The forthcoming Topaz Donegal International Rally will continue to provide a huge boost to the local economy to the tune of €25 million with 70,000 people expected to attend the event the weekend after next.
That was the forecast of Richard Stones, the Topaz regional area manager for Northern Ireland and Donegal, at Tuesday night’s launch at Diver’s Hyundai Garage in Letterkenny.
“This is the fifth year we at Topaz have been sponsoring the Donegal International Rally and we’re only in existence five years so you could saw we’ve been here since the start,” he said.
“Things have gone from strength to strength here in Donegal, the only three-day rally in Ireland, thanks to the professionalism of Donegal Motor Club. The collective spirit here, where there are hundreds of volunteers, convinced us to come on board.
“We still enjoy a great relationship here as it’s a special event with economic significance. With times the way they are, that’s more important than ever and we expected 70,000 to attend and that would benefit the local economy to a figure in the region of €25 million.”
Clerk of the course, Gweedore native Eamon McGee, said the event will follow a traditional path, after the Buncrana town stage was successfully reintroduced last year, but also stressed the importance of safety after two spectators will killed in Bailieborough at the Cavan Stages Rally last month.
“We will roll out of Letterkenny on Friday week and finish the evening at Buncrana,” McGee said. “Saturday will be centred on the Kilmacrennan, Gartan and Fanad/ Knockalla area before finishing on Sunday on the Atlantic Drive.
“We cannot emphasise the need for safety enough. We plead with people to help Donegal Motor Club to ensure the rally is run as safely as possible. So please abide by what the marshals say and I would also appeal to people to be respectful of the property from where the watch the rally. That property is someone’s livelihood so if you’re asked to move on, please do so.”
McGee went on to add that despite motorsport feeling the economic pinch more than most, there is still a considerable interest in the event with 10 World Rally Championship cars among the main field entry list of 132, as well at 12 entrants in the junior list and 16 in the historic.
The 41st staging of the Donegal Rally will be spearheaded by top competitors like Darren Gass, Darragh O’Riordan, Garry Jennings, Niall Maguire, Donagh Kelly from Donegal and Seamus Leonard in Suburu WRCs. Joining them will be former British Champion Mark Higgins, as well as Aaron McHale and David McKenna. Scottish Champion David Bogie will also be expected to make the final shake-up. Timmy McNulty won last year’s event.
Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna is also tipped in certain quarters, while Declen Boyle from Lettermacaward, Glenswilly’s Manus Kelly, Brian Brogan from Letterkenny and Burt native PJ McDermott will all have local support.
The Mayor of Donegal, Cllr Noel McBride said: “We at Donegal County Council are delighted to support the rally, with the likes of Topaz and Tourism Ireland. It’s still a massive attraction and we hope everyone has an enjoyable weekend.”
The Topaz Donegal International Rally will start at An Grianan Theatre in Letterkenny on Friday, June 15, at 11am and concludes on Sunday.