Owen Murphy is no stranger to the Cork 20 International Rally but the historic rallying regular will be in different company this year as he makes his R5 debut on his local event.
Murphy reckons now is the perfect time to debut his Ford Fiesta R5 as many of his rivals will be lacking recent closed-road rallying experience.
Organisers of the Cork 20 have received a remarkable 30 R5 entries as well as four World Rally Cars. Despite the strength in depth, Murphy has his eyes set on a top ten finish on the nine-stage rally.
“Once I get a mile or two in the first stage to see the car is stopping and turning in okay then I’ll be pushing as much as I can,” said Murphy. “Hopefully we will be there or thereabouts.
“This will suit me because I am used to a lot of lay-offs in rallying whereas a lot of these guys aren’t. I am used to being out for six or seven months and having to jump into the car and be straight on the pace.
“In saying that it is a new car for me so it will take a bit of time to bed into it. If I can get a day or two in it beforehand then I’ll be happy enough.
“If I could get into the top ten and start setting some times close to the top boys by the end of the day then I’ll be happy out.
“It will give us something to build on next year.
“I’m a realist as well and I know this could all go absolutely terrible and I could end up last in the R5s with the thing not handling. I’m aiming for a top ten but anything could happen.”
The 34-year-old has had to wait over 18 months to roll out his Fiesta R5 which he bought ahead of last year’s West Cork Rally. Of course this month’s Cork 20 is the first rally back in Ireland since West Cork’s highly anticipated event was cancelled.
The car has been in Murphy’s garage since and it is fair to say the Ballincollig man is excited to knock the dust off it in two weeks’ time.
While Murphy has never rallied an R5 before he did spend two years driving a Super 2000 Skoda Fabia. Second on the Clare Stages Rally and fourth on 2017’s Cork 20 were stand-out results from that stint but Murphy believes his Fiesta R5 puts him in a far better position this time around.
“Power is the big difference [between the S2000 and R5]. I found on the one day I was out in the R5, it was just a lot better everywhere really.
“It is a softer car than the S2000 was. That will suit Ireland better because the S2000 car was a fierce hard car and you just couldn’t soften it off.
“This seems a lot softer and more user-friendly than the S2000 was. It should be a lot easier to drive when I get it dialled in properly.
“I know with the new [Rally2] cars out there, they will be a bit better but I don’t think it will be the difference [that there was] between the S2000 and the R5.
“Skoda told me when I had the S2000 that they were two seconds a kilometre off the R5 cars.
“I was only coming in half a second off the boys so we shouldn’t be far off from the new cars hopefully.”
2021’s Cork 20 is set to be a who’s who of Irish rallying. Having 2006 Billy Coleman Award winner Murphy in a competitive car is just another reason why rallying’s return to Ireland should get off to a thrilling start.
Photo by Gavin Woods