HUGE crowds watched Waterford’s Craig Breen and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle (Fiesta R5) take victory in Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally, a round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and the British Rally Championship.
At the conclusion of the 15-stage event they finished 22.2 seconds in front of Fermanagh’s Alastair Fisher (Fiesta R5) and his co-driver Gordon Noble. Welsh driver Tom Cave and co-driver James Morgan (Hyundai i20 R5) netted third and top points in the British Rally Championship, 15.1 seconds further behind.
Stormy conditions prevailed as the crews set off on the iconic Ring stage where Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Fiesta R5) edged into a 1.1 second lead with Robert Barrable (Hyundai i20 R5) on his first outing in some nine months holding second with Welsh driver Tom Cave a further 2.2 seconds behind. Donegal’s Declan Boyle bowed out of contention when he dropped over seven minutes when his Fiesta R5 suffered a loss of power while Clonakilty driver Cal McCarthy retired his Citroen DS3R5 after he spun and burst the radiator on the opening stage.
As the rain eased, Breen settled quickly and from fifth on the opening stage was the new rally leader by the second stage at Dunworley where he was 2.9 seconds ahead of Josh Moffett. Donegal’s Manus Kelly (Hyundai) retired after losing a rear wheel following a high-speed spin.
Both stages were repeated and at the early afternoon service halt in Darrara Breen was 11.9 seconds ahead of Moffett with Fisher, having sorted the rear of his Fiesta, just three seconds further behind.
Admitting that he wasn’t committing to the stages, Sam Moffett, who was fourth clipped a rock (SS 4) and damaged a wheel rim.
Both Barrable and Welsh ace Tom Cave claimed they suffered from the mud that was being brought out on the road by those running ahead. The local challenge was diluted when Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin retired his Ford Fiesta due to overheating. Derry’s Desi Henry and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan retired following an altercation that damaged the rear of their Skoda Fabia.
Even when the stages switched locations to Rossmore and Sam’s Cross, both of which were repeated, there was no let up from Breen. He was quickest on all four and also at the short “town” stage and arrived at the overnight halt with a 26.8 second advantage.
Fisher was second and Matt Edwards (Fiesta) third – 20.8 seconds further back. Josh Moffett slid to eighth after he broke the propshaft of his Fiesta leaving the start line of S.S. 6.
Donagh Kelly, on his debut in a Skoda Fabia R5, retired; going through S.S. 5 he came upon the Skoda Fabia of David Bogie that spun, having to stop quickly Kelly ended up wedging his car between the West Cork fences and retiring.
Bogie eventually got back on track and was credited with his actual time that dropped him away down the order. Tom Cave ended the day in fourth and on the tails of Edwards with Sam Moffett, Devine and Barrable next in classification.
Yesterday, in sunny conditions, Breen kept most of his overnight lead, a spin on SS 13 was the only blemish over the entire two days. Fisher took a deserved second while Cave gained third place early yesterday, then lost the position to his rival Edwards but regained it on the final pair of stages.
Edwards in fourth was followed by a somewhat out of sorts Sam Moffett, who just about managed to repel the charge of West Cork Rally debutant Callum Devine also in a Fiesta. Josh Moffett came home in seventh with Barrable eighth.
Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia R5) and Jonny Greer (Fiesta R5) completed he top ten Dunmanway’s David Guest (Skoda Fabia S2000) and his Mitchelstown co-driver Jonathan McGrath were the top County Cork crew, they finished thirteenth overall, their only mishap was a puncture on stage 13, Clogagh.
Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Escort) was a popular winner of the Modified category and entertained the fans throughout the fifteen stages. Cavan’s Gary Kiernan led until he retired his Escort with a blown engine on Stage 13. Dunmanway’s Conor McCarthy (Mitsubishi) and his Dripsey co-driver Darren O’Brien were third in the Modified section.