THE desire to generate positive exposure for Bantry through the medium of the Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally is already achieving its objectives.
This was acknowledged by Cllr John Paul O’Shea, Mayor of the County of Cork, who officially launched this year’s event in front of a fine attendance at the Westlodge Hotel on Friday evening last that was also culture night across the country.
‘In many respects culture night ties in very appropriately with the launch tonight as rallying is very much part of our sporting culture, particularly in county Cork,’ Mayor O’Shea said.
‘I’m a native of North Cork where we have many great rally drivers, none more so than Billy Coleman one of the iconic figures in Irish rallying. I know you have your own particular hero here in West Cork with Keith Cronin – a triple British Rally champion just a few miles away from us in Ballylickey.’
The Mayor, who made the journey having attended a function in Doneraile earlier in the night, added: ‘It’s no coincidence that the Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally is indeed a big team effort. The rally itself is not just a sporting occasion, it is also a major contributor to the local economy.
‘The three strands of the rally – the Skibbereen and District Car Club, the Westlodge Hotel and the Bantry Development and Tourism Association have forged a strong synergy to ensure its success.’
In his welcoming address, Niall O’Sullivan, chairperson of the Skibbereen and District Car Club, remarked: ‘We are privileged to have the Westlodge Hotel as our main sponsor and the Bantry Development and Tourism Association as our associate sponsor.’
He praised the business and tourism sectors and all of Bantry town and surrounding areas for their on-going support.
‘It takes dedication and enthusiasm from so many people across many different organisations to make this event happen,’ Mr O’Sullivan added.
Meanwhile, Sean Mahon MD, of The Southern Star, who are media partners for the rally along with C103, outlined the paper’s contribution.
‘This year we’re celebrating 30 years of motorsport coverage in The Southern Star, a milestone we are proud of so it’s great to be back here again as media partner to the Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally,’ he said.
‘The rally is great for Bantry and the region, its great for the local businesses and for the Westlodge Hotel of course – so as West Cork’s local newspaper we’re proud to support and help promote not just the rally but motorsport in general to our 50,000 readers every week.’
Mr Mahon introduced Sports Editor Kieran McCarthy, who received a warm welcome. Sean said: ‘Judging by the feedback from the sports-mad West Cork readers, I think we have the one of the best local sports sections in the country and again I know Kieran is constantly looking at new ways to improve our coverage of all sports.’
General Manager of the Westlodge Hotel, Pat Gill acknowledged the work of Ger Hayes and his team at the Skibbereen and District Car Club along with the support from the Bantry Development and Tourism Association.
Also during the evening Eileen O’Shea of the Bantry Development and Tourism Association spoke about the value of the rally to the region and how it has helped to increase the profile of the maritime town.
Clerk of the Course Ger Hayes paid tribute to all involved with the rally, particularly the Westlodge Hotel and the Bantry Development and Tourism Association. He outlined the objectives over the coming weeks.
‘We will be working on entries and trying to get as many competitors as possible to compete in the rally. We are one of very few organisers to have the service area located in the host town and this is a great opportunity for people to watch that element of the rally,’ he said.
During the evening there were interviews with triple British Rally champion Keith Cronin, rally co-drivers Michelle Gallwey and Edel McCarthy, the event Safety Officer Frank O’Mahony and Richard Talbot of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship Committee.
Meanwhile, the O’Riordan family from Skibbereen presented the Michael O’Riordan Perpetual Trophy in honour of Michael, a former Clerk of the Course of the event, who was tragically killed in a workplace accident last year.
This new trophy will be awarded to the top Skibbereen and District Car Club co-driver in the rally.