The hotly anticipated second round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally takes place this coming weekend. A bumper entry has been received with no less than 23 R5 cars at the head of the field in what should be a superb battle. Donagh Kelly has won the event for the past five years, but although carrying number one on the door, the 2015 Tarmac Champion will find the going very tough as he gives his new Skoda Fabia R5 its debut. Conor Foley will co-drive for Donagh as usual. Carrying number two on the door but likely to run first on the road due to FIA priority seeding is Waterfords Craig Breen with Paul Nagle co-driving. The pair will compete in a Ford Fiesta R5 and although its Craigs first time competing in West Cork, Paul is a twice winner of the event on 2004 & 2008. Third seed is the reigning Tarmac Champion as Josh Moffett looks to improve on the runner up position he has taken on the event over the past two year. Josh has Keith Moriarty on the pacenotes this year.
Alastair Fisher & Gordon Noble stunned many with their pace in Galway after a long absence and if they can repeat that form then they will surely be in the mix for overall victory. Others to feature in a strong top ten include Matt Edwards who is contesting the British Rally Championship, 2017 Tarmac Champion Sam Moffett who will be hoping to recover quickly from the disappointment of a first stage retirement in Galway and Robert Barrable who makes his first appearance of the season in a Skoda Fabia R5. Barrable along with Donagh Kelly is the only previous winner of the event on the entry list and he always performs well in Clonakilty. Desi Henry (Fabia R5), Declan Boyle (Fiesta R5) and David Bogie (Fabia R5) are the other drivers in the top ten.
The quality is reflected down through the list with Callum Devine, Jonny Greer, Daniel Cronin, Stephen Wright, Meirion Evans, Manus Kelly and Brendan Cumiskey just some of those who could upset those seeded above them. Group N sees William Mavitty, Andy Davies and Michael Boyle all renew rivalries after Galway where Davies came out top and leads the category after round 1. William Creighton, Ronan Denning, Eamon Kelly and Johnnie Mulholland are all in the ITRC3 series and Creighton leads heading into the second round in his Peugeot 208 R2.
The National Rally sees championship leader Damien Tourish go head to head with Damian Toner after the pair finished in the top two in Galway. Tourish has been to West Cork twice in the past which could give him the edge over Toner who makes his first appearance in Clonakilty. J.R. McDaid, John Bonner and Brian Brogan are all making the trip from Donegal and will be familiar with the stages while Tom Flaherty who lies fourth in the championship makes the trip from Galway. Conor McCrossan and Gerard McQuaid are also lying in the top ten after the opening round and will be making their first trip to Clonakilty also.
Ray Cunningham brings his remarkable Mini to Clonakilty with the Galway driver holding an eight point advantage after two rounds. Second placed Owen Murphy is not competing so George Cullen who lies third is the closest to Cunningham in championship terms. Arian Kermode, Duncan Williams, Craig MacWilliam, Alan Watkins and Philip McKibbin are just some of the other championship drivers lining up in Clonakilty. The Junior leader after round one Shane Norris arrives in Clonakilty with a three point lead over Cian Walsh. The retirement rate in Galway was high so there will be a number of drivers looking to move into the reckoning after the second round. Mick Lonergan retired in Galway, but was extremely quick on his previous visit to West Cork last year, while Aaron Browne the top seed will also be expected to go very quickly.
The action begins with the opening stage, Ring at 10.58am Saturday morning with nine stage in total for the first day, including a short town stage wrapping up proceedings around 6pm. The second day begins at the leisurely hour of midday where six more stages will take place before the first car is due back at the finish ramp around 4.30pm. Live results will be available from http://results.westcorkrally.com and there will also be updates on the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship facebook page and you can also follow us on twitter at @IrishTarmacTROA.