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West Cork Rally
RALLY NEWS No.1 - Pre start - Saturday @ 09:36:42

RALLY NEWS NO.1 Quality Hotel Clonakilty Saturday morning

Daffodils by the side of the motorway to Cork gave a hint of what was to come – the sunny side of the stone had turned up for St. Patrick`s weekend and a balmy weekend is forecast for The West Cork Rally. The bulging entry for the rally isn’t so dull either. The top six seeds contain four former winners – Denis Cronin, Daragh O`Riordan, Melvyn Evans and Robert Barrable. The first three of those are in World Rally Cars and are quite capable of winning again. Robert Barrable won in 2011 driving a Skoda S2000 car. This time he is in a Fiesta R5, which in theory may struggle to match the WRC machines. It is fair to say that the first day`s stages will be a challenge for the R5 car in terms of outright top speed. However the Tunnocks backed state of the art car could go particularly well over the Sunday stages, and it would be a mistake to rule Robert out of the winning frame.

There are more potential winners – Donegal man Donagh Kelly for instance. He may never have sampled the delights of fabulous stages such as the Ring, Ardfield and Sam`s Cross, but if Donagh has a decent run he will surely be right on the pace. An engineer from M-Sport flew into Cork airport last night and hurried down to Clonakilty to give Donagh`s Focus WRC the once over with his all seeing computer, so the car should be in top fettle. Two last minute entries, one from local man Kevin Kelleher in his Impreza WRC, the other from Wexford`s James Stafford in his very powerful lightweight Darrian, could cause a stir at the top of the leaderboard. For Kelleher it has been a race against time to get his car ready. The spanners have been flying all week in the Kelleher workshop to get the engine and transmission installed in the Subaru. For James Stafford, the promise of dry roads is multi-valve music to his ears, meaning all the power from the Darrian getting down on to the tarmac with the minimum of fuss.

There are several more drivers, such as Owen Murphy, who was 2nd here last year in his Lancer, or current Forestry Champion Mick O’Brien in his Focus WRC who could figure very highly. The rally is about a lot more than outright victory of course. Being a round of the Modified division of the Clonakilty Black Pudding Tarmac Championship, as well as the Plasticbags.ie series, the spotlight will certainly be on the Escorts, Civics and so on. Especially in the limelight is Donegal man Declan Gallagher and his amazing little RWD Starlet. Declan leads the Modified section of the Tarmac series, following a jaw dropping driving display on the Galway Rally. Frank Kelly drove an exemplary rally here last year and finished 6th o/a and best Escort. He will certainly need to be on his toes to repeat that performance this time as he is in a newly built Millington engined car, and because the engine didn`t arrive until the very last moment, he has not had a chance to do a reconnaissance. Frank will have to rely on co-driver Liam Brennan singing out the notes spot on time and in tune!

Alan Ring in his GpN Impreza was to be at No.10 but unfortunately mechanical problems means he will be non-starting. This shifts the GpN spotlight to drivers such as Brian O’Keefe in his similar Impreza and Rory Byrne in his immaculate Modern Tyres Lancer R4. Stephen Carey in his Civic is another potential GpN winner.
An additional facet of the rally is the Historic Section plus the Junior category that joins in on Sunday. Adrian Kermode heads the Historic section in his beautiful Porsche, with former Tarmac Champion John Coyne, now resident in California at H2 in the original Sunbeam Lotus with which he won the Tarmac series. John has his Championship winning co-driver Christie Farrell sitting with him this weekend as well. One of the non-starters from the original list is Scotsman Billy McLelland. His Lancer reportedly has camshaft troubles. His co-driver Alister Wylie is now sitting with Pat Kearney in the Sepam Lancer at 66.

More news later: BRIAN & LIZ PATTERSON www.rallynews.net *Follow RallyNews on Twitter @Pacenotes or @Real_RallyNews

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