THE O’Connell Group Cork ‘20’ International Rally swings into action this weekend with the four contenders for the Acesigns Signmakers Irish Tarmac Rally Championship heading the entry that is somewhat disappointing despite the change of date that has brought the event forward by some four weeks.
That will matter little to the quartet of drivers — Monaghan’s Josh Moffett, Welsh ace Meirion Evans, Trillick’s Alastair Fisher and Claudy’s Callum Devine.
Collectively, they have served up some fascinating battles in the opening five rounds of the campaign where Moffett (Hyundai i20 R5) has registered three wins and two second places.
Such performances, particularly his victories in the Galway International, West Cork and Donegal, has propelled him into a sizeable 27 points advantage over Evans.
If Moffett felt he was denied a Circuit of Ireland win, he’s had the rub of the green in both Killarney and Donegal. In Killarney, he was off form and seemed set to take third until rally leader Fisher went off the road on the final stage and Moffett inherited second behind Devine.
In Donegal, he began the final day in fourth but when his rivals hit trouble, he came through to snatch the spoils.
The change of date for ‘The 20” means it’s no longer the final round, that status is now with the Ulster Rally in some three weeks’ time where ITRC crews are on double points.
With 34 points on offer for the Newry-based event, it means that the series will not be decided over this weekend’s 14-stage event on the roads around Rathcormac and Glenville.
Moffett is the only one of the four to have scored in all rounds to date, he can afford a non-finish but such is his nature, victory is top of his agenda, he just doesn’t like losing. When asked to name one of the other three drivers that he would you like to see winning the series, he responded, “To be honest no one else at this stage.” It is that type of determination and resilience that has seen him dominate Irish rallying and he has already bagged this season’s Triton Showers-backed national series with six straight wins.
Last year’s rally winner Devine (38 points behind Moffett) has the most difficult task and can tack on all his points from both this event and the Ulster, however, he needs to put as many places between himself and Moffett this weekend to have a sporting chance. It’s a pretty similar task for both Evans and Fisher, the latter would really like to win in Cork.
Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (VW Polo GTi R5) is the top Cork driver, he is seeded at number five and given the set-up of his car is much improved since his fifth-place finish in Killarney, he will be expecting an improvement in performance.
He will be followed off the start line by Dunmanway’s David Guest onboard last year’s Cork ‘20’ winning Ford Fiesta Rally2 and buoyed by his third place in the recent Stonethrowers Rally, he will be aiming for a top six finish. Both Derry’s Desi Henry (Ford Fiesta Rally2) and Dubliner Gareth MacHale (VW Polo GTi R5) have withdrawn their entries - leaving the top ten start list to feature Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien (VW Polo GTi R5), Wexford’s Thomas Stafford (Darrian T90), Mallow native Sarah Purcell (Skoda Fabia R5) and Glounthaune’s Denis Moynihan (Ford Fiesta R5).
Stafford’s rivals in the two-wheel drive category are Donegal’s Declan Gallagher (Toyota Starlet) and Midleton’s Colin Byrne (Ford Escort), the latter is second to Stafford in the ITRC modified standings.
Meanwhile, a strong East Cork contingent includes Daragh O’Riordan (Ford Fiesta S2000), Mark Dolphin (Ford Escort), Allen Treacy (Toyota Corolla), Cian Walsh (Toyota Corolla) and Kevin Dolphin (Ford Escort).
Elsewhere, there are places for Millstreet’s Colin Moynihan (Ford Escort), Reenascreeena’s Seamus Ronan (Honda Civic)and Youghal’s Jason Ryan (Toyota Starlet).
In the Historic section, Glounthaune’s Luke McCarthy and his Ballincollig co-driver Brian Duggan (Ford Escort) are in contention for a category win in the series and with double points on offer, will be hoping for a strong outing. So too will Welshman Neil Williams (Ford Escort) and his Ardfield co-driver Anthony O’Sullivan, who are also in the title equation.
Tomorrow’s opening stage (Caherduggan) starts at 10.10am. The day’s action is over a loop of three stages repeated thrice. Sunday’s itinerary is a triple run over Badger’s Hill and Chimneyfield. The service park is at the Cork Marts facility near Rathcormac and the finish at the Radisson Blu Hotel is at 4.30pm on Sunday.