Motorsport: Bumper Cork 20 entry as rallying returns

'I was astounded at the response by competitors and I commend them for their input and support, we received 168 entries in total.'
Motorsport: Bumper Cork 20 entry as rallying returns

Dunmanway's David Guest and his Mitchelstown co-driver Jonathan McGrath (Ford Fiesta R5) are one of several local crews competing in this weekend’s O’Connell Group Cork ’20’ International Rally. Picture: Martin Walsh.

THE Munster Car Club spearheads the return of Irish rallying under the banner of Motorsport Ireland with Sunday’s nine-stage O’Connell Group Cork ‘20’ International Rally.

Ironically, County Cork was the first county to suffer the loss of a rally when the West Cork Rally was cancelled less than 48 hours before it was due to start in Clonakilty in March 2020.

The ‘20’ is one of six rallies scheduled between this weekend and the final week of November.

For the Munster Car Club organisers and according to clerk of the course, Kevin O’Riordan, the short timeline in organising the event was the biggest challenge.

“Once rallying got the green light to restart after the 18-month lay-off, it gave us a time frame of six weeks.

“Normally, preparations would be spread over a six to eight-month period. 

The necessary road closing application and approval of regulations were other key elements and I must commend the residents along the rally route for the positivity and welcome we received.”

Unlike other years, the club has over 150 entries and that has taken O’Riordan by surprise.

“People were saying that we would get a good entry but I wasn’t convinced. However,

I was astounded at the response by competitors and I commend them for their input and support, we received 168 entries in total.

“Of course, we will have some withdrawals, that is normal procedure, the entry is fantastic.”

Winners of the 2019 event Clonmel’s Roy White and his Dromtarriffe co-driver James O’Brien in their Ford Fiesta WRC are the top seeds.

Their last outing was the 2019 Mayo Rally where they finished second overall, like many others, they will be making their return to rallying in Cork. Opposition is predominantly of the R5 contingent with Donegal’s Donagh Kelly (VW Polo GTi R5) leading that particular charge, he is another driver without a competitive drive since the restrictions.

It’s a different scenario for the likes of Monaghan brothers Sam and Josh Moffett in their respective Ford Fiesta R5 Mk. 2 and Hyundai i20 R5 and Derry’s
Callum Devine (Ford Fiesta R5 Mk. 2).

The Moffett brothers are contesting the British Rally Championship and have three events under their belt, Sam won the opening round in Oulton Park earlier in the season. Both are former Cork ‘20’ winners and should be at the cutting edge.

For Devine, it’s a return to an event he seemed destined to win back in 2019 until he withdrew during the opening leg with mechanical issues. Since then, he has participated in rounds of the European Rally Championship, however, he hasn’t shown the type of form that he
displayed during the 2019 Irish Tarmac series, particularly in Donegal and Cork.

Welsh ace Meirion Evans and Donegal’s Declan Boyle will steer VW Polo GTi R5’s from the Melvyn Evans Motorsport stable.

Boyle has switched to a Polo for this event and also the forthcoming Donegal Harvest Rally before deciding on his 2022 plans.

Ovens driver Owen Murphy will debut his Ford Fiesta R5 from the number nine slot, with Rosscarbery’s Jonathan O’Mahony calling the notes, he has stated he will be content should his pace be close to the top drivers by the end of the event.

Other Cork entries are Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin, Dunmanway’s David Guest and Glounthaune’s Denis Moynihan, all in Ford Fiesta R5’s and Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy (Citroen DS3 R5).

Dunmanway's Jason McSweeney (left) and Blackpool's Liam Brennan will campaign a right hand drive Ford Fiesta R5 in this weekend's O'Connell Group Cork International Rally. Picture: Martin Walsh.
Dunmanway's Jason McSweeney (left) and Blackpool's Liam Brennan will campaign a right hand drive Ford Fiesta R5 in this weekend's O'Connell Group Cork International Rally. Picture: Martin Walsh.

Dunmanway’s Jason McSweeney will pilot a right-hand drive Ford Fiesta R5 that, according to the organisers, is not eligible for the International section.

Elsewhere, Kilcrohane’s Jer O’Donovan will campaign a Skoda Fabia S2000.

In the National section, the Class 14 entry features Midleton’s Colin Byrne, Cobh’s Neil Phelan and Midleton’s Kevin Dolphin, all in Mk. 2 Escorts. Glanmire brothers Eamon and Paul O’Connell will debut their new Ford Escorts in Class 11F.

While it is the first time in well over a decade that the organisers will start close to 150 crews, it will also provide the Munster club with revenue as they have struggled for entries in recent years. In addition, it will boost the coffers of Motorsport Ireland, who have received no revenue from rally events since March 2020.

Saturday’s test stage is near Watergrasshill with servicing at the Kartworld facility.

On Sunday, the first of the nine stages begins at 10am. Servicing is at the Cork Marts facility at Corrin near Fermoy.

The rally finishes at the event headquarters, the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa in Little Island at 5.15pm.

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