Clonakilty classic in prospect as ITRC hits West Cork

Does rallying get any better than this? I really don’t know if it does. Last month’s Galway International Rally made quite the statement – the 2023 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship is more than capable of living up to last year’s ultra-high standards.

With round one whetting the appetite for more Irish Tarmac action, crews have signed up in numbers to March’s West Cork International Rally. Clonakilty’s Saint Patrick’s weekend extravaganza has become a firm favourite among competitors and fans alike and this year’s edition will be no exception.

Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes return to West Cork hoping to defend an impressive win 12 months ago. Indeed, that win is looking all the more important for their championship defence after Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson proved in Galway that their Ulster Rally win was no one-off.

Evans and his Volkswagen Polo R5 looked supremely comfortable on Galway’s drying stages throughout the final day. The Welsh duo set the pace and avoided any dramas to claim their first victory in the south of Ireland. They have risen to the challenge of outpacing the flamboyant flyer that is Moffett and his Hyundai workhorse.

Josh wasn’t the only Moffett loitering at the top of Galway’s standings last month. Sam Moffett and Keith Moriarty returned to Irish Tarmac’s top category in quite some style. A brand new Hyundai i20 Rally2 packed a punch to set the fastest time on Galway’s opening stage. Third place was their eventual result on round one of the Samdec Security Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. Sam seemed happy with his weekend’s work, knowing full well he’ll be even more competitive after gaining more experience of his Hyundai.

Cathan McCourt and Robert Barrable flirted with Galway’s rally lead. Their two Citroen C3 Rally2s looked seriously smooth with times that showed it was as racey as it gets. The French brand is back in fashion and Jonny Greer showed last year that it can be a West Cork contender.

McCourt, Barrable, and Greer are seeded fourth, sixth, and seventh respectively while Desi Henry looks like another to join Citroen ranks in West Cork. Henry has shown his rally-winning potential but is searching for a change in fortune in the Samdec Security Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.

You would be a fool to discount any of these crews from a West Cork win and we still haven’t mentioned the Clonakilty locals. Or a certain Callum Devine, who led last year’s event at its halfway point.

Devine looked out of sorts in Galway. His Polo R5 was feeling under the weather and fifth place was not the result he was hoping for on round one. The 2022 Rally of the Lakes winner will take confidence from his inspired Midland Moto Stages Rally win at the start of March.

Mark Alcorn stole the modified show on round one. The erratic Ford Escort Mk2 pilot rode his luck at times but his epic pace powered him home to a one-minute, seven-second victory. Jason Black sealed a runner-up finish in his freshly upgraded Toyota Starlet while Kerry’s Conor Murphy and Sean Collins grabbed third.

Gary Kiernan and Kevin Eves had weekends to forget but they’ll be back at the sharp end in West Cork.

Daniel McKenna, Ed O’Callaghan, 2022 title contender Colin Byrne, and West Cork faithful Frank Kelly are more leading names to feature in McEvoy Motorsport’s star-studded modified category.

Meirion Evans and Neil Williams share a win apiece after Synergy Motorsport Engineering’s opening two Historic Championship rounds. Two strong results for the Ford Escort RS1800 pairing of Duncan Williams and Guy Weaver have given them an early lead in the championship standings though.

All three are heading to West Cork with Mark Falvey and Sebastian Ling completing the Synergy Motorsport Engineering series’ top five.

30 Historic crews are set to take on West Cork with Ford Escorts, BMWs, Porsches, and Subarus creating a delightful mix of machinery.

11 Junior crews will tackle the West Cork Rally including Paul Browne Plant Hire & Civil Engineering Junior ITRC leaders Robbie O’Hanlon and Oisin Joyce.

Clogagh and Ballinascarthy will be the opening stages on Saturday 18th March with service after every two stages. Ring and Dunworley make up the afternoon quartet of tests before the crews head to Parc Ferme. On Sunday the six stages are Shanaway, Sam’s Cross and Ardfield with service in between the loop of three stages.

The rally will be streamed live by HM Productions and a link to the action will appear on the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship’s social media accounts as well as on YouTube.

Photo by DHarrigan Images

Adam Hall, ITRC Press Officer