five and six have upped their pace this year and will be looking to end the year on a high note, with both drivers holding third and fifth respectively. Both drivers have an outside chance of finishing championship runner up which would give them confidence heading into next season.
Other drivers in the top ten that will be in the hunt for points include Aaron MacHale, Padraic Duffy and Owen Murphy who returns to the championship in his S2000 Skoda after a long layoff. All of these drivers are capable of a very good result should any of the crews ahead of them hit trouble over the demanding sixteen stage event. In Group N William Mavitty leads the championship in his Group N Lancer and with his closest rival Gavin Kelly not having entered the event to date it looks like the title is going to Fermanagh for 2017. The International 2WD class sees William Creighton hold the advantage but James Wilson is only six points back so this will be a real winner takes all battle between the two Northern Irish drivers.
In the Modified Championship Kevin Eves and William Lynch are also practically certain of the title as they only need to start in Cork, but some of the other class and overall places are still up for grabs. John Devlin and Eugene Meegan are second and third respectively and only separated by five points. Devlin has been a model of consistency all season while Meegans challenge for the title ended when he went off the road on the Ulster Rally. Sean Moynihan, Jason McSweeney, Art McCarrick, Nick Barnett and Richard Whelan are among those who will look to improve their overall positions before the end of the season.
The Historic Championship was settled in the Isle of Man as Barry Jones took his fourth maximum score of the year having lost some ground on the opening two rounds. Since taking top points in West Cork he has rarely looked back with second in Donegal being his only time being beaten since. Keith McIvor in second place has also had a very good year to cement second place. Third placed Ernie Graham brings his fabulous BMW M3 back to Ireland while Shawn Rayner will be hoping for better luck than on his last trip to Ireland when he damaged his pristine Escort on the Ulster Rally and eventually went OTL. Other drivers looking for points in the Historic Championship include Philip McKibbin, Alan Watkins and Duncan William all in Escorts.
The Junior Championship is down to two drivers with Jenna McCann holding a three point advantage going into the final round ahead of Justin Ryan. Although out of the running, Eric Calnan the top junior seed has the potential to be kingmaker as he won the junior category last year and by taking maximum points in Cork could swing the title McCann’s way if both she and Ryan finish. Both drivers have to drop their worst score which in both cases is ten points and as only three registered drivers are competing the margins will be very tight.
The sixteen stage event begins from Macroom on Saturday morning with the first stage due at 9:44 and eight stages in total on the opening day. The second day has eight more stages near Millstreet and the rally looks like being one of the toughest events of the year. The first car is due back at the finish ramp at approximately 4:30pm on Sunday evening.