St Patrick’s weekend sees the 39th running of the world famous West Cork Rally based in the picturesque town of Clonakilty.
It’s a very special event for me as I am in the very fortunate position to get to co-drive for my brother at this year’s event for the first time ever. Not only that, but we are both travelling from Boston and Singapore respectfully (a total round trip of 32,190km) to meet up in the town that is known not just for this fantastic rally, but for the world famous Clonakilty Black Pudding, the event’s main sponsors.
West Cork Rally
The first West Cork Rally was run in 1977 and won by famous local man Billy Coleman driving a Ford Escort RS1800. Times may have changed but the Ford Escort is still very much a car of choice for many rally drivers. I personally think it’s the most beautiful car to watch at rallies and if you were ever fortunate to see the likes of the late Colin McRae drive this car, you will know what I mean. There is an amazing in-car video of him driving the famous Molls Gap stage in The 2005 Killarney Rally in his escort that that is well worth a watch.
So how do crews prepare for this event?
Depending on whether you are out to win or simply get to the finish, crews will prepare in very different ways. All crews are allowed to pass through the stages in a road car at a slow speed in the days leading up to the event where they will practice reading Pacenotes. Pacenotes are a set of written down notes that accurately describe a rallying route to be driven in extreme detail. The co-driver (yours truly) will call these notes to the driver for him to check which is a critical exercise considering cars reach speeds of over 150kph on race day – getting these notes wrong can be very costly! Rally cars are prepped months, days and often hours in advance (all-niters are not just for exam crashers!) and mechanics are kept very busy all throughout the weekend. These mechanics are the real unsung heroes of the event and usually survive on very little sleep but lots of Guinness!
This year, my brother and I are taking part in a very competitive Ford Fiesta ST. The car was previously owned by Alistair Fisher whose family are well known in the rallying circles with Alistair being the nephew of much loved and missed rally driver Bertie Fisher. The car is a front wheel drive 2ltr spec which makes it a very quick drive. It is known to ‘behave’ itself a bit more than other rear wheel drive cars so we’re hoping for a good, safe finish.
This year’s West Cork rally has one of the biggest entries so will be something of a treat for spectators. Not only that, but it is arguably one of the best spectating rallies for young and old. Friday night sees a ceremonial start in Clonakilty town centre while Saturday and Sunday’s stages are all close to town and so very accessible. For the first time in the event history, the organisers have laid on a Saturday evening stage that will start completely in the dark! This is very rare for Irish rallies and will add both a challenge and in our case I am sure a bit of fun to Saturday’s already busy day.
If you’ve always wanted to get involved in the sport, you should come along to meet drivers,co-drivers and organisers who can tell you how, be that from helping to organise the event to taking part as a co-driver or driver of the future.
Rallying for Down syndrome Awareness
Rallying is also very much a family occasion and I’m delighted to support ‘Rallying for Down syndrome Awareness‘ a Facebook group that was set up by a rally crew, parents to Down Syndrome children, to raise awareness of the potential of children with Down Syndrome and all the positivity that comes with being parents to these exceptional children and proving there really are not barries to entry in rallying.
Most importantly the weekend is about safety. Safety for the crews and safety for the spectators. Please always listen to the marshalls. They are here to keep you safe but to help you enjoy your weekend at the same time.
So jet lag, give us both your best shot. We’ll be ready for you. Broom Broom……………..
Sinead Canny and her brother Michael are seeing car number 92 in this weekend’s West Cork Rally. For more detailed information about the event log on to www.westcorkrally.com
13th March, 2017