Despite the weather’s ups and downs, last weekend’s West Cork Rally was an ultra-successful, massive event, under the guiding hand of Greg McCarthy along with his Cork Motor Club team plus volunteers from many other clubs. Waterford’s Craig Breen and his co-driver Paul Nagle displayed all their World Rally Championship experience by clinching victory in their Ford Fiesta R5. Indeed Fords seemed to be the chariot of choice for many of the top drivers. Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble guided their example to a sound second. It has to be remembered that Alastair spends his working week designing the steelwork for skyscrapers and the like. He tracked Craig very closely through the fifteen stages, pulling a second or a fraction of a second back on some stages, but Craig always had an answer and the gap remained at over 20 seconds for much of the two days until the finish flag dropped in Clonakilty’s main street. Josh Moffett did lead after the first stage, but he dropped down the leaderboard, his cause not helped by a damaged shaft on his Fiesta, finally finishing 7th. Breen’s West Cork victory, on top of his Galway win, puts him in a very strong position regarding the Irish Tarmac Championship. However his main aim, hope, aspiration, is to regain a seat on the World Rally Championship.
It was definitely a tough rally, and such was the flat out pace of the leaders that the slightest slip amongst many of the other top drivers meant that it was more or less impossible to get back into the frame. Many of the well-known ‘names’ suffered early delays or were relegated to ‘Rally 2’. Some simply retired from the event. Those affected included No.1 seed and five times West Cork winner, Donagh Kelly, as well as Desi Henry. Manus Kelly and Meiron Evans went into ‘Rally 2’ following problems. David Bogie and Declan Boyle ran outside the top ten for most of the rally following their early mishaps, and despite setting good times didn’t progress into the top ten. Such was the pace at the front.
There was a terrific battle for 3rd overall between Tom Cave and Matt Edwards. The bonus for these two was a bagful of points for the British Championship, of which West Cork was, for the first time, a counting round. Edwards seemed to have the upper hand, but Cave in his Hyundai i20 R5 used every inch of the road towards the end to just edge in front and take third o/a, British Champion Edwards 4th. Current British Rally Champion Edwards still leads the points following his first round (Cambrian) win, where Cave was unfortunate not to get his Hyundai from the final stage to the finish because of flat tyres. Marty McCormack finished 9th in West Cork and lies 2nd in the British series.
Sam Moffett took 5th o/a in West Cork following a steady run and Callum Devine, on his first R5 outing since last year, was a meritorious 6th. Willie Mavitty (Lancer) won GpN. Josh McErlean in his Peugeot 208 won the R2 category. Jordan Hone was in the R2 hunt but retired his Adam just before the finish. James Williams (Adam) was 2nd in the category and William Creighton (Peugeot) 3rd. Mikko Hirvonen in his Mk2 Escort won the National part of the rally and said he enjoyed the rally immensely. On the Sunday night at the Clonakilty Park Hotel Finnish driver Mikko opined that he will be back in West Cork next year! Hard luck story of the rally has to belong to Gary Kiernan who retired his Escort just two stages from the end because of a mechanical fault, having led Hirvonen all the way up to that point. Damien Toner fought back from an early overshoot in his Escort to finish 2nd in the National, which earned him the category lead in the Tarmac Championship. Frank Kelly put his Escort off on the difficult opening Sunday stage, appearing to get caught out over bumps and mud. Neil Williams/Anthony O’Sullivan in their Escort won the Historic category of the rally, from Luke McCarthy/David Hogan. Luke has changed from his Porsche to a Mk2 Escort. Ray Cunningham/Jared Gill had another brilliant run in their Mini to take 3rd in the Historics and now lead the category in the Tarmac. Peter Falvey/Andrew Cronin (Starlet) won the Junior category.
Also last weekend, in the Middle East, on the Qatar Rally, Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, driving the new VW Polo GTI R5 took a substantial win, his 14th time of winning his home event! Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari had Fermanagh’s Marshall Clarke co-driving in a Skoda R5 and took 2nd. Euan Thorburn in his Fiesta R5 won the Scottish Championship counter, the Border Counties. On the American Championship 100 Acre Wood Rally Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan in their Fiesta took victory, with teenage Norwegian Oscar Solberg and co-driver, Tyrone’s Aaron Johnston, 2nd (Subaru). David Higgins/Craig Drew were 3rd in the other works Subaru.
This weekend coming the Triton Showers Championship cascades back into action with the 2nd round Midland Moto Stages. (Sunday 24th March). Clerk of the Course Jeremy O’Connor has put together three fast enjoyable stages, each run three times. The event is based in the Longford Arms Hotel and besides being a counter in the Triton Showers series, is also part of the Border Championship, the Midlands East series and the MI Junior Rally series. Just some of the top seeds include Josh Moffett, Declan Boyle, Peadar Hurson and Roy White, all in Fiesta WRCs. Joe McGonigle will again be in a Mini WRC, while Niall Maguire and Garry Jennings will be in their usual Impreza WRCs Top two wheel drive exponents include Chris Armstrong, Gary Kiernan, Gary McPhillips and Stuart Darcy, all in Escorts. James Stafford in his Darrian could give the Escort men something to thinks about on these fast stages.
The MG Car Club is hosting a round of the NI Autotest Championship this Saturday (23rd March) at the Dundrod Transport Training facility. On a different subject, one of the biggest events for MG clubs from all over Europe and even further afield is the traditional “MG Live” at Silverstone in early June. Thousands of MG owners, mostly with their cars, normally attend, but suddenly this year’s event has been cancelled because the Silverstone Circuit will be closed for a resurfacing job. Still on the subject of MGs, we thought it was rather neat that a line-up of MGAs from the Australian MG clubs ferried the F1 drivers on the parade lap!!
News this week includes the Valvoline Forestry Championship issuing their points following the snow inflicted Limerick Rally, so Michael Carbin and Keith Power are joint leaders on 28 points, Peter McCullagh is 3rd on 26, then it is first round winner Marty McCormack on 22, followed by Niall Henry 21 and Mk2 Escort man Mickey Conlon 20. The next round is the 13th April Moonraker. The class based Suirway Group South East Stages Championship points have also been issued and show Mickey Conlon leading on 39 points, Mike Garahy was 2nd on 37; Casey Jay Coleman has 33, as has James Dunphy.
It is all stations go for the Maiden City Motor Club with its new stages rally on the 6th April. The event is the next round of the McGrady Insurance NI Championship. The format is two closed road stages (repeated) outside Donemana. Entries close this Friday 22nd March. The event is sponsored by Eakin Brothers Brian James Trailers. Also that weekend (7th April) is the Tralee based Circuit of Kerry Rally. HQ for the event is the Rose Hotel and there will be 3 stages repeated 3 times.
Brian & Liz Patterson