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Topaz Donegal International Rally
RALLY NEWS No.1 - Letterkenny - Thursday @ 15:44:29
RALLY NEWS NO.1 Thursday/Letterkenny

This weekend’s Topaz Donegal International Rally promises to be yet another cracker in the long line of legendary rallies over the years. When all the hullabaloo of the 40th anniversary celebrations are over, and the 150 competing cars face the first of the 24 special stages, Fanad Head, that’s when the real story begins.

No.1 seed Tim McNulty, winner of the Galway International as well as a string of National events this year, commented before the start. “There are three hard days rallying ahead. The rally will be as tough as it always was. It will be head down from the word go. Saturday will be a long hard day and I’m hoping all the work will have been done when we get to the Inishowen stages on Sunday. I’m hoping as well that the car will be ok. Derek McGeehan and the Prodrive engineers have worked hard and all the bugs seemed to have been ironed out this year. The engine failure on the Killarney Lakes, when a con-rod failed, was just a freak thing. I’d give up a lot of what I own to have the Donegal winners’ Trophy on my mantlepiece. The weather will be a factor and I don’t mind if it is wet. The organisers of the rally have been great in the way they have picked themselves up from the accidents and so on of past years. I hope they get a good clean run this year and that I’m there at the end to pick up that trophy!”

Five World Rally cars will lead the field away from the Letterkenny start, to be driven by – McNulty, Derek McGarrity, Daragh O’Riordan, Kevin Barrett and Seamus Leonard. McGarrity has been forced to change from his own Circuit of Ireland winning Impreza WRC to a left-hand drive McKinstry model. Derek reckons the switch will be no problem, he used to drive left-hand cars all the time. Still, the competition is likely to be so fierce that any last minute change could have an effect. Daragh O’Riordan doesn’t have any great experience of the Donegal stages, which may be a factor.

Kevin Barrett currently leads the Tarmac Championship, of which this Donegal Rally is round 4. The Maynooth man has had his Impreza overhauled from stem to stern. With his massive experience he fully realises what a tough test this Donegal Rally will be. Seamus Leonard’s Impreza may not be the most recent model, but Seamus has tremendous knowledge of the Donegal stages, and must be in with a big chance here.

Just outside that leading bunch of WRC machines is Alastair Fisher in the Hirvonen Monte Carlo winning Fiesta Super 2000. The 22-year-old Fermanagh man tested the M-Sport on Wednesday of this week and he commented. “We did 50 Km in it, and I’m happy with the car. It takes quite a bit of driving to get the best out of it and it has great brakes!” Behind these six cars are the leading GpN machines, with drivers such as Sam Moffett, Alan Ring, Donagh Kelly, Phillip Morrow and Garry Jennings all occupying top slots. Jennings was to drive a hired WRC machine, but has switched to his own Lancer and could be the man to beat.

There is also a fascinating line-up of some of the country’s best modified cars, mostly Mk2 Escorts. However top seed is Scotsman David Bogie, who will drive his Metro 6R4. David has had a clean sweep of British Championship rally wins this year in his Lancer. He switched to the Metro 6R4 for the Reivers Rally, part of the Jim Clark event, and won that also. When David arrived into Letterkenny he remarked that his Metro rear diff was cracked following the Reivers and also there was a fuel pressure issue, now resolved. Now he is just looking forward to the Donegal Rally and renewing the rivalry with the top Mk2 men such as Daniel McKenna, Rodney Wilton, Phil Collins, Damien Gallagher and a whole lot more. All in all then, a fascinating Donegal Rally once more in store!

More news after stage 1: BRIAN & LIZ PATTERSON www.rallynews.net
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