Knowing that every second counts, Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan is favourite to win the Quality Hotels West Cork Rally this weekend.
After losing last year’s rally by 1.3 seconds, he admitted he hadn’t paid any great attention to the town stage during the reconnaissance. It will be run on two occasions tomorrow with O’Riordan’s Subaru WRC expected to have the advantage over both, and indeed the other 14 stages of the Clonakilty event.
Even though a Group N car has never won the rally, Colm Ring, Kevin Kelleher and Alan Ring all fancy their chances. Limerick ace Murphy (Subaru) and his Cork co-driver Don Montgomery, led for a time last year but problems with the exhaust thwarted their efforts.
Weather will play a major part with wet conditions negating O’Riordan’s power advantage.
Kelleher wasn’t far off the lead before he crashed last year and will draw solace from the fact he was ahead of O’Riordan when his Mitsubishi met the scenery at Inchy Bridge near Timoleague. He hasn’t rallied since and that may be a disadvantage. Murphy finished fifth in Abbeyleix recently.
Alan Ring is using the rally as a shakedown for next month’s Circuit of Ireland and needs a strong result. In contrast the top Group N driver, Welsh ace John Dalton, will be hoping for dry roads around Clonakilty and could be a major force. It’s been 24 years since the marque won in Clonakilty. Wexford’s James Stafford is a slight doubt. Barryroe’s Damien McCarthy occupies the number seven berth in his 1600cc Honda Civic.
The Subaru WRC duo of Peter Lloyd and John Cope and Donoughmore’s Leonard Downey (Escort) round off the top 10.
Tomorrow’s first stage starts at 11.20am, Sunday’s action over eight more stages begins at 10.42am.
Also tomorrow, the second round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship, the McGrady Insurance Rally, takes place at the Bishopscourt Circuit, Downpatrick. Series leader and four-time Circuit of Ireland winner, Derek McGarrity will head the entry in his recently acquired a Mini WRC. The Antrim driver plans to convert the car to S2000 specification and compete in the Circuit of Kerry (Apr 1) and the Circuit of Ireland the following week.
“The Irish Tarmac Championship boys have been pushed to one side for the Circuit and I need to be on the IRC side of things to compete against the likes of Andreas Mikkelsen,” McGarrity said. “I just want to see where I will finish against the IRC boys. After that, I will convert the car back to WRC specification for Killarney.”
The first of the day’s six stages starts just after 9am.
Amidst the furore at the end of last season that threatened the future of karting, Motorsport Ireland stood firm against Kart Ireland, who had planned to promote their own series.
However, KI later backed down and decided to leave the promotion of karting to the governing body, Motorsport Ireland. At the time, Alex Sinclair, Motorsport Ireland chief executive, said: “Motorsport Ireland knows where we are going, when the time is right, we will announce details.” Sadly, the series began last week without the promised announcement.
Entries for the Circuit of Ireland Rally, the third round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, close on Monday. The second round of the series, Rally Canaries, begins today.
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