Jimmy McRae, a former British and Irish Tarmac Rally champion and former Donegal International rally winner, is on his way back to Donegal.
Garry Jennings, Declan Boyle and Donagh Kelly are the big name, current day drivers competing in this year’s Joule Donegal International Rally. But when it came to big names in the 1970s and ‘80s, they didn’t come bigger than Jimmy McRae from Lanark in Scotland.
Jimmy won in Donegal in 1980, with Mick Nicholson calling the notes, in a Vauxhall Chevette HSSR, and he was second to John Lyons, in an Escort RS1800, the following year. He also boasts of a fifth place finish in the Hills of Donegal.
The Scot is returning to Donegal after the best part of 30 years and this time around he is competing in the Historic section of the Joule Donegal Rally, in a Vauxhall Firenza Can Am.
“It an interesting car. It has a V8 engine and is a car that was used extensively to rally in South Africa in the 1970s and early ‘80s but never rallied in England or Ireland,” Jimmy explained to the Democrat/People's Press.
“It is a difficult enough car to drive but there is a great sound from it and the fans will really like the noise,” added Jimmy, who said that he was really looking forward to returning to Donegal and the rally he won for the one and only time in 1980.
“Donegal is a fantastic rally and was one of the top rallies in Europe when I did it in the 1980s. It is still one of the top rallies in these isles.
“I did it four or five times after winning it. I was second in 1981 and my next highest finish was fifth. Back then it was a round of the Irish Tarmac Championship and the European Rally championship.
“I had hoped to return on a number of other occasions but it never worked out until now and I’m really looking forward to returning next week and having another run over Fanad and Atlantic Drive. They are my two favourite stages. They are two brilliant stages.”
Jimmy is due to arrive in Donegal on Wednesday just two days before the rally gets underway. His co-driver for the weekend is Pauline Gullik from Bristol in the south of England.
Pauline was, for years, a co-driver with famous Irish female rally driver, Rosemary Smith.
For the best part of two decades from 1976 right up to the late 1980s Jimmy McRae was one of the leading rally drivers on the European Rally circuit.
In that time, he won five British Rally Championships, two Irish Tarmac Championships and was runner up in the European Rally Championship on one occasion.
He has been driving Historics in recent years and is in his third season in the Firenza.
Meanwhile, the first two of the five appointed recce days for the weekend were on Saturday and Sunday. The other three recce days are tomorrow (Tuesday), Wednesday and Thursday.
The Joule Donegal International Rally leaves from the Station Roundabout, Letterkennhy on Friday at 11.15am with the finish on Sunday evening at the Mount Errigal Hotel.
The Joule Donegal Historic Rally is run over two days, Saturday and Sunday.