Tuthills Porsche 997 R-GT that will be coming to Donegal in the hands of John Coyne Photo Kevin Glendinning
Entries have now closed for the Joule Donegal International Rally 2017 and organisers have been overwhelmed by the level of interest from competitors this year. Donegal continues to be a huge draw and strong entries across every class means this year’s event will be overflowing in quality as well as quantity.
Glenswilly man Manus Kelly will be back to defend his title in his hired Subaru S12b. Last year Manus and Donall overcame a trip into a field to claim victory by half a second, after three hard days of competition. In fact, the pair never actually lead the rally until the end of the very last stage. Some of the drivers aiming to take the title from Manus Kelly are Donagh Kelly, Declan Boyle and Garry Jennings. Donagh in a Ford Focus WRC will have Conor Foley on the notes and is desperate to add Donegal to his impressive CV. Declan has his cousin Brian onboard; they’ve had a fraught year to date with niggling problems. However, his team have been working hard to have the Fiesta WRC back in tiptop shape. Garry has Letterkenny business man Rory Kennedy alongside him; Rory has gathered a wealth of experience over almost 30 years and the partnership has already delivered two victories.
The main Clonakilty Blackpudding Tarmac Championship contenders are all coming to the Hills of Donegal to rekindle their battle. Championship leaders Sam Moffett and Karl Atkinson in their Fiesta R5 have a comfortable ten and a half point lead over the similar car driven by Alastair Fisher and partnered by Gordon Noble. Donegal man Joe McGonigle and his co-driver Ciaran Geaney have had a consistent start to the year and hold third in the championship in their R5 Skoda. Fourth in the standing is Robert Barrable and Damien ‘The Dentman’ Connolly in their exciting new Hyundai i20 R5. They will be joined by a wealth of other Championship protagonists coming to fight for points.
In the modified section, the expression ‘Donegal has it all’ could not be more apt with an absolute abundance of talented crews and machinery. With names like Damian Tourish, Gary Kiernan, Jonathan Pringle and Declan Gallagher to name only four; the battle to claim the modified trophy is going to be intense with over 50 crews entered between classes 13 and 14. Two drivers hoping to break the MKII Escort dominance are Joule Director Ian Barrett and Donegal’s own engine building supremo Kevin Gallagher; they have Darrian’s T90 GTR and run in class 14. The top two contenders in the Clonakilty Blackpudding Modified Championship will also be in the thick of the action – Kevin Eves from Pettigo in South Donegal driving a Toyota Corolla leads the points table by ten points from Eugene Meegan in his unusual BMW M1.
Thanking everyone for their support this year, Clerk of the course, Eamon McGee, says Donegal continues to be the rally that every driver craves to add to their tally of rally wins:
“Entries for the 2017 event have come in from across Ireland, the UK, Europe and America. We’ve had some very interesting entries including an American based Irish man John Coyne, who was Tarmac Championship back in 1982. In the last few seasons, he has competed in the historic championship and next month, he’ll be bringing the fearsome Tuthills Porsche 997 R-GT to the northwest. I’ve no doubt this car will sound fantastic reverberating around the hills of Donegal. Also, John Stone has entered with Letterkenny man Danny McMenamin reading the notes in John’s Fiesta S2500. These two guys have sons with Down Syndrome and are using the event to help raise awareness and show anything is possible with the right encouragement”.
Further information regarding other entries and the rally route will be available in the coming weeks.
For more information on the Joule Donegal International Rally visit www.donegalrally.ie or www.donegalmotorclub.com. To follow the event details visit the Donegal Rally Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account.