BY MARTIN WALSH
ONE of the most keenly contested classes within the Quality Hotel West Cork Rally is Class 11, which is split into two categories – front wheel and rear wheel drive, hence Class 11F and Class 11R.
The front wheel section is the source of great debate. Strangely, the top seeded exponent is down at No. 39 and whilst one has always great sympathy for rally organisers involved in seeding, the Class 11 contingent could have been seeded a little higher up. However, within the context, at least all the contenders are neatly grouped.
A top ten finisher last year, Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy (Honda Civic) spearheads the popular class. While there is no denying his quick pace, reliabilitywill be the key to his progress. Opposition is a virtual who’s who of the category that has a hugely strong Cork and indeed West Cork flavour.
The in-form Bandon driver Vincent McSweeney, also in a Honda Civic, is the driver in the best vein of form. He won the Junior category of the Galway International and also secured the Junior spoils in the recent Carrick on Suir Forest Rally.
Youghal’s Jason Ryan (Toyota Starlet) is another driver capable of winning the class.
Barryroe’s Damien McCarthy has converted the Ford Puma he campaigned on last year’s rally to right hand drive. A superb third overall in 2013 with a Honda Civic remains an outstanding achievement.
‘We'll not be going out on Saturday stages to lead the class, we need to get familiar with the car. Hopefully on Sunday we will be closer to the pace,’ Damien said.
On a prediction he opined, ‘Cal (McCarthy) obviously, but there are so many drivers capable of winning, it’s unreal, Noel Kelleher, Jason Ryan, Vincent McSweeney, it is really hard to know.’
Former National Junior champion Bernard Foley (Honda Civic) from Donoughmore is another realistic contender as is Rosscarbery’s Jason O'Mahony (Honda Civic) whose preparations were thwarted when the engine blew on a pre-test.
From a West Cork context, Luke McCarthy from The Pike will also be keen to perform well as will Lisavaird’s Cathal McCarthy (Honda Civic). Others in Class 11F are Donoughmore’s Jonathan O'Callaghan (Peugeot 106), Glanmire’s Paul Browne (Honda Civic) and Clonakilty’s Gavin Walsh (Honda Civic).
Murragh’s Andrew Mahon heads the rear wheel drive contenders in Class 11R and comparisons with the front wheel drive brigade are always interesting and in the end are really down to conditions.
Opposition will be provided by Midleton’s William Walsh and Michael Murphy, both in Toyota Corolla’s, Waterford’s Richard Harney (Ford Escort) and Kerry’s Jason Costello (Ford Escort).