Craig Breen changes car for Donegal International Rally

Success in the Donegal International Rally, which begins in Letterkenny today, is closer to an obsession than an aspiration for a select group of drivers.

Craig Breen changes car for Donegal International Rally

Success in the Donegal International Rally, which begins in Letterkenny today, is closer to an obsession than an aspiration for a select group of drivers.

It’s the event most want to have on their rallying CV but with some 20 stages over three days, the test is demanding and unforgiving.

The rally, worth in excess of €25m to the north-west economy, is round five of the Irish Tarmac Championship, yet in contrast to the previous rounds the strong number of World Rally Cars in the top 10 begs the question — is the event bigger than the ITRC in terms of prestige?

Out of contract World Rally Championship driver Craig Breen, who leads the ITRC with maximum points from four rounds, forsakes his Fiesta R5 for a Mel Evans hired Ford Fiesta WRC — a car that is not eligible to score championship points. However the Waterford man reckons such a car will give him the best opportunity of winning the actual event. With an 18-point lead in the ITRC Breen can gamble on the move and with 17 points for the top registered championship contender, come what may he will still lead the series on Sunday evening.

Donegal’s Manus Kelly, who has won the event for the last three years in a Subaru WRC, has resisted the temptation to revert to the marque and will continue to drive his Hyundai i20 R5. Interestingly, on his first win in 2016 he had only a half second to spare over the Citroen DS3 R5 of Cork’s Keith Cronin, a fact that poses the question could Breen have triumphed in Donegal in an R5 car?

For former Irish Tarmac and National rally champion Donegal’s Donagh Kelly the rally has proven elusive. He once stated he would swap all his successes for a win in Donegal. He has led at various times during the last four years, two seasons ago he crashed out of the lead with three stages remaining. Last year he faltered on the third stage.

Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings is a double winner in Donegal but it remains to be seen how competitive and indeed reliable his aging S12B Subaru WRC will be over the Donegal terrain.

Another driver to switch cars for the event is Monaghan’s Sam Moffett, in a Fiesta WRC as opposed to the R5. He is a previous winner and could well spring a surprise. For the trio of Fermanagh’s Alistair Fisher, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett, and Derry’s Callum Devine (all in Fiesta R5s), it’s all about ITRC points as they try to close the deficit on Breen. Fisher remains Breen’s main rival but the other pair, especially the constantly improving Devine will make the acquisition of top points a tough task.

Five-time Tarmac champion Derry’s Eugene Donnelly competes in a Proton Iriz R5 and Welshman Merion Evans has a Hyundai i20 R5. Others on the capacity entry are Antrim’s Desi Henry and Donegal’s Joe McGonigle in Ford Fiesta WRC’s, Tyrone’s Seamus Leonard (Ford Focus WRC), and Monaghan’s Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC). The modified category is awash with quality with Maynooth’s Ian Barrett (Darrian) leading the way from locals Kevin Eves (Toyota Corolla), Damien Tourish (Escort), Kevin Gallagher (Darrian), and Declan Gallagher (Starlet).

Stunt driver Ken Block will drive a Ford Escort Cosworth as part of his world tour.

More in this section

ieStyle Live 2021 Logo
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Discover the great outdoors on Ireland's best walking trails

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up