BY MARTIN WALSH
JUST like last year, the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally has become the first major 2021 sporting event in the region to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While it is yet again a huge financial loss to the tourism sector, there is widespread agreement that safety is paramount.
This was underlined some 12 months ago when the organising team, the Cork Motor Club, had the full support from all the local stakeholders including the local West Cork Rally Committee to cancel the event. Indeed, they withstood great pressure from sources outside of the region.
It appears, following consultation, that this year’s event wasn’t going to be a round of the British series. The first round of the 2021 British Rally Championship was scheduled to have been the Circuit of Ireland Rally (April 2nd/3rd) but that too has been canned.
The announcement this week from the Cork Motor Club, organisers of the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally, confirming the cancellation of the rally, scheduled for March 20th/21st, came as no real surprise.
It comes against the backdrop of the continuing uncertainty around large-scale gatherings taking place in Ireland which have the potential to encourage the spreading of the coronavirus.
Clerk of the course Steve Davis said, ‘On one level this was a very difficult decision to make as we had already lost the 2020 rally at the eleventh hour, which was completely the right call, after the way things panned out in March of last year. On another level it was a 'no brainer', safety must always come first, both that of the volunteers and competitors, and more importantly that of the local West Cork community. We couldn't justify putting additional pressure on all the hard working overstretched HSE staff and other public health services to run the event.’
Paul Casey, chairperson of the Cork Motor Club, added, ‘We can't expect local residents to allow the roads to be closed during this dreadful pandemic which is claiming lives daily. With the vaccination programme now in full swing, hopefully 2022 will facilitate the smooth and safe running of the rally on the 19th & 20th of March.’