IT’S the first time in several years that six local drivers are amongst the top 20 seeded list. It’s nine years since Carrigaline’s Brian O’Mahony (Subaru WRC) was the last Cork driver to win the event and thirteen years since a West Cork driver took the event victory – Dunmanway’s Liam McCarthy (Toyota Corolla WRC) in 2009.
Locally, the rally is hugely popular right to the end of the entry and it takes on a dimension that only those from the area can really understand. Earlier this week, The Southern Star got the views of the six drivers that carry the main local hopes.
Daniel Cronin (Ballylickey)
(Seeded at No. 7 in his VW Polo GTi R5 and co-driven by Killarney’s Shane Buckley)
‘We have made a lot of changes to the car after Galway. The dampers needed a good servicing in any case and now that they are done, the car will handle the bumps much better. We knew going into Galway that we were under pressure with them as there was no time to do anything with them. I know the pace is big at the front, I am hoping to be a nice bit closer than Galway and if that’s the case, I’ll be happy. I plan to keep it neat and tidy. The top four of Alastair, Josh, Callum, Meirion will be very hard to catch. After that, I would be battling with Cathan McCourt and Garry Jennings, the second tier as it were. The stages should be much cleaner than Galway. Weather wise, I don’t really mind but I suppose in terms of the buzz and atmosphere and all that, dry weather will bring everyone out.’
Favourite stage: Ring.
Owen Murphy (Ovens)
(Seeded at No. 9 in a Ford Fiesta R5 and co-driven by Askeaton’s Anthony Nestor)
‘I would be hoping to be close to the top five. We have made a good few changes to the car including work on the suspension and we have softened up the differentials. In a way, we have gone back to a more basic set-up, so the car will be more driver friendly. I’m not that bothered that I haven’t been out since Kerry. If the car is good enough I will be happy. I am used to big gaps (between events) anyway, so that isn’t a major issue. The likes of Josh (Moffett), Callum (Devine) and Meirion (Evans) are on a big pace, they have a lot of seat time and are almost like professional drivers. It might take this event to sort the car but I should be closer to the top pace than what I was in my last few events.’
Favourite stage: Ardfield.
David Guest (Dunmanway)
(Seeded at No. 10 in a Ford Fiesta R5 and co-driven by Mitchelstown’s Jonathan McGrath)
‘I have always liked the West Cork Rally and I have a good car this time around. We have a lot of preparation done. It will be very special for many reasons. It’s great to see the excitement and the buzz about the place, it was missed for the last few years. I would like to be up there with the likes of Daniel (Cronin) but I am not too sure how that will work out. Owen (Murphy) will be there too and we will have a great battle between us and also with the others like Cal (McCarthy). It will be interesting too to see how Jason (McSweeney) and Kevin (Kelleher) will do too. You know, we are in that second tier, I will never be racing the likes of Josh Moffett or Alistair Fisher, they are on a different level and I don’t mind that. I will give it my best.’
Favourite stage: Ardfield.
Cal McCarthy (Clonakilty)
(Seeded at No. 16 in a Citroen C3 R5 and co-driven by Midleton’s Derek O’Brien)
‘I will be driving the Greer Motorsport Citroen C3 Rally 2 as my own car isn’t ready. I drove it (Citroen C3) in Kirkistown recently; it’s a less aggressive car than my own and it’s smoother to drive. I am looking forward to seeing what it’s capable of. I want to finish the event and enjoy the whole weekend and the moment. It’s been a difficult past few weeks. It is nice to participate in a local event and in a top car and if we can get into the top ten, that would be great. I will take it one stage at a time. Opportunities like that don’t come around that often. This is a one-off agreement with DGM (David Greer Motorsport) and I’ve got great support from some local businesses to put the deal together.’
Favourite stage: Ardfield.
Jason McSweeney (Dunmanway)
(Seeded at No. 18 in a Ford Fiesta R5 and co-driven by Dublin Pike’s Liam Brennan)
‘We have done some work to the car and we’ve put in new driveshafts. Galway was a bit of a disaster for us so hopefully, we will have better luck this weekend. If our times are in the top 15 I would be happy. It’s a serious entry. It’s always good to compete in your local event and there is always a great atmosphere around the place. In terms of strategy, I will try to go as quickly as I can from the very first stage and make a better effort than Galway. I want to go near enough to full steam at the start.
In Galway, I went backwards into a fence, bent the exhaust and the car went on fire. In terms of the others in the right-hand drive cars, Garry Jennings will be the one to set the pace and we will see how close we can get to him.’
Favourite stage: Sam’s Cross.
Kevin Kelleher (Clonakilty)
(Seeded at 19 in a Ford Fiesta R5 and co-driven by Macroom’s William Lynch)
‘Since the Mayo Rally, Kenny McKinstry has got a right-hand drive Fiesta R5 and I will take that this weekend. I really can’t wait to have a go in a modern car, it’s been a long time since I have been in one. I would like to be the first West Cork driver home.
The R5s are a very competitive car and looking back at Mayo and making a comparison with the Subaru WRC and the R5s, the R5 car is quicker out of the junctions, down the straights, the World Car is gaining nothing power wise, they are gone too long in the tooth and they are also 170kgs too heavy in comparison to the R5.
It will be nice to have some modern technology. From a local perspective, Daniel (Cronin) will be hard to beat, he has good R5 seat time.’
Favourite stage: Ballinascarthy.
Meanwhile, Kilnamartyra co-driver JJ Cremin will call the pacenotes for Limerick’s Keith Lyons (Ford Fiesta R5) and they are seeded at No. 15.