Cathan McCourt is set to bring a different breed of rally car to Ireland’s gravel stages in 2022, starting on Sunday’s Killarney Forestry Rally.
The 2019 Irish Forest Rally Champion has acquired the two-litre powered Ford Fiesta rallied in America by Barry McKenna between 2017 and 2020. David Higgins also used the car to win last year’s New England Forest Rally.
The car was originally a Super 2000 Fiesta but has been modified over the years with additions including a turbo-charged two-litre engine and WRC bodywork.
McCourt will give the Fiesta its Irish debut on Killarney’s opening round of the Irish Forest Rally Championship. The Tyrone driver is then hoping to take it to the Fivemiletown Rally the following weekend as he bids to win his local gravel event for the first time.
“I just want to get a run in Killarney first to gauge where things are at,” McCourt told Rally Insight. “We’ll have to see as the year progresses what we end up doing.
“The local race is always the one you try to win but I have had a few bad experiences in Fivemiletown over the past few years.
“We are going to use Killarney as a test for Fivemiletown. It will help me get to grips with the car as well.
“It will be interesting to see this weekend where the pace is at because it is a new rally to everybody, everyone is making new notes and it can tell a tale of where the pace is going to be at.”
McCourt has had a quick test in his new gravel machine but despite his Fiesta’s extra power he knows his Rally2 rivals still can’t be ruled out.
“From driving it, I don’t think it will be too much further up the road in tighter conditions.
“There is one stage in Killarney that is maybe faster than the other two but Fivemiletown has tight stages.
“It is hard to gauge and we won’t know until we come out of the first stage.
“The car feels more aggressive and there will be a lot more driving involved than I’m used to with the Rally2 car.
“It seems to have good torque but probably isn’t as good at braking compared to Rally2.
“We might have a power advantage over Rally2 but we’re probably at a disadvantage then in cornering and braking.”
The Fiesta is sure to turn a few heads in Killarney. Whether it sets a new benchmark in Ireland’s forests, we’ll have to wait to see!
Photo courtesy of www.ewrc-results.com/