West Cork Rally – Review

Cronin extends Tarmac Championship lead

The action for the second round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship moved to the south west last weekend with the Quality Hotel Clonakilty West Cork Rally taking place. Once again the classes were well supported as the crews tackled 14 stages all within ten miles of Clonakilty over two days. After the rain that affected the opening round in Galway, crews were relieved to find the weather dry, although some rain on the day before had left some of the stages extremely tricky.

Championship leader Keith Cronin and his closest rival in Galway, Alastair Fisher, continued their battle over the opening pair of stages where Fisher led a wafer thin advantage of less than one second. Sam & Josh Moffett were next up but already twenty seconds behind the leading pair, while Desi Henry on his first trip to Cork was a little more cautious and just ahead of Stephen Wright. Owen Murphy was already in bother in his newly acquired Skoda Fabia S2000, with the intercom failing on the start line of the first stage and losing over 90 seconds to the pacesetters on the opening loop.

After service it was back out to tackle the Clogagh and Ballinascarthy stages again, where Cronin eked out a ten second advantage over Fisher. Desi Henrys challenge faltered when he got a puncture and lost over three minutes while one of the leading class 2 contenders Mary Gallagher went out of the rally when he crashed his Fiesta R2. David Guest was leading Group N on his home event almost a minute ahead of Brian O’Keeffe while Peter O’Kane was already looking at Rally 2 after having gear linkage issues on the opening stage. David Carney led Class 3 from Ed Twomey after three stages.

The afternoon stages consisted of two runs over the classic Ring and technical Dunworley stages and Cronin took almost fourteen seconds off Fisher on the high speed Ring test. Josh Moffett was only a few seconds further back from Fisher with Sam Moffett & Joseph McGonigle also close by. The Dunworley stage by contrast was a tighter stage and Fisher had a real go to claw back three seconds from Cronin. The two Moffetts were eleven seconds further off the pace with Jonny Greer also having a very good time on the stage. The second run over Ring saw Fisher edge Cronin, but on the final stage of the day Fisher who was on a real charge at this point, crashed out to leave Cronin’s advantage more clear cut. Some two minutes behind Cronin was Sam Moffett with his brother just 4 seconds further back. Stephen Wright, Joe McGonigle, Jonny Greer and Desi Henry were all inside the top dozen as the pace was relentless.

David Guest led Group N overnight from Brian O’Keeffe with Patrick Kearney in third place while the class two battle was between William Creighton and Callum Devine, with the former just 2 seconds ahead overnight. Richard Whelan was winning the class 3 battle from David Carney and Ed Twomey back in third place. Owen Murphy re-joined under Rally 2 rules when a bearing failed as he continued to get used to his new car.

The second day’s action started at the leisurely time of midday, but there was nothing leisurely about the pace as six stages were to be tackled with Shanaway, Sams Cross and Ardfield all done twice. Cronin continued to set the pace as the others jostled for position behind him. By the end of the first loop of stages it was clear barring a disaster; Cronin was on course for another maximum points haul in the championship. The battle for runner up points was now only between the Moffett brothers as they had opened up a large gap back to Stephen Wright. Desi Henry retired at the end of stage 11 as the centre differential wasn’t working properly.

Over the last three stages Cronin kept things steady to take maximum points for the second event in a row, while Sam Moffett did just enough to pip Josh Moffett for second placed points. Stephen Wright, Joseph McGonigle and Jonny Greer completed the top six registered placings. Group N was won by David Guest to repeat his success in Galway while Patrick Kearney had the misfortune to retire on the final stage in his Lancer. Callum Devine took class 2 by thirty seconds following an event long battle with William Creighton, and Frazer Mulholland came home in third place. David Carney and Ray Fitzpatrick took maximum points in Class 3 in their Citroen DS3.

Overall Standings after Round 2

1 – Cronin – 32
2 – Sam Moffett – 26
3 – Josh Moffett – 22
4 – McGonigle / Wright – 16
6 – Greer / Fisher – 14

Modified Championship

The Modified Championship saw a strong line up in Cork with championship leader Wesley Patterson hoping to extend his lead on an event he had a lot of success in the past. However it took a while for him to get on the pace and despite having a good run on the first run of the Ring stage, the ECU gave trouble on the following test. The amount of time lost was huge and he decided to retire overnight. Another to have a troubled event was Eugene Meegan who had the bonnet fly up and smash the windscreen on stage two, and when the fuel pump failed on stage four they he was forced to retire. Brian Brogan was the leader for much of the event with a very impressive drive in his Escort and eventually took top modified championship points in his Escort. John Bonner took second placed points by virtue of finishing six overall in the National rally to make it a very successful weekend for Donegal drivers.

Enda O’Brien and Ross Marshall also scored well with both drivers competing on West Cork for the first time while Frank Kelly was a late retirement when the differential of his Escort broke. John Reddington and Davy Armstrong were two others to add to their points haul from Galway. Patrick McHugh wasn’t so lucky, crashing out on stage 9, Shanaway after lying in the top ten overnight. Local driver Jason McSweeney was

Overall Modified Standings after Round 2

1 – Ross Marshall – 20
2 – Wesley Patterson / Brian Brogan – 16
4 – John O’Sullivan – 15
5 – Jason McSweeney / Davy Armstrong / John Bonner – 14

Historic and Junior Championships

Second place on the Historic section of the rally was enough to give Philip Wylie maximum points in his Escort Mk2 after championship rival James O’Mahony was forced to retire with axle problems a few stages from the end. The pair had swapped places a few times over the weekend while John Coyne and Christy Farrell finally caught a break as their Sunbeam performed faultlessly to take third in the category and runner up points in the championship. Alan Watkins had a very good performance to finish ahead of Frank Cunningham who was slowed early on with fuel problems. Donal O’Connor also scored points in the series but Duncan Williams was another to retire with a broken gearbox.

Overall Historic Standings after Round 2

1 – David Goose / Philip Wylie – 16
3 – Luke McCarthy / John Coyne – 14
5 – Alex Schmieder / Alan Watkins – 12

The Junior championship saw Justin Ryan extend his lead to ten points as he collected another maximum score. Noel Murphy moved into second place while Christy McCarthy and John O’Flaherty are joint third overall.

Overall Junior Standings after Round 2

1 – Justin Ryan – 32
2 – Noel Murphy – 22
3 – John O’Flaherty / Christy McCarthy – 14
5 – Kevin Horgan – 12