Joe McGonigle from Muff, Co. Donegal was one of the first drivers to go down the Class 5 route when he purchased a Skoda S2000 for the 2015 season. With fellow Donegal man Ciaran Geaney on the pace notes they have achieved a number of top ten finishes this year.
KOD: You were one of the first drivers in the country to move to a Class 5 car; do you feel the move has been a successful one for the Tarmac Championship?
JMG: Obviously! The proof is in the pudding, with four or five drivers near the top of the points all year and four drivers in with a chance of taking the title in Cork. It’s a long time since you could say that about the Tarmac Championship.
KOD: How has the season gone for you personally?
JMG: Galway was good, we were very competitive, and the same in West Cork. The Circuit of Ireland was also very good on the opening day, but I hurt my back over a jump on the second day and I had to ease off. Killarney was a disaster, a big time loss on the opening stage with a puncture and then the car fell off the jack. We kept going until late on the first day when a simple spin pushed the bumper back and holed the radiator, which forced us to retire. The last two rounds in Donegal and Ulster showed that the S2000 cars are starting to struggle against the newer evolution R5 cars, particularly where there are a lot of junctions.
KOD: What were your highs and lows of the season?
JMG: The 30 kilometre stage on the Circuit of Ireland was just fantastic. Hurting my back on the Circuit was a low, as was putting the car over a hedge on Fanad!
KOD: Is the gap between the R5 and S2000 cars widening?
JMG: Last year and even at the start of this year we could race an R5 car fairly close. The gap has definitely widened this year as the R5 cars have evolved and this was very evident on the Ulster Rally when even Marty McCormack was struggling to make any impression on the R5s.
KOD: What do you like about the current championship structure?
JMG: The move to R5 which gives a reasonably level playing field. There are four types of car that are regularly featuring in the top ten and can win the championship, and of course the increased competition it brings.
KOD: Where do you feel the championship can be improved?
JMG: There are a lot of events in the first half of the year, so I think the calendar is very congested then. I’m also not in favour of bonus points on the final as each event should have equal points, especially when you can drop two scores over the season.
KOD: Finally, what are your plans for the 2017 season?
JMG: The Skoda S2000 is for sale and I’m looking at R5 options for next year, but I haven’t decided yet what kind of car that will be.