BY MARTIN WALSH
AS The Southern Star continues its build-up to the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally, we find out why the event has a special significance for 21-year-old apprentice electrician and rally co-driver Dylan Doonan.
It’s not just because it’s his favourite event or that he lives along the route of this year’s event or more specifically, in Ardgehane, a stone’s throw from one of the most popular photographic spots at Ballinglanna. It’s much more.
Dylan is one of seven young rally co-drivers selected to participate in the Motorsport Ireland Co-Driver Academy.
Although he has general interest in sport and has played GAA with Barryroe at underage level, Dylan’s main interest is in rallying. That has stemmed from his father, Chris, who always watched events, but then, Dylan never had to venture that far when the West Cork Rally was on. He could watch it without stirring out of the house. The sound of cars whizzing past and then turning a sharp left after his house had him smitten from a very early age.
The role of a rally co-driver can be underestimated, misunderstood and often overlooked. Without them, drivers cannot perform to the best of their ability. The term ‘co-driver’ has replaced the previously used term of ‘navigator’ when the person in the seat opposite the driver was merely utilised to read the maps and with the aid of a trip meter (a unit that accurately measured distances) to get from one location to another.
The role and responsibilities of the rally co-driver are far ranging – the person is really the in-car manager, who also liaises with organisers and service crews. The rally co-driver is expected to know the rule-book inside out, especially in times of dispute.
A member of the Skibbereen and District Car Club, Dylan Doonan’s first event was the Banna Rally in Kerry in 2017 as co-driver to Tralee’s Daniel Chung. He also co-drove for him in the West Cork and the Circuit of Kerry the same year.
While his first West Cork Rally was in the Junior category and although just 21, Dylan already knows what its like at the top end of the sport.
‘My best result was finishing fourth overall in last year’s Fastnet Rally with Cavan’s Chris Armstrong (Ford Escort). That came about through my club, the Skibbereen and District Car Club,’ Dylan explained.
West Cork is very definitely his favourite rally while in terms of drivers, he has great admiration for Craig Breen.
‘In 2018 when I competed in the Juniors on the West Cork, we didn’t compete on the Ring stage as that was done on the Saturday but last year in the main event with John Reddington, I did and it’s an amazing feeling to get to compete on your home stage, travelling the road that I travel everyday,’ Dylan said.
As for the future, he opines: ‘I want to progress up the ranks and hopefully get to co-drive in an R5 car before the end of the season. Eventually, I would like to go abroad to experience some events. The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy is a great experience and the contacts you make are invaluable. The seat that I got for the Carrick on Suir Forest Rally with Owen McMackin came through the academy.’
The MI Academy training has sharpened his focus. Dylan, who will co-drive for Kerry native but now Cork-domiciled Bob Moran on next week’s rally, is very aware of the importance of preparation, fitness and diet – this West Cork Rally co-driver is already well switched on.