'The West Cork Rally is in people’s DNA, everybody appreciates the input the rally has'

February 20th, 2023 11:45 AM

By Martin Walsh

At the launch of the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally at the Park Cinema in Clonakilty were back from left, Donal O’Donovan, who won the rally in 1998; Kevin Fleming, Calor agent; Vincent Kingston, Clonakilty West Cork Rally Committee; Cal McCarthy, rally driver; Liam McCarthy, rally winner in 2009; Steve Davis, clerk of the course; David Guest, rally driver and Neil Whelton, Clonakilty West Cork Rally Committee. Front from left, David Henry, general manager Clonakilty Park Hotel; John O’Donovan, Niall Geaney, Noel White and Ed Twomey, all Clonakilty West Cork Rally Committee. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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THE spirit of enthusiasm, goodwill, financial support and the love of rallying within Clonakilty and its hinterland are just some of the key aspects of what continues to drive the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally as a high quality sporting and tourism attraction.

That was the general theme that emerged from a new-look rally launch at the Park Cinema where representatives of the many strands of the rally proffered their thoughts at a well-attended event.

This year’s rally on March 18th/19th is a counting round of all the categories within the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, along with being a counter in the regional IPS Packaging Southern 4 Rally Championship. The 14-stage event is organised by the Cork Motor Club with the strong support of the Clonakilty West Cork Rally Committee.

At the outset, Mayor of the County of Cork Danny Collins spoke about the importance and the willingness of the organisers to liaise with local authority, An Garda Síochána, the emergency services.

‘There is an amount of work involved in the completion of a road closing order,’ he said.

‘The organisers have a good working relationship with the local councillors and often, some roads may require patching and Cork County Council, despite budgetary restrictions at this time, ensure this work is carried out.

‘The rally is a big economic boost for the town and surrounding areas, everybody benefits and it’s great to see. All the councillors work together for the benefit of the area.’


Chairperson of the Clonakilty West Cork Rally committee, Neil Whelton, outlined the involvement in tandem with the Cork Motor Club.

‘The aim is to bring as many people into Clonakilty as we can,’ he said.

‘We also work very closely with the people along the rally route as without them, it would not be possible to host the rally. If there are issues, we all work together to get a positive outcome.

‘Our work, that also includes securing associate sponsors Keohane Readymix, Clonakilty Blackpudding and Calor, allows the Cork Motor Club concentrate on what they are good at – which is organising the rally.’

Clerk of the Course Steve Davis spoke about the Cork Motor Club’s approach.

‘We began planning this rally at the beginning of November and the route and stages we have opted for is actually the fourth version of those plans,’ he said.

‘You try to vary the route so as to keep residents, competitors and spectators happy. Classic stages such as Ardfield and Ring are also a key factor.

‘On the Saturday, we have two stages repeated followed by two other stages, also repeated, in the afternoon. The first stage is Clogagh, the start of which is just 1.5 kilometres from the service park in Darrara Agricultural College. Then we have Ballinascarthy and back into service before they are repeated.

‘The two stages in the afternoon are Ring and Dunworley, which we haven’t done for a few years. The historic competitors begin their rallying on Saturday afternoon on Ring.

‘The Shanaway stage near Enniskeane is the first stage on the Sunday followed by Sam’s Cross and Ardfield before service following which these three stages are repeated to conclude the action.’

The finish ramp celebrations in Clonakilty town are scheduled for 4pm on Sunday, March 19th.

During the launch, he also highlighted the work of the local committee and praised their involvement and their desire to try something different, such as the launch at the cinema following a suggestion from committee member Ed Twomey.

Meanwhile, David Henry, general manager of the Clonakilty Park Hotel, spoke about the longevity of the hotel’s association with the rally.

‘This is our 21st year as title sponsor of the rally,’ he said, ‘it’s a great start to the tourism season.

Representing the Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce, Colette Twomey spoke about the importance of the rally.

‘It is quite hard to quantify the economic value of the rally,’ she said.

‘Each November, we speak about Christmas and once that is over, the focus shifts to St Patrick’s weekend, the rally is coming to town.

‘That buzz then carries forward to the rest of the year. It really is the launching pad for the year for Clonakilty and the Chamber of Commerce. The West Cork Rally is in people’s DNA, everybody appreciates the input the rally has and the volunteers and marshals are to be applauded, they have nothing to gain out of it, it’s the pleasure of giving and that is what has made it so fantastic.’

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