BY MARTIN WALSH
THE Clancy brothers from Bealad were an integral part of West Cork motorsport for over two decades before they finally called it a day just at the turn of this century. But it didn’t start out that way, as Richie recalls how it all began.
‘Johnny Whyte (RIP) and Timmy McCarthy were rallying and I said I would have a go at it. I wanted to do the West Cork (Rally) and it went on from there. I was only supposed to do the West Cork but I kept at it,’ Richie says.
That was in 1981 and Reenascreena-born Pat Whyte was his navigator.
‘We didn’t get a class award (Class 9) but we finished nonetheless,’ Richie adds.
The Clancy, McCarthy and Whyte families are related through marriage and that added to the banter, he says.
Richie played football for Kilmeen at underage and Junior B, and his move to motorsport didn’t really follow the traditional route. He opted for a Vauxhall Chevette instead of a Ford Escort, by far the more popular choice of those around him.
‘I had one (Chevette) as a road car and always liked them,’ he says.
For all of his rallying that ended in 2000 he drove the same car, bearing the registration 846-PI.
‘I bought it from Clarke Brothers in Bandon. It was a standard Vauxhall Chevette, brown in colour and it cost me 950 pounds. We just put in a roll cage and away we went.’
Once Richie had his first taste of rallying, that one-off plan was dispatched as quickly as he cut through the rally stages. Other plans were altered too.
‘Later in the year we did up the engine, but that didn’t last too long’ says Richie, who quotes a much-used expression, ‘It put the foot out the bed.’ In simple terms, the engine blew.
He added: ‘We went back to the drawing board and decided to put in a pushrod Escort engine, they were going well at the time. So we put Ford Escort stuff into the body of a Chevette. The pace was getting fast and the Escorts were more dependable. John Moynihan built the engine for me.’
It was a case of brothers in arms when Pat Whyte began to sit with his own brother Johnny. Richie’s new navigator/co-driver was his own brother Jim, all of which added to the excitement and fun.
While the West Cork and Fastnet were the major events, there were others too. Richie says: ‘I always liked the Courtmac Rally, I knew the roads fairly well.’
There is a good explanation as to why the Courtmac Rally was a favourite – the Clancy’s were agricultural contractors.
‘We had a machine clipping the dykes and I did a lot of work for the council down there so that is how I knew all the roads there. I knew where to cut all the corners, it was a big advantage. I always did well there, winning the 1300 modified class. By then, we had more modifications made to the engine. I liked the Banna Beach Rally in Kerry too and the Glenside Homes Rally down in Ballycotton and, of course, the Dunmanway single stage rally.’
Aside from their own company sponsorship, Richie is thankful to others: ‘Paddy Keohane, God be good to him, was a great supporter through Keohane Readymix, he backed a lot of us and followed us as well. He had a great interest in local motorsport.’
Different events had their own distinct qualities.
‘The Fastnet in Glandore was great. In a way there was more of a buzz from it as there wasn’t half the pressure that would be on for the West Cork. It was also a single-day event, with the exception of the first few years. I only won the class once in the West Cork, many of the other times I was second or third, Jim was navigating me,’ Richie says.
In the 1990s there was a colour change.
‘Adare’s James Doherty, who we knew through the machinery business, had a Chevette, amd we kind of took a copy of his car really. We had a wider axle so we had to arch it (the wheels) out. We decided to re-spray the car and change it to red and white. It had a Ford gearbox, axle, engine and all. It was always a 1300cc engine and we were getting great results,’ he says.
Like his beginning in the sport, Richie didn’t plan his last rally. The West Cork Rally in 2000 ultimately decided that.
‘I crashed down in Inchy Bridge. That was the only crash really. It wasn’t too bad but I sold the car after. At the time we were second in class and there was no need to do what I did, but I did it and that was that.’
He added: ‘I still follow motorsport. Of course I read The Southern Star to see what’s happening and I would go to the odd rally. I take an interest in Conor McCarthy, Liam’s son. The Cronin lads as well, they have a lot of rallying done in fairness to them.’
The Clancys enjoyed their rallying.
‘Oh we did, we took it serious but kept the budget nice and handy, but it was a cheap sport then. Take the Courtmac Rally as an example. The entry fee was 15 pounds, a tenner’s worth of petrol in the car and we had a good day’s rallying. We also did the Raven’s Rock Rally in Waterford, we got a second in class one year,’ Richie says.
It's most unusual for any driver to have the same car over all the years, but it’s very evident that Richie had great affection for his Chevette, albeit with the Escort running gear.
‘We had some great events in Glandore, we were hopping off the road. The Chevette was very good to handle. Once it was modified, it was superb. The Ford engine was way more peppier and it took more abuse.’
With John Moynihan responsible for providing an extremely reliable engine, the Clancy service team mostly consisted of Seamus Cussen, Tom Scannell and the late Fachtna O’Donovan.
When purchasing the car from Clarke’s, Richie remembered what Bobby Clarke said to him: ‘You are taking it now and if you go rallying with it, there is no guarantee with it.’
Richie didn’t need one, he knew how to cut corners.