2023 Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally Preview

Meirion Evans & Jonathan Jackson

The 43rd Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally is just over a week away and the entry list has revealed a very exciting line up of drivers and machinery. The main field is oversubscribed with over 190 crews listed, and top of that list are Josh Moffett & Andy Hayes by virtue of their win in Clonakilty last year. The Hyundai crew will have their work cut out with many behind them capable of taking their crown. At number two is Callum Devine & Noel O’Sullivan (VW Polo R5) who led for a time last year before mechanical failure put them out. The recent win on the Midlands Moto Rally will have them in fine form heading to the southwest. Welsh crew and winners of Galway Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson are at three in a VW Polo and Meirion will be looking to emulate his dad Melvyn who won West Cork twice in the past.

The Citroen C3 is starting to get competitive on Irish tarmac and a number of examples are coming to   Clonakilty, with Cathan McCourt & Liam Moynihan the highest seeded crew at four, they will be looking to build on a strong performance in Galway. Sam Moffett & Keith Moriarty are at 5 in the new generation Hyundai i20 N Rally 2, and Sam has competed on West Cork more times than anyone else in the top ten and always goes well in Clonakilty. Robert Barrable at six is a former winner of the event, and with vastly experienced Gordon Noble on the notes will be extremely competitive in the Citroen C3. Two more Citroens are at seven  and eight, Jonny Greer & Niall Burns always compete strongly in West Cork and Jonny was unfortunate to retire on the final stage last year, while behind him Desi Henry & Paddy Robinson will be making the switch from Ford to the French marque.

Declan Boyle and Patrick Walsh are at nine in a VW Polo, with West Cork debutant Gareth MacHale & Brian Murphy in a similar car at number ten. Outside of the top ten there are more Citroens in the hands of Owen Murphy / Anthony Nestor, David Kelly & Dean O’Sullivan, and Cal McCarthy & Eric Calnan. David Guest, Jason McSweeney, Keith Lyons and Aaron McLaughlin are in Fiestas while Aaron MacHale & Derek Brannigan compete in a VW Polo.

The modified entry is very strong with the Escorts of Gary Kiernan, Daniel McKenna, Conor Murphy and Ed O’Callaghan being challenged by the Toyotas of Jason Black and Kevin Eves, with a number of other very fast drivers right on their tails. William Creighton & Liam Regan take a break from the JWRC to get some tarmac miles in the Fiesta Rally 3, the crew finished a fantastic seventh overall last year. Another interesting entry is that of Craig Breen & Paul Nagle seeded at 42 in the Ford Sierra Cosworth, which they campaigned on last years Killarney Historic Rally.

The Historic section is well supported with thirty crews entered, and favourites are sure to be top seeds Neil Williams & Anthony O’Sullivan who came out on top last year. They won’t have it all their own way though, as they are followed by Meirion Evans, Sebastian Ling, Duncan Williams, Ray Been, Fergus O’Meara and Mark Falvey. The Junior category has eleven crews entered with locals Darragh O’Donovan & Michael White the top seeds.

Clogagh and Ballinascarthy will be the opening stages on Saturday 18th March with service after every two stages. Ring & Dunworley make up the afternoon quartet of tests before the crews head to Parc Ferme. On Sunday the six stages are Shanaway, Sam’s Cross and Ardfield with service in between the loop of three stages. The first car will be due back at the finish ramp at 3:45pm.

Service over the weekend will take place at Darrara Agricultural College and the live rally results can be found on www.irallyresults.com. The rally will be streamed fully by HM Productions and a link to the action will appear on the Samdec Irish Tarmac Rally Championship YouTube channel shortly before the event. Killian Duffy’s popular onthepacenote.net will also be bringing end of stage coverage throughout the weekend.

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