McCarthy to learn lessons from Donegal Rally experience

June 29th, 2022 1:29 PM

By Martin Walsh

Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy (Citroen DS3 R5) and co-driver Derek O’Brien pictured on the Knockalla stage of the Joule Donegal International Rally. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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CLONAKILTY’S Cal McCarthy has vowed to return to the Donegal International Rally with a more cohesive plan after he retired his Citroen DS3 R5 prior to the beginning of the third and final leg of the recent event, Ireland’s only three-day rally.  

Co-driven by Midleton’s Derek O’Brien, they were seeded at No. 39 of the 160 crews that began the event on the Friday morning. They retired with a broken rear differential that rendered their Citroen to two-wheel drive. 

‘We enjoyed it, particularly when the stages dried up. I liked Fanad Head, it’s a classic really. It was unfortunate that it was shortened,’ Cal said. 

‘Overall, I probably underestimated the whole scale of the preparation that one has to do, more so in the logistics of what’s involved, actually getting there, service crews, recce (reconnaissance), the level of the notes involved and the number of people required.’


McCarthy, who competed in Donegal in 2014 and took his Honda Civic (co-driven by Ballinascarthy’s Eamonn Dullea) to third in Class 11F, agreed that it’s a huge step up to the R5 category and also from competing on his home event in Clonakilty when everything he needs is at his instant disposal, but when you are some 500 kilometres away, it’s a very different prospect. 

‘Friday was tough, the stages were quite dirty and bumpy.  Saturday was a very different day and I enjoyed the stages at Carnhill, Fanad and Knockalla,’ he said.

‘The pace of the event is huge and you really need to be very familiar with the stages to get anywhere near that pace. It is also very demanding physically. Saturday evening in Donegal is the equivalent of finishing the West Cork. The attrition rate is very high too, I thought on Saturday evening that it was a driveshaft issue, but at the service on Sunday morning it turned out to be the rear differential and that was the end of it.’

As for next year? 

‘I will go back, but I will put more preparation into the event and plan it better. We did the recce in the days leading up to the rally. Maybe it would have been better to have done it the week before. The rally was an experience for sure but an eye-opener as well.’


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