THE Cork ‘20’ International Rally is a special event for Glanmire’s Denis Moynihan, who will drive a Ford Fiesta R5 on the nine-stage encounter next weekend - the fifth occasion he will be at the wheel of a car that now dominates the top end of Irish rallying.
Realistically, Moynihan is still learning the R5 craft, eighth overall on the 2019 event is his best result to date.
Prior to joining the R5 ranks, he competed in Historic rallying in a Mk. 1 Ford Escort and success was a constant, particularly in the ‘20’ and also in Killarney.
“I have had a number of good results (in the ‘20’) but my first overall victory in the Historic section in 2009 was very special.” He also won in 2014, adding, “2012 was the only non-finish I had on the Cork ‘20’ - I got too friendly with a few bales on the stage at Lough Allua.”
Victories across the county bounds were plentiful, he took the spoils in the Historic Rally of the Lakes in 2008, 2009 and in 2018. In 2014 and 2015, he won the Rally of the Lakes when it was a counting round of the European Historic Rally Championship.
However, switching from a Mk. 1 Ford Escort to the R5 within the family of the Blue Oval is a very different ball game. Probably like many more, he hasn’t turned a wheel in anger since the 2019 Cork ‘20’ International Rally. The ‘20’ is the first multi-stage rally in some eighteen months and also like many more, he has missed the sport.
“I missed the competition, camaraderie and the buzz of rallying. Not having to worry about oncoming cars and driving as quick as possible on the stages. Now as the country is opening up again it’s definitely time for rallying to start up like all other sports.”
He also reckons it will take time to get back to the pace he was on pre-Covid.
“Yes, of course, I expect it will take a few rallies.”
Moynihan has concerns about the future of the sport “Motorsport Ireland need to learn one of the most important rules of business, which is to look after your customer, who in this case are the competitors. It deters young and new competitors when the expense is so much and we need them (young competitors) to keep our sport alive.
“Keep driving up the expense and we’ll have fewer competitors and less rallying.”
Moynihan also plans to compete in the RAC Roger Albert Clark Rally in the end of November.
For now, next week’s rally is his main focus and he is realistic about his own expectations – “A top 20 finish,” as he tipped Derry’s Callum Devine to win the event.
Other confirmed entries are Donegal’s Declan Boyle and Donagh Kelly in VW Polo GTi’s, Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5 Mk. 2), Josh Moffett (Hyundai i20 R5). 2019 event winners Clonmel’s Roy White and his Dromtarriffe co-driver James O’Brien are set to occupy the number one slot in their Ford Fiesta WRC.
The Mayo Rally in early March 2020 was the last Irish stage rally action. In recent months, a new competitor’s group has been formed under the banner of the IRC (Irish Rally Competitors, chaired by Glountahune’s Luke McCarthy) with over 800 members.
They aim to seek recognition from Motorsport Ireland, amongst their plans is the lowering of competing costs. They are very much in favour of the use of trackers - a system that allows organisers monitor the progress of cars on the stages - that is viewed as a key factor in increasing safety in rallying.
Meanwhile, in motorcycling, Cork riders Mike Browne and Stephen Tobin compete in this weekend’s KDM Hire Cookstown 100 Road Races in County Tyrone.
Killeagh’s Browne is looking forward to racing the Suzuki GSX-R1000 following his debut in Armoy last month. He also races with the Burrows Engineering outfit in the Supersport category on a Yamaha R6 and in the lightweight category with Gary Dunlop’s team on a Moto3, where he seeks back-to-back wins.
Kinsale’s Tobin will also have a number of races where he will ride his Yamaha FZR400SP and a Kawasaki ZX6R. Michael Dunlop will not be competing as he’s been drafted into the Dynavolt Triumph team for the BSB series at Silverstone.