top of page

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members ready for the challenges of a three-day West Cork Rally

Some Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members will get to experience the challenges of night rallying for the first time this weekend. The 2024 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship heads south to Clonakilty for West Cork Rally’s Saint Patrick’s weekend classic.

The hugely popular event will take place over three days for the first time with crews taking on extra stages on Friday including a loop in darkness.

Leading the Academy charge in West Cork is reigning Junior World Rally Champions William Creighton and his co-driver Liam Regan. The pair have just announced an assault on the British Rally Championship in the same M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 that they are using at World Rally Championship events this season.

Before their international campaign gets fully underway the pair have decided to enter West Cork. Creighton’s experience of the event stretches as far back as 2016 behind the wheel of a Peugeot 208 R2, before tackling the event last year in his Fiesta Rally3, finishing a staggering ninth overall.

This will be his first outing in a Rally2 on closed roads in Ireland.

“This will be my first time competing at an ITRC event in a top category car and there is a huge buzz about the series with the level of competition this year, so I have no doubt it is going to be an enjoyable St. Patrick’s weekend. The support on the stages is always amazing and it is great to be able to catch up with all the people that have been supporting me on my Junior WRC journey over the years,” said Creighton.

“Together with the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, we have a fantastic WRC2 programme lined up in the M-Sport Fiesta Rally2. The WRC2 category is extremely competitive and with our next World Championship event taking place on asphalt in Croatia, West Cork provides a fantastic opportunity to get our first kilometres on tarmac in the car. The event is tough and it is going to be a hugely competitive three days of rallying amongst the ITRC regulars, but it is valuable seat time I`ll be aiming for and using it as an extended test session towards the rest of the season.”

Reigning Triton Showers Motorsport Ireland National junior rally champion Jack McKenna steps up to the big class for the first time.

After years of campaigning Honda Civics and the odd outing in a Ford Escort Mk2, the Monaghan-based driver will make his debut in a Ford Fiesta R5 this weekend.

“I am looking forward to it, it is going to be a completely new experience. Up to now I have only driven a Ford Escort and a Honda Civic so it is going to be completely different but I cannot wait to get at it,” said McKenna.

“‘I have never been in West Cork before but I have heard great things and it has always been a rally on my to-do list. To get to do it in a Ford Fiesta  R5 is more than I could have imagined when I was competing in the Junior Honda Civic last year.”

As ever, the bulk of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crews are competing in Class RC4 for Rally4 cars.

Academy drivers make up five of this 15-strong class and three of them have registered for the new-for-2024 Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup.

Ryan MacHugh and Declan Boyle are the top Rally4 seeds in their Ford Fiesta Rally4 after sealing a last-minute victory in Galway over Keelan Grogan.

He contested the West Cork Rally in 2022 but this will be his first experience of night stages. MacHugh and Boyle are looking forward to the challenge of being the top seed in the three-day event.

“To add another day to them great stages is going to be exciting,” said MacHugh.

“I have never driven in the dark but it is always an exciting new challenge that has to be learned in rallying.”

“From watching the DVD the stages seem incredibly fast stages and tricky. I did West Cork  in 2022 so I kind of know what the stages are like down there and being away first on the road for the second international [rally of the year]  is something we are really looking forward to.”

Billy Coleman Award finalist Craig Rahill and co-driver Conor Smith are seeded just behind MacHugh in a similar Ford Fiesta Rally4.

While the Cavan crew has some experience of night stages, the Bushwhacker last September being an example,  they continue their steep learning curve in Rally4 machinery.

Focus this year is on the Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series and perfecting pacenote making.

“We wanted to do West Cork to get good seat time in the car on tarmac and see where our pace is at against the lads, we felt more comfortable as the day progressed in Mayo but will be looking to try out different setups and try different things over the weekend,” said Rahill.

“This will be our second time writing our own notes and we were very happy with them in Mayo. We will  be looking to improve on them in some areas for next weekend, this will be our second three-day event as we did Donegal last year, it will be a long week and a tough weekend.”

Grogan and co-driver Ayrton Sherlock return to action in West Cork for the first time since the Killarney Forestry Rally in their Peugeot 208 Rally4. They will be also chasing points in the Stellantis Cup and like MacHugh, have some night driving experience.

“There is also an added excitement with this being the opening round of the new Stellantis Cup. This has brought a big Rally4 entry so it is looking like it will be a very competitive weekend,” said the Leitrim-based driver.

“I have only done two stages in the dark on the Bushwhacker last year so it will be interesting to see the difference between tarmac and gravel in the dark. I think we will just have to make sure our pacenotes are written well and then have the confidence to drive to them. The new three-day format will be tough on both man and machine.”

Cian Caldwell and Liam Egan will be hoping to put their recent run of bad luck behind them and like Grogan are also registered for the Stellantis Cup.

“I am looking forward to starting the Stellantis Cup Championship in West Cork,” said the County Meath-based driver.

“Two night stages to start the weekend off will be something new to me so loads to be learned.”

“I have always wanted to do a night stage so I am looking forward to the challenge. I completed the recce and some great stages lie ahead – they are very fast and flowing.”

Kyle McBride and co-driver Darragh Mullen are the third Academy crew in a Peugeot and they have aspirations to compete in Europe this season. However, the last time the three Peugeot drivers went head-to-head in Killarney last month it was the young Donegal driver who emerged victorious.

But that event was on gravel and this is his first event on tar in the new-for-2024 Peugeot. It is also his first time doing a three-day event.

He said:“I am really looking forward to the weekend, first time doing this event and my first time doing a three-day event. It is going to be a baptism of fire.”

The West Cork Rally is all about getting used to the car and honing his pacenote skills.

“We will improve all our notes and the car set-up throughout the weekend. The  whole idea of doing this event is trying to get the car set up properly and try out things and see what works best and what does not work so it is going to be a very big learning curve this weekend” added McBride

Text by Sean Moriarty



bottom of page