There are only a few days to go before one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the Irish rallying calendar, the Joule Donegal International Rally, and as usual the event has attracted an extremely strong entry both in terms of quality and quantity.
The rally is the fourth round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and most of the main contenders will be present in what should be a classic battle. Sam Moffett the championship leader is on the crest of a wave now having won the third round of the series in Killarney six weeks ago, and is also leading the national championship having won all rounds to date. He is the man very much on form and has also won the Donegal International in the past. Second placed championship driver Alastair Fisher will be looking to regain momentum after a disappointing result in Killarney. The Fermanagh driver led the championship after the opening two rounds but crashed out of contention in Killarney and will be hoping for better fortune in Donegal.
Third in the championship is Joe McGonigle who will be competing on his home International Rally and he has increased his pace with each passing round as he gets more used to his Skoda Fabia R5. Robert Barrable lies fourth overall in the series which belies how competitive he has been since he returned to rallying at the start of the year after a two-year break. His late retirement in West Cork was followed up by a fine second place in Killarney as he continues to show the potential of the Hyundai i20 R5 car on Irish tarmac. Rounding off the top five overall in the championship to date is Josh Moffett who missed Killarney after badly damaging his car in Monaghan and has only one rally under his belt since. It may take a few stages before Josh is completely on the pace of his rivals, but with three days of tough rallying ahead anything can happen.
With Stephen Wright, Brendan Cumiskey & Tomas Davies missing the event the opportunity is there for other drivers to move further up the leader board. Aaron MacHale in his Citroen has shown flashes of pace but hasn’t found consistency with the car just yet with an accident and puncture spoiling his Galway and West Cork events respectively. Paraic Duffy, Joe Connolly and John Mulholland are other drivers who stand to gain by getting a strong result. Mulholland has moved from a Skoda S2000 to a Skoda R5 for Donegal and the car with its gold livery should be one of the nicest cars on display.
William Mavitty leads the Group N category and will be hoping to take a step closer to taking the title, but Gavin Kelly who scored maximum points in Killarney could be a big threat. Andrew Burke leads ITRC3 at present but will not be in Donegal which opens the door for James Wilson and William Creighton to improve their positions while Marty Gallagher has only appeared on one round to date and has a lot of ground to make up.
The action begins with the Trentagh stage on Friday lunchtime with six stages on the opening day. The second day is the longest day with eight stages and the final day has six more stages including the classic Fanad, Atlantic Drive and Glen test and the first car is due back at the finish ramp at 6pm on Sunday evening.