WITH LITTLE MORE than a month to go, things are hotting up in anticipation of the 2016 Joule Donegal International Rally.
The event takes place from June 17-19 with fierce competition, as always, expected in the various classes and categories.
At the head of the leaderboard, Garry Jennings and Rory Kennedy will return in the Subaru WRC to defend the title they won in style last summer, but the field is again littered with potential winners.
Picture caption: James Cullen in action in the Donegal Rally way back in 1979. Picture by wwwrallyretro.com
The thing gets even more advanced when you consider than Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett will this year take to Donegal’s famous tarmac in an S12B Impreza hired from Melvyn Evans in Wales.
Kelly and Barrett had an excellent run in the car on Sunday, winning the Carlow Stages Rally. Last year, they scorched their way to victory in the National Rally, but step up from an Escort this time to join the WRC machinery.
No driver has ever won National and International titles in consecutive years, but you certainly couldn’t back against Mandy breaking that mould.
Lettermacaward’s Declan Boyle has won both titles previously and will be back in the Fiesta WRC looking to reclaim Donegal’s coveted prize again.
And then there’s Frosses man Donagh Kelly, who’ll be bidding to break his hoodoo in Donegal, having won the Irish Tarmac Championship last year without tasting the sweet scent of success in his home event.
The main category in this year’s Clonakilty Irish Tarmac Championship is R5 and S2000 class.
Alastair Fisher comes to Donegal on the crest of a wave, having scored maximum points on the last two rounds in the Dom Buckley-prepped R5 Fiesta
Expect Keith Cronin, Sam or Josh Moffett, Stephen Wright and Muff’s Joe McGonigle are others expected to be amongst the front runners.
This year the Joule Donegal International Rally is also a round of the FIA sanctioned Celtic Rally Trophy. This is open to all crews competing in homologated cars that are eligible for championship points, and this will add an extra dimension to the three days’ competition.
With Kelly gone to the WRC competition, the National Rally will go to a different home, but familiar names will be in contention with David Bogie back in the Millington-powered Escort and the likes of Frank Kelly, Donegal Motor Club Chairman Brian Brogan, Damien Gallagher all in the hunt.
There’s also the small matter of The Milkman, Declan Gallagher. The Ardara man and Ryan Moore are expected to run here in the Starlet.
One interesting name on the list is that of James Cullen. The Letterkenny man has been coaxed into making a return to action, 25 years on from he and Ellen Morgan corked the champagne after winning Donegal in the distinctive famous Ford Sierra otherwise known as ‘The Pink Panther’.Tags: