No doubt the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship organisers will be glad to kick off their season this weekend in West Cork. Plenty has been written about the title sponsorship deal which ultimately didn’t happen, but thankfully, everything looks positive for their season opener.
Donagh Kelly is chasing an incredible fifth win in a row in this event in his Focus WRC but will no doubt be keeping a close eye on fellow Donegal man Declan Boyle, who dominated proceedings in Mayo last week and will surely be chasing the win in Cork. Both are WRC mounted, of course, and run in Class 7. First of the R5 contenders is Sam Moffett and West Cork marks the beginning of their title defence, having taken the 2017 title with their Combilift Rallying Fiesta. Brother Josh is next up and as ever, expect little to separate the pair. Rob Barrable is always one to watch and seems to be something of an enigma as he can jump into any race or rally car and be right on the pace. He switches back to a Fiesta R5 from the Hyundai i20 he drove last year, saying it is probably more of a known quantity. That said, he wasn’t 100% happy with the setup after a brief test last week and may well be on a hillside somewhere testing as I type this!
Jonathan Greer is seeded behind Barrable in his Citroen DS3. Desi Henry was first R5 home on Achill last weekend in his newly acquired Fiesta and will no doubt be keen to gauge his pace against the top runners. At number 8 is the one who has had everyone talking so far this year. At the Autosport Show in January, five time Tarmac Champion Eugene surprised us all by announcing his return to the stages, at the wheel of a Hyundai i20 R5 with support from MRF Tyres. It is great to see him back but is surely a big ask for him to be on the pace from the off, against such strong opposition.
Kevin Eves, Gary Kiernan, Rob Duggan, John Dalton and Declan Gallagher are just some of the top drivers competing on the National event, with Gary Kiernan also one to watch as he makes the switch to Proton Power for the first time. The Historic Rally welcomes back Barry Jones who won the category here last year on his way to becoming Tarmac Historic Champion, but he will have strong opposition in Owen Murphy, Neil Williams, Denis Cronin and Martin Doherty to name but a few. The Junior Rally is also looking strong with a capacity entry received.
The action begins with the famous Ring stage at 10.28am on Saturday morning with tests also around Clogagh, Newecestown and Ballinascarthy all to be attempted twice. Sundays six stages consist of two runs over Ardfield, Sams Cross and Rossmore with the first car due at the finish ramp at 4:30pm. The family of the late Donal O’Brien who sadly passed away last year, have kindly put up The Donal O’Brien Cup for the top Class 14 finisher.
Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce will be giving a €50 voucher to each crew in the Main Rally and the Historic Rally and will also be giving an additional €100 voucher to each overseas crew.
2018 Quality Hotel Clonakilty West Cork Rally Seeded List (Main Field)
1 DONAGH KELLY CONOR FOLEY CO DONEGAL FORD FOCUS
2 SAM MOFFETT KARL ATKINSON CO MONAGHAN FORD FIESTA R5
3 DECLAN BOYLE JAMES O REILLY FORD FIESTA
4 JOSH MOFFETT ANDY HAYES CO MONAGHAN FORD FIESTA R5
5 ROBERT BARRABLE DAMIEN CONNOLLY CO DUBLIN FORD FIESTA R5
6 JONATHAN GREER KIRSTY RIDDICK N.I. CITROEN DS3 R5
7 DESI HENRY LIAM MOYNIHAN FORD FIESTA R5
8 EUGENE DONNELLY MARK KANE CO DERRY HYUNDAI I20
9 DANIEL CRONIN SHANE BUCKLEY CO CORK FORD FIESTA R5
10 STEPHEN WRIGHT ARTHUR KIERANS CO MONAGHAN FORD FIESTA R5