This weekend Donegal will play host to Ireland’s biggest motorsport event as crews from all over Ireland and beyond descend on the county for the Joule Donegal International Rally. The event, Ireland’s only 3 day rally, will see over 70,000 spectators visit the county giving the local economy a boost in the region of €25 million.
Heading away the capacity entry are last year’s winners and reigning Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Champions, Declan and Brian Boyle. The cousins became only the second all Donegal crew to win the rally last year in their all conquering Subaru however they will be defending their title this year in a new car. The pair will start the event in a brand new 2015 specification Ford Fiesta World Rally Car, the first of it’s kind seen outside the World Rally Championship. Current Irish Tarmac Championship leader Donagh Kelly starts at number 2 in his Ford Focus Rally Car. The Donegal driver arrives to his home event in superb form having either won or taken maximum points from every rally he has entered this year. At number 3 is 2012 Donegal winner, Garry Jennings, The Fermanagh driver plans to unveil a new colour scheme on his Subaru before the event. Belfast driver Derek McGarrity is a veteran Donegal campaigner and will start at number 4 with Cork driver Daragh O’Riordan starting at 5.
The first non World Rally Car on the road will be the R5 Ford Fiesta of Stephen Wright. Wright should face some stern competition in his class from the Skoda S2000’s of Tommy Doyle and Joseph McGonigle however. In the production class, Martin Doherty is the top seed in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 ahead of the similarly mounted Aaron McHale and Aidan Wray. Brendan Cumiskey will uphold Subaru honours in the showroom class in his JRM built Impreza. The national section of the rally is always a fan favourite and Monaghan driver Gary McPhillips tops the entry, carrying number 15 on the door of his Ford Escort. McPhillips has been victorious in the national section of the event in 2013 and 2014 and will be trying to score an unprecedented hat-trick this year. Junior World Rally Championship driver Daniel McKenna had entered the event in a Toyota GT86 and had been hoped to spring a surprise in the new car, but unfortunately has had to withdraw after a testing accident. Declan Gallagher comes to Donegal with a commanding lead in the modified section of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship while a host of other driver like Wesley Patterson, Frank Kelly, Manus Kelly, Brian Brogan and Adrian Hetherington all have a chance in the national category. Dungiven driver Seamus O’Connell tops the entry in the historic section with 18 classic cars behind him while young Donegal driver Kevin McLaughlin tops the junior section.
The rally begins this Friday afternoon with 6 stages based between Letterkenny and Stranorlar. Saturday sees 8 tests including the daunting Knockalla stage while Sunday concludes the rally with 2 runs over 3 Donegal classics, High Glen, Fanad Head and Atlantic Drive.