BY MARTIN WALSH
RALLYING makes a welcome return this weekend with the O’Connell Group Cork ‘20’ International Rally, the first event since the cancellation of the 2020 Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally.
The Munster Car Club organisers have received over 150 entries for the event, including Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin, Dunmanway’s David Guest, Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy and Ovens’ Owen Murphy, all in Ford Fiesta R5s with the exception of McCarthy, who campaigns a Citroen DS3 R5. The quartet took time out to answer some general questions about the return and other aspects of the sport.
MARTIN WALSH: Did you miss rallying, what have you missed most and do you think the time is right for its return?
DANIEL CRONIN: Yes, I missed rallying a lot. It's not until it's gone that you realise how much you have missed the social side of things, meeting friends, getting out and also the competitive buzz. I feel it's time, the country seems to be in a good place now.
DAVID GUEST: I think the time is right to try and get back to some sort of normality. It should be a good opportunity to see how it works before the start of a full year's rallying. I missed being out and about, meeting other competitors and organisers and just the buzz leading up to rallies and the planning and organising.
CAL McCARTHY: I think the travel and meeting of people has been missed, it's always great to travel and experience the excitement amongst local people and those involved in the sport. We haven't seen much excitement in the last 18 months. I don't know if there will ever be a right time, I think we will be living with Covid for a while yet.
OWEN MURPHY: I think it is the right time to return to rallying. When you see the amount of people that attended the recent GAA matches, there should be no reason why rallying can’t return. From what I’ve seen so far, the Munster Car Club has put every precaution in place for a safe return for everybody. We have a small rally team that have been with me since I started rallying back when I was 17, I have missed going rallying with them the most, and it will be great to meet all the rallying family again.
MARTIN: Do you think it will take time to get the pace that you were at pre-Covid?
DANIEL: Pace wise, it will be hard to know. I have done a few rallysprints so it's nice to get used to listening to pacenotes and driving the car again. A big test will be needed so hopefully I won't be too far off my pre-Covid pace.
CAL: I’m hoping my pace will be better. Pre-Covid we were learning the car. I’ve had a few test days in Mondello Park and did some rallysprints so I’m hoping to be more comfortable.
DAVID: Yes, most definitely. I think it's all about seat time and being comfortable in the likes of an R5 car. Everything happens really fast and you won't be quick unless you are fully committed from the very start. I think it will take a few stages before things start to flow again.
OWEN: I don’t think so, I’m used to having long lay-offs in rallying and I’m always able to be close enough to the pace. Obviously, we’re in a new car and it's been a long time since I drove a four-wheel drive turbo car. Once it handles well enough we should be fine.
MARTIN: Should competitors have an input into Irish rallying?
DANIEL: It all comes down to competitors wanting to put in the time, and, yes, they should be more involved. If competitors just want to be a hurler on the ditch, there's no point really. From a competitor’s point of view I hope there will be budget caps brought in at some stage so that spending doesn't get too out of control.
DAVID: Yes. Realistically, the competitor is the customer and in any business the customer must have an input and a platform to openly discuss issues and ideas to make things better for everyone
CAL: Absolutely. The competitor is the customer that pays the bills. Competitors need to get involved with their clubs. Club committees are working tirelessly to run events and some competitors think it's fine to turn up every January for a licence stamp.
OWEN: Yes, it’s vital for the sport that everyone gets on the same page. It’s the best sport in the world and we have the best events, clubs and drivers/navigators, and we just need to protect it.
MARTIN: What are your own expectations ahead of the Cork ‘20’ International Rally?
DANIEL: I think a top eight will be a massive result. My car is a little outdated now and the few at the top are on a big pace.
CAL: A good top-ten finish would be very successful. I don't know if we will be at that level yet. I would imagine the entry will be pretty strong but it's all about getting to the finish.
DAVID: I would like to increase our pace throughout the day and get to the finish on Sunday evening and gain a bit more confidence in the new car.
OWEN: If we can get close enough to the top times by the end of the day in the new car I’ll be delighted. It will give us something to build on for next year.
MARTIN: Are you planning to compete in any other rally before the end of the year?
DANIEL: Hopefully, all going well in Cork ‘20’, we will also compete in the Donegal Harvest, Wexford and also the Tipp/Carrick forestry event.
DAVID: No. I am happy just to get a run in the Cork ‘20’ and then hopefully look at getting prepared for a championship again next year.
CAL: I have an entry for the Pokerstars on the Isle of Man and perhaps one other Irish event but I haven't decided which one as yet.
OWEN: Probably not this year. I would like to do the Historic Rally of the Lakes in November but I would have to hire a car and there’s always a shortage of top specification historic Escorts, so I’ll probably concentrate on the R5 car for a while.