Joe Mc Hugh T.D. with Letterkenny municipal area mayor Cllr Jimmy Kavanagh and CEO of the Donegal Co. Council Seamus Neely at the Rally press conference. With Joe McGonagle, Donagh Kelly , Conor Foley
Three in-a-row chasing Manus Kelly and Donal Barrett are the number one seeds in this year’s Joule Donegal International Rally.
This, along with the top 40 crews, was unveiled at Friday night’s launch in An Grianán Theatre.
In all, there are ten WRC cars and nine R5s among the 151 entries when entries closed the week before last.
“We have a full entry and a lengthy reserve list which is proof of the popularity of the rally,” said long serving clerk of the course Eamon McGee.
Kelly and Barrett, winners of the last two Donegal Internationals, are once again back in their back-to-back winning Subaru WRC.
Dismissing any talk about being under pressure to go where no Donegal man has gone before and complete the three in-a-row Manus Kelly said: “In all seriousness, we can chat all day long about it but it is about times and everything going well over the three days.
“I’ll be bringing my onions,” quipped Manus.
Donagh Kelly from Frosses and Conor Foley in a Ford Focus WRC heads the chasing pack with former winners Declan Boyle, Lettermacaward and his new navigator James O’Reilly from Monaghan in car number three.
And that wily old combination of Garry Jennings from Kesh in Fermanagh and Rory Kennedy from Letterkenny - also past winners - are in car number four.
Darren Gass and Enda McSherry, in a Subaru WRC, complete the top five while another former winner Sam Moffett and Karl Atkinson, in a Fiesta R5, is seeded at number seven.
Modified cars once again make up the bulk of the entry with Class 14 once again attracting another huge entry.
Leader of the Modified Championship Kevin Ives and Chris Melly, from Pettigo in their Toyota Corolla head up this class.But they have a a lot of quality behind them with Gary McPhillips and James McNulty, Brian Brogan and Damien McGettigan, Gary Kiernan and Ryan Moore, Stuart Darcy and William Lynch in a Darrian T90, Declan Gallagher in his Starlet John Bonner and Leon Jordan, Dungloe and P J McDermott and Niall Burns, Burt all in the top 40.
The Master of Ceremonies for the launch
was Charlie Collins while among those who spoke were Clerk of the Course, Eamon McGee; Minister of State and Chief Whip Joe McHugh, along with Letterkenny Municipal Mayor Jimmy Kavanagh and Seamus Neely, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council.
The three in-a-row has only been completed twice before - Cathal Curley, 1972, ’73, ’74 - the first three Donegal Rallys, and Billy Coleman 1984, ’85, ’86.
The Joule Donegal International Rally, the only three day rally in Ireland, runs from Friday June 15th to Sunday June 17th.