BY MARTIN WALSH
ON what is an iconic year for the Westlodge Hotel in Bantry that celebrates 50 years in existence, its underpinning of the Fastnet Rally – on Sunday, October 27th – is the single biggest sponsorship arrangement of the current era.
Speaking at the launch of the Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally on Friday night last, the hotel’s general manager, Pat Gill, underlined the importance of local involvement.
‘All the directors of the hotel are from the West Cork area, they took over the hotel three years ago and have invested heavily ever since. It’s great to see West Cork ownership in the hotel again and they have a great commitment to the local area and to this event,’ Gill explained.
With a keen understanding of how rallying works, he added, ‘In what are often dark and dismal days in terms of the weather, the Fastnet Rally provides the Westlodge Hotel with a ray of sunshine. This is an iconic year to be in business so long, the hotel has come through many great days, some sad days, but mostly great days. The rally is the biggest event that we sponsor each year.’
Expressing his thanks to Eileen O’Shea and Mick Cremin of the Bantry Tourism and Development Association, Gill also paid tribute to the Gardaí, the Ambulance service, Ruth O’Brien of Cork County Council and her fellow officials, the Skibbereen and District Car Club, his own staff, competitors, spectators and the hundreds of volunteers involved with the rally.
At the outset, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy, deputising for the Mayor of the County of Cork Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan, remarked, ‘This is a wonderful event at the shoulder of the tourist season and the economic benefit this area derives from the rally is fantastic.
‘The volunteerism that goes into this event is huge and I would like to congratulate Cal McCarthy and all at the Skibbereen and District Car Club for all the work involved.’
Cllr Murphy also acknowledged the support of the Westlodge Hotel, the Bantry Tourism and Development Association and the Bantry office of Cork County Council under its engineer Ruth O’Brien.
Speaking on behalf of the Bantry Tourism and Development Association, Eileen O’Shea highlighted the opportunity the rally provides in showcasing West Cork at its best. ‘We are delighted to be part of the rally, we have an event most bank holiday weekends here in Bantry. The rally was one of the first events we were associated with, we organise seven events throughout the year,’ said O’Shea, who also thanked associate sponsors, Bluelite, Donemark Motors, Cremin Coaches and the Bantry Business Association.
In his address, Cal McCarthy, chairperson of the Skibbereen and District Car Club, said, ‘It (the rally) is a team effort made up of a number of stakeholders, we have a lot of volunteers involved and we team up with a lot of other clubs. But an event such as this would not work without the local support that we have here tonight, the Westlodge Hotel, which is the major financial supporter of the rally over the last few years. I would also like to thank the local people as well and the team within the club that run the rally.’
Along with being the final round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship, the event is also the final round of the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship that has been won by Dunmanway’s David Guest and his Mitchelstown co-driver Jonathan McGrath. It also counts towards the Carbery Plastics Skibbereen and District Car Club Championship.
Also, Donegal’s Donagh Kelly, who will debut his Volkswagen Polo GTi R5 on Saturday’s Donegal Harvest Rally in Redcastle on the shores of Lough Foyle, confirmed to The Southern Star on Tuesday night that he is considering competing in the forthcoming Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally. ‘If all goes well on Saturday then I think I will go to the Fastnet.’