The biggest single event in both sport tourism in the northern half of Ireland - The Donegal International Rally - will provide a huge boost to the local economy.
This year’s event, which will take place from Friday, June 21, to Sunday, June 23, was launched at Hegarty’s Garage, Carnamuggagh, Letterkenny.
Paddy Harte, chairman of the Gathering, said: “The rally is huge and attracts up to 70,000 people to the county and benefits the local economy to the sum of €25m.”
The Gathering is a tourism-lead initiative aimed at the Irish Diaspora to return to Ireland to be part of specially organised local gatherings and events during the year.
“We thank everyone in advance for the thousands of kindnesses,” said Damien Crawford, the chairman of the Donegal Motor Club. “This is the end of the Topaz era and we wish to thank them for everything.”
David Craig of Irish Tarmac Championship explained that with Donegal hosting the third round of the National Tarmac Championship, which will be scored on a four out of five basis, people who have yet to register for the championship could still win a class.
He said: “We’ve also introduced some new categories. We’ve class 6A so long as people can produce their papers. Similarly, in the modified, we’ve introduced M4 and it ties in with Motorsport Ireland’s Class 20.”
The defending champion is Gerry Jennings, from Kesh, Co Fermanagh. Last June, Jennings and his co-driver Neil Doherty, who father was terminally ill at the time, won ahead of Cork’s Darragh O’Riordan.
“It’s 15 years ago since I first started going to the Donegal rally and watching the late Bertie Fisher, never dreaming that one day I could win the rally.”
O’Riordan, Lettermacaward’s Declan Boyle, Derek McGarrity and particularly Craig Breen are the front-runners.
Local interest centres on the Boyle brothers, Manus Kelly from Glenswilly, Letterkenny’s John O’Donnell; historic drivers Danny McLaughlin from Creeslough and PJ Wilhare from Letterkenny.
In the juniors Kevin McLaughlin from Dunfanaghy, Keven Eves of Pettigo, Letterkenny’s Chris McLaughlin, Adrian Sweeney and Barry Gallagher and Shane Carr of Ramelton will all take part.
“I can report that the entry list is virtually full at the moment,” said clerk for the course, Eamon McGee.
“As ever, we are looking forward to a safe weekend for all our competitors and all our visitors to the county.”