A packed entry of over 180 crews will tackle the West Cork Rally which is the second round of this year’s Irish Tarmac Championship. The atmospheric two-day rally has grown from strength-to-strength in recent years and has been a part of the main Tarmac Championship since 2015. This year’s edition looks set to be the most exciting yet.
Galway Rally winner Alastair Fisher is seeded third for the Clonakilty-based event as reigning champions Craig Breen and Paul Nagle return with Hyundai backing to start first on the road. Fisher and co-driver Gordon Noble adjusted quickly to their Volkswagen Polo R5 to take a dominant victory in Galway. The Northern Irish pairing will have to adjust to new machinery again as they switch to M-Sport’s Mk2 Ford Fiesta R5.
Fisher’s Galway winning Polo R5 will be driven instead by Robert Barrable who returns to the championship in West Cork. Other returning frontrunners include Owen Murphy in a Fiesta R5 and Jonathan Greer who will showcase a new Citroen C3 R5.
Donagh Kelly, Sam Moffett, and Josh Moffett all continue their ITRC campaigns in Galway. Kelly is a five-time winner of the West Cork Rally, all in his Ford Focus WRC. The same Focus took the Donegal driver to his Tarmac title in 2015. Kelly’s Polo R5 looks to have hit the same sweet spot for Kelly. After a retirement on the event last year in a Skoda Fabia R5, Kelly will be hoping his Polo can help him return to form in West Cork this time around.
The two Moffett brothers continue in Hyundai i20 R5s along with Desi Henry who is aiming to bounce back from his retirement in Galway. Josh Moffett rebounded from his subdued fifth place in Galway to win the Birr Stages Rally. All three Hyundai drivers along with the Volkswagen of Meirion Evans have shown that they have the pace to challenge for top points in West Cork.
Crews from the British Rally Championship will also join the Tarmac regulars to battle to take the West Cork crown from Breen and Nagle. Matt Edwards, Tom Cave and Osian Pryce all feature in the top ten starters. Billy Coleman Award winner Josh McErlean will also be aiming for success in his return to Ireland. The Hyundai driver is seeded 25th.
After a solid shakedown in Birr last month, Ollie Mellors will bring his Proton Iriz R5 to West Cork. Five-time Irish Tarmac champion Eugene Donnelly will compete in similar machinery as four Iriz R5s compete in West Cork in total.
The modified crews are headed by Gary Kiernan, Kevin Gallagher, and Kevin Eves driving a Ford Escort Mk2, Darrian T90, and Toyota Corolla respectively. Kiernan retired from the modified lead on the second day of the event last year as WRC legend Mikko Hirvonen went on to take the win.
Neil Phelan took the top Modified ITRC points in Galway ahead of Gareth Black and William Nolan. Such is the strength of the field in West Cork, Phelan is seeded at 75 with Nolan seeded at 69. Another young driver who is aiming for modified success this year is the Class 14 Escort of Colin O’Donoghue. O’Donoghue missed Galway but is aiming to complete the rest of the championship. He’ll be hoping to continue where he left off last year as he took the modified win on the season-ending Killarney Historic Rally.
Berian Richards will be hoping to eat into Maurice Meskall’s Historic Championship lead in his Escort. John O’Reilly, who is third in the Historic standings will also start in West Cork in a Mk1 Escort. Welshman Neil Williams is seeded at the front of the Historic field while 2019 Irish Historic Champion Duncan Williams returns after missing Galway.
Galway Rally’s R2 winner Eamonn Kelly will face stiff opposition from nine other R2 crews in West Cork. The round represents a brilliant opportunity for Kelly, Jason Dickson, and Johnnie Mulholland to challenge their Junior BRC counterparts who include Irish drivers William Creighton, David Kelly, and Brian Brady.
It’s a Honda Civic lockout in the Juniors as rivals Noel Murphy and Gareth Deazley both return after finishing first and second respectively in Galway. The class is led by Cathal Nolan who competed on two ITRC rounds last year.
“As chairman of TROA, it’s fantastic to see such a quality entry for the West Cork Rally and everyone in TROA is looking forward to a great weekend’s rallying in Clonakilty. We would like to wish Clerk of the Course Steve Davis and all of his hard-working team a safe and enjoyable event.”
Image from Mark Mc Cullagh