Southern Star Ltd. logo

Clonakilty driver in final shot at junior championship title

February 2nd, 2023 2:30 PM

By Martin Walsh

Clonakilty driver in final shot at junior championship title Image
Clonakilty’s Darragh O'Donovan will compete in this year’s Irish Tarmac Junior Rally Championship that begins with the Galway International Rally.

Share this article

CLONAKILTY driver Darragh O’Donovan (25) will contest this year’s Irish Tarmac Junior Rally Championship.

With support from a number of local companies, O’Donovan will campaign a Honda Civic that he has re-built over the past few months. 

This will be the final time he will be eligible for the series – unlike the junior categories within the national and forest rally championships, the winner of the ITRC Junior series does not receive automatic qualification to the interview process for the Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Award.

He will be co-driven by Lisavaird’s Michael White and will begin the title quest at next weekend’s Corrib Oil Galway International Rally.

O’Donovan told The Southern Star about his options. 

‘I considered the MI Junior Rally Championship, which has four rounds on tarmac and four in the forests but to be honest, I don’t have much interest in competing in gravel rallies,’ he said.

‘From what I have seen, it is hard on the cars and I want to keep my own car as clean as possible and tarmac rallying is my real interest, so I decided to opt for the ITRC.’


The former marine engineer and now plant engineer with Pfizer in Ringaskiddy didn’t explore other possibilities as his plan was really pre-determined.

‘At the time [of the rebuild] I didn’t consider the R2 route as I had a new engine and a new gearbox sitting on the floor and they had to be used,’ O’Donovan explained.

‘Economically, it didn’t make sense to straighten the Honda Civic [crashed on the Circuit of Munster last June] so I purchased another car, a clean Class 1 car. I did the Kerry Winter Rally last October to get a finish and get back the confidence but the engine was bog-standard.

‘I stripped the car to the bare shell and put the gear from the old car into it. The car was painted by Jerry O’Mahony and it was wired by a guy in Carrigaline and currently the suspension set-up and last few bits are being sorted for Galway.

‘Galway is a rally that everybody just tries to get through and it would be nice to get a top three points finish and then we will push on from there. The next two events after that are the West Cork and Killarney. We did five rallies last year and we had four retirements, it is all about finishes at this point.’

Along with the Galway International, the remaining rounds of the 2023 ITRC Junior series are the West Cork Rally (March 18th/19th), Circuit of Ireland (April 8th), Rally of the Lakes (April 29th/30th), Donegal International (June 16th-18th), Cork ‘20’ International Rally (August 5th/6th) and Ulster Rally (August 18th/19th).

As to what was his best result in his previous car, O’Donovan’s response was immediate. 

‘I didn’t have one,’ he quipped.

‘We did the Cork ‘20’ in 2021 and we were winning stages in the junior category but we didn’t finish. Last year, in the West Cork, we made it through half of the first stage and then the driveshaft broke. 

‘We went back out, won a few stages and then the engine blew. Then, in Killarney, we were second entering the final stage when the gearbox broke.’

For their title tilt O’Donovan and his co-driver White have managed to secure a package of local sponsors.

‘We have Carbery Plastics (Clonakilty), Brendan Murphy Construction (Inchigeelagh), Eamonn McCarthy Auto Services (Clonakilty), Rosslea Construction (Leap) and Cronin Electrical (Kilbrittain),’ he said.

‘Once we were able to explain to the companies involved that we were committing to a championship for the year, it made it a much more acceptable prospect. The fact that we were winning stages was also a big help. Our preparation was also a key factor.’

Previously, as a marine engineer, putting a championship bid together was difficult given the amount of time O’Donovan was at sea – in reality, as he admitted: ‘It wasn’t practical.’

He added: ‘Once I had decided to tackle the junior tarmac series, I secured work as a plant engineer with Pfizer and I can now commit to my rallying.’

And, on his co-driver Michael White, he said: ‘He’s fantastic, hasn’t put a foot wrong since he sat in the car. We have spent three years together and he’s definitely one of the top young co-drivers on the scene.’

Galway awaits.

Share this article