By Martin Walsh
AS the Westlodge Hotel continues to invest the biggest share of its sponsorship budget towards the Fastnet Rally, it was revealed during the launch of this year’s Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally that a that a number of Bantry businesses have come on-board as associate sponsors for this year’s event.
Speaking at the reception in the Westlodge Hotel, Eileen O’Shea of the Bantry Development and Tourism Association, who continue to support the rally, welcomed the initiative that sees Bluelite Windows, Donemark Motors, Bantry Business Association, Cremin Coaches and Bill Enright Plant Hire form a new synergy for the event that moved to Bantry in 2011, At these launches, the one constant that cannot be overlooked is the inherent value of promoting the region through the various forms of the media as acknowledged by the Ms O’Shea of the Bantry Development and Tourism Association.
At the outset, Cllr, Patrick Gerard Murphy, Mayor of the County of Cork, commented on the commitment of all the stakeholders and how important the rally is to the area.
Pat Gill, General Manager of the Westlodge Hotel, stressed that the rally represents its major sponsorship investment.
The attendance included Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony along with Cllrs Mary Hegarty, Danny Collins, Declan Hurley and Paul Hayes, Miss Bantry Abigail Harrington, Mick Cremin (Cremin Coaches), Noel Hurley and David Cremin (Bluelite Windows), Johnny O’Shea (Donemark Motors), Cal McCarthy, Chairperson of the Skibbereen and District Car Club along with other members and competitors within the club and former event winner Daniel Cronin.
Speaking during the launch, clerk of the course John Buttimer said, ‘The event will feature a loop of three stages repeated three times that incorporate a wide variety of roads and territory from high mountain areas down to the Atlantic. They are all close to Bantry contributing to low mileage and a low cost rally.’
Paying tribute to the sponsors and residents, Cork County Council and a number of other sectors, he stated that at the time of last week’s reception, the Skibbereen and District Car Club had received some 50 entries. Other details of the event on the October bank-holiday weekend are pre-event scrutiny at the Barrett Agri complex in Dunbittern; the ceremonial start in the town square at 7pm. The opening stage on Sunday is at 9.30am. while the finish ramp (4.30pm) and the awards presentation (9pm) are all at the Westlodge Hotel.
In terms of the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship, only three drivers can win the title – current leader, Somerset driver Martyn England (Ford Fiesta R5+), Limerick’s Stephen Bawn (Ford Escort) and Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (Ford Fiesta R5).
Rosscarbery’s Jason O’Mahony (Ford Escort), who led prior to the Cork ‘20’ International Rally (that counted as a double round) and who didn’t compete in the Macroom event, is out of the reckoning for the overall title. With 50 per cent bonus points on offer for the Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally, a top eight championship finish will suffice for England, who leads with 248 points to Bawn’s 226 and Cronin’s 201. Cronin is the only driver that can add all the points from Bantry, the maximum score he can achieve is 261 points. Bawn’s maximum is 259 points thus leaving England requiring 46.5 points to win the series.
In terms of the overall rally and based on current entries, it’s shaping up to be a battle between Cronin and last year’s winner Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan (Ford Fiesta WRC). One of the categories that is attracting strong interest is the 1600cc class where the promoting club, the Skibbereen and District Car Club, is offering a number of awards. Last year, Baltimore’s Stephen Carey scooped the 1600 title.