BY MARTIN WALSH
WHILE politically, it was a weekend of change in Clonakilty, the multi-award winning town was also the location for the announcement that there will be no change to the entry fee (across all categories) for the forthcoming Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally on March 14th and 15th.
The popular event that is the second round of both the Irish Tarmac Championship and the British Rally Championship was launched at the Clonakilty Park Hotel on Friday night last on the eve of the general election.
Irish motorsport is in the midst of some uncertainty with additional costs and falling entry numbers.
Speaking during the launch the chairperson of the Cork Motor Club, Paul Casey said, ‘Recently, we have all witnessed the introduction of additional regulations, complexities and costs to our sport. This has placed an additional cost burden on entries across all rally events. After careful examination of our event budget and some difficult decisions, we are pleased to announce that the entry fees for all categories will remain unchanged from last year.’
There was also good news for those contesting the Junior category of the rally. They will compete on Sunday’s six stages and should they marshal on the Saturday of the rally they will receive a further €100 discount.
‘Cork Motor Club have made the decision to absorb these additional costs and charges rather than simply passing them on to our valued competitors,’ Casey said.
‘We have made this decision, as we believe that in times of uncertainty, leadership is required. Many in the sport are hopeful of a change of policy at national level that would allow a reduction in costs for all events. Should this happen for our sport and in addition to keeping this year’s entry fees the same as 2019, the Cork Motor Club will also will refund (to competing crews) the additional savings that will be achieved.’
The rally marks the beginning of the tourist season and its contribution to the local economy was underlined by chairperson of the Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce, Orla O’Donovan, who stated, ‘The event brings some 5,000 visitors to our town and the boost to the local economy is immense and worth about €2.5 million. In fact, it may even be greater as many of the visitors return later in the year. We do everything we can to support the rally by creating a welcome and festive atmosphere over the weekend.’
Drimoleague-born and chairperson of the Tarmac Rally Organisers Association (TROA), Carrigaline’s Frank O’Mahony continued to endorse the event.
‘It’s a fantastic rally and a big asset to our championship. Obviously, it’s also a big asset to the British Championship as well. It has many qualities but primarily, it’s the great warm welcome that is here and the quality of the stages,’ O’Mahony said.
Meanwhile, David Henry, general manager of the Clonakilty Park Hotel – who are sponsoring the event for the 18th time – used the occasion to ask politicians to reduce the rate of VAT that was crippling the hospitality industry.
Similar to last year, The Southern Star is a media partner for the event. Neil Whelton, chairperson and joint PRO of the Clonakilty West Cork Rally Committee, thanked The Southern Star for their support and also announced that Keohane Readymix are joining Jim Davis & Company and Clonakilty Blackpudding as secondary sponsors.
In addition to the ITRC and the BRC, the rally is also a round of the FIA Celtic Trophy and the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship and will include all the classic stages.
New clerk of the course, Steve Davis thanked the Cork Motor Club and the Clonakilty West Cork Rally Committee. He gave details of the stages with Ardfield being the opening stage of this year’s event. The traditional Ring stage will take place on the Sunday while the service park will again be located at the Teagasc complex.