meirion west cork

Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson on tier way to another podium finish (Jesoph John Gilbertson)

 

The weekend of the 19th and 20th of March saw the second round of the Irish tarmac rally championship, the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork rally run, once again held at the seaside town of Clonakilty. This year's event, organised by Cork motor club, would include 14 stages over the two days and a total of some 137 miles of competitive motoring. 

Once again Lampeter and district motor club were represented on the entry list with Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson taking the number 4 spot, they were out for a haul of points in their Irish tarmac championship campaign, again in their familiar R5 specification VW polo. Also out was Tomas Davies in his modern specification Mk2 Ford escort. He would be accompanied by Eurig Davies. They were at number 34. 

At the same time as the modern rally took place, the historic rally would also run, slightly shorter at 10 stages, this rally also saw entrants from Lampeter, with Ian Davies out in his immaculate BMW M3, he had Mark Crisp reading the notes.

The modern event would begin with two stages repeated, Ardfield and Hayes Cross, before two more repeated stages, Sam’s cross and Rossmore. The first leg’s total stage miles being just over 68 miles. 

Right from the word go the pace was once again incredibly high, and a fierce battle of the lead soon developed, with Meirion and Jonathan right in the mix among the locals. On Ardfield one, the pair managed the third quickest time, 6 minutes and 51.5 seconds. Less than three seconds separated the top three placings on this opening stage. Tomas and Eurig were one hundred and tenth on the opening stage in their escort with a time of 8 minutes and 25.4 seconds. For the first run over Hayes Cross it was once again third fastest time for Meirion and Joanthan. Their time here was 5 minutes and 42.5 seconds, 5.7 seconds down on the stage winner. This saw them drop to fourth in the overall standings, but many miles were still left to run. Tomas and Eurig had difficulties on the stage so were down in 154th overall with a stage time of 15 minutes and 50 seconds.

In the historic rally, which on the opening day would consist of Sam's cross and Rossmore repeated, saw Ian and Mark begin their day with a time of 10 minutes and 48.7 seconds, this saw them hold twenty-first overall. They set the twenty-first overall time on the following stage too, which lifted them up to twentieth in the overall standings.

Stage three, Sam’s Cross 2, was cancelled so it was back to Rossmore for the second running of that stage. This is unfortunately where Ian and Mark’s rally ended as they retired on this stage.

Back in the modern rally and with the first two stages repeated Meirion and Jonathan lay in fourth overall after having temporarily dropped down to fifth. Such was the competitiveness of the event that less than twenty seconds separated the top five after these stages. Tomas and Eurig had managed to climb up to 148th overall on the third stage but they too would unfortunately retire, on stage four of the event.

Sam’s Cross and Rossmore were next, and Meirion and Jonathan were still in the running, setting the fifth fastest time on stage five, followed by second quickest on stage six, this meant that going into the final loop of stages of the day they were now in the podium placings of third overall. They achieved third quickest on Sam’s Cross 2, and fourth quickest on Rossmore 2, so at the end of a thrilling first day they held onto their third overall standing with their total time being 54 minutes and 20.3 seconds. They were only 21.8 seconds off the leader at this stage, giving everything to play for the following day. Meirion admitted that he didn't have the best morning but did improve over the course of the day as they got going. 

Leg two of the event would include six stages, but they would be longer so the second day’s mileage was in fact very similar to the first with over 68 miles to contest. After what was a very close run first day all competitors were eager to get back to it for another fast paced leg. 

The second leg’s stages would consist of three stages, Ring, Cloghagh and Ballinascarthy, each run twice. Meirion and Jonathan achieved their first stage win, with an excellent time of 10 minutes and 3.1 seconds. They still held third overall but the gap was now only 8.2 seconds. The final stage of the loop was Ballinascarthy, Meirion and Jonathan were fourth here with the gap to the lead opening up a little but there was still a loop to go.

Back to Ring and here Meirion and Jonathan managed to climb up the leaderboard to second overall following another third fastest time. Thai was followed by second quickest time over Cloghagh 2, setting an excellent 10 minutes and 4.1 seconds, they were only 0.9 seconds off the fastest time here. This ensured they held onto their second overall standing.

The final stage of the event was the second run over Ballinascarthy, and again Meirion and Jonathan were an excellent second quickest here, just 4.4 seconds down. This meant that they finished the event in an excellent second overall, gaining valuable points in their Irish tarmac championship bid. They finished with a total time of 1 hour 51 minutes and 31.7 seconds, only 23.3 seconds down on the rally winners. After two days of on the door handles driving Meirion admitted that this was probably the closest weekend of rallying he had ever had. They are definitely knocking on the door of their first outright international win, which will do doubt come soon. The next round of the Irish tarmac championship is the Circuit of Ireland rally that takes place on the 15th and 16th of April. 

Thanks must go to Joseph John Gilbertson for the use of his image for this report.