With entries due to close on Friday the 13th of May, demand for places on the starting line are as high as ever, with the title of Joule Donegal International Winner 2016 being one of the most sought after titles in Irish rallying.
The competition is sure to be as fierce as previous years with Garry Jennings unlikely to give up his crown without a fight, Donagh Kelly & Declan Boyle will be only too aware of this, as they will attempt to wrestle it from his grasp. Letterkenny man Manus Kelly has agreed a deal with Melvyn Evans to hire a Subaru S12b and judging by his pace on this weekend’s Carlow Stages Rally, he’ll be looking to be the first driver to complete the National and International rally winning double in consecutive years.
The main category in this year’s Clonakilty Irish Tarmac Championship is R5 and S2000 class. This has re-energized the series and led to a closer and more exciting competition. Alastair Fisher comes to Donegal on the crest of a wave, having scored maximum points on the last two rounds. With the success that Alastair has enjoyed in Donegal previously, he along with co-driver Gordon Noble, in the Dom Buckley prepped Ford Fiesta R5, are expected to be among the leading point scorers. Other championship regulars will no doubt want to have their say where maximum points are awarded on Sunday evening. So who will take the points over the weekend? Expect Keith Cronin, Sam or Josh Moffett, Stephen Wright or Joe McGonigle to be amongst the front runners.
This year the Joule Donegal International Rally is also a round of the FIA sanctioned Celtic Rally Trophy. This is open to all crews competing in homologated cars that are eligible for championship points, and this will add an extra dimension to the 3 days’ competition.
Last years’ National winner Manus Kelly has stepped up to the WRC class, so who will be in the running to win it this year? Last year David Bogie debuted his Millington powered Ford Escort and got faster as the event progressed. Frank Kelly finished second last year, can he go one better this year? Donegal Motor Club Chairman Brian Brogan suffered bad luck last year when he experienced electrical gremlins on Sunday morning as he was in the fight for victory. Damien Gallagher like many others has been busy working away to get more power from his Escort over the winter so he will no doubt be on a charge. However, one name that can’t be discounted is Declan Gallagher AKA The Milkman. Unfortunately Declan hasn’t competed as much as he would have liked this year, but it would be foolish to discount the flying Toyota.
Lastly, one interesting name on the entry list is James Cullen. James, a twice winner, is making a ‘one off’ comeback drive to commemorate 25 years since Ellen Morgan and himself took their first win in the famous Pink Panther Ford Sierra. He has been overwhelmed by the generosity and support he has received and is looking forward to pulling on the race suit and helmet one more time.
If you wish to get your name on the entry list log on to; www.donegalrally.ie or www.donegalmotorclub.com and go to the downloads section and get the form filled in. We look forward to giving each and every competitor, a warm Donegal welcome.
Photo: James Cullen from the 1979 Donegal International Rally, Photo credit www.rallyretro.com