THE CBtoolhire.com Cork 20 International Rally that begins on Saturday morning, rounds off the competitive action in this season’s Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.
Although the Munster Car Club organised event has 50% bonus points on offer, the title has already been secured by Waterford’ s Craig Breen and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle, who are not on the entry list.
The top seed is Derry’s Callum Devine (Ford Fiesta R5), who, despite the fact that it's his first full season in an R5 car, is probably the driver of the season.
In Donegal, he led all the established stars over the opening stage and that included Breen, Sam Moffett and Declan Boyle - a trio that opted to campaign the more powerful Fiesta WRC’s in order to have the best shot at winning the north-west classic.
Devine arrives in Cork as the favourite but he will be aware that he will have to work hard for what will be his first International Rally win. The major challenge is likely to come from Draperstown’s Marty McCormack, who is set to give the Volkswagen Polo GTi R5 is Irish rally debut.
While there is no doubting McCormack’s ability much will depend on how the car will handle over the iconic stages around Macroom. Belfast’s Jonny Greer (Fiesta R5) slots in between Devine and McCormack and ahead of Welsh driver Meirion Evans, who will campaign a Skoda Fabia R5. Last year he piloted a Hyundai i20 R5 to third overall and a similar result this weekend would represent a season-best result.
For whoever wins it will also be a first International win as no driver on the entry list has previously won a round of the Tarmac. Last year’s winner Clonmel’s Roy White became the 10th driver to claim a first International win at the Cork 20 Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin warmed up for this weekend with a second-place finish to White on the recent Dougie Hughes Memorial Clare Rally.
“I’m looking forward to it, I am happy with the car and hopefully we will be competitive.”
With a liking for the opening stage, Kilnamartyra, it is imperative for Cronin to get through that classic unscathed, he will be co-driven by Killarney’s Shane Buckley.
Waterford’s Andrew Purcell drives his right-hand drive Fiesta R5 with Blackpool’s Liam Brennan on the notes, because of the ITRC regulations, they are only eligible for a class award. Newly crowned Irish Forest Rally champion Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt (Ford Fiesta R5) will have Millstreet’s Liam Moynihan calling the notes, for McCourt it is very much preparation for a full ITRC season in 2020.
A late change to the entry sees former five-time Tarmac champion Eugene Donnelly handing over the drive in the Proton Iriz R5 to Killarney’s Rob Duggan. This will be Duggan’s second outing in an R5, last year he drove a Fiesta R5 to an impressive fourth in Donegal. The car may not be at the cutting edge as it’s still a work in progress but Duggan will extract the maximum.
Meanwhile, Dunmanway’s David Guest (Skoda Fabia S2000) occupies the number nine slot and a repeat of last year’s fourth overall will be a great result. In addition, he could wrap up the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship. Chepstow driver Sacha Kakad (Ford Fiesta R5) completes the top 10.
Elsewhere, promising Derry driver Jordan Hone will debut a Fiesta R5 with the marque also being piloted by Glounthaune’s Denis Moynihan, Limerick’s Keith Lyons, Somerset’s Martyn England with Louth’s Eugene Meegan at the wheel of a Citroen DS3 R5, unfortunately, Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy has been forced to withdraw his entry as the engine of his Citroen DS3 R5 will not be ready in time.
The Modified entry features the Escorts of Armagh’s Damien Toner and Carlow’s David Condell, who are vying for the ITRC Modified crown. For the likes of Midleton’s Colin Byrne (Ford Escort), Monaghan’s Richard Moffett (Toyota Starlet), Donegal’s JR McDaid (Ford Escort) event success is the goal. Meath’s Brian Brady (Honda Civic) and Killarney’s Colin O’Donoghue (Ford Escort) should be close to the more seasoned regulars.
The traditional Group N award within the ITRC will be decided over the two days between Fermanagh’s Willie Mavitty (Mitsubishi EvoIX) and Welsh driver Andy Davies (Subaru).
Dunmanway’s Jason McSweeney (Mitsubishi EvoIX) will be hoping to end the season on a high, his outings all year have been blighted with problems.
Other Cork entries are Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan (Ford Escort), Killeagh’s Allen Treacy (Toyota Corolla), Cobh’s Neil Phelan, Togher’s Jason O’Brien in Ford Escorts and Carrigaline’s Eric Calnan (Peugeot 106). The Historic section will be led away by defending ITRC champion Ovens ace Owen Murphy (Talbot Sunbeam Lotus) with opposition featuring Swords driver Robert Barrable, Glounthaune’s Luke McCarthy and Galway’s George Cullen, all in Ford Escorts, the latter will be co-driven by Pat Cashman.
Based at the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Little Island, there are five stages tomorrow (Kilnamartyra (x3) and Lough Allua (2). Sunday’s stages are at Mullaghanish (x2), Mushera (x3) and Butter Road (x3), the service park for both days is at the IDA Industrial Estate in Macroom.
The finish is at the Radisson Blu Hotel on Sunday evening is scheduled for 5.10pm. Meanwhile, four Cork competitors are amongst a group of seven co-drivers selected to join the MI Rally Academy until the end of 2020. They are Inchigeelagh’s Eamonn Creedon (28), Barryroe’s Dylan Doonan (21), Carrigrohane’s Derek O’Brien (32) and Dromtarriffe’s Grace O’Brien (31).