Saturday 24 February 2018

Motorsport: Donnelly aims to light up Dunlop finale

Declan Quigley

Former Tarmac champion Eugene Donnelly is a dramatic late entry for Sunday's final round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship, the Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally.

Donnelly is set to end a two-year lay-off from competition for the Bantry-based event, which has bucked the current trend by attracting a bumper entry for the Dunlop series curtain-closer.

The 10th and final round of the series, which has already been won by Tim McNulty, will feature seven WRC cars in a 140-strong entry gathered by the organisers, Skibereen and District CC.

Waning quality and quantity in rally entries has prompted series organisers to reduce next season's Dunlop series calendar by two events, but Sunday's race shows few signs of the current recession.

In McNulty's absence, Donnelly will be the star turn as he puts it up to the regulars with his Toyota Corolla WRC, which carried him to nine of his 18 event victories in the Irish Tarmac Championship, where he won the title on a record-equalling five occasions.

"It will be great to get out again on the stages," said Donnelly. "I want to see if the two year lay-off makes any difference. The car won't have the pace of the Subaru S12s, it won't be easy at the start, but my pace should be much better on the repeat loops."

He will be co-driven by Sligo's, Daragh Mullen (20), who accompanied him in the Lurgan Park Rally a few years ago. While not seeded in the published entry list in the rally programme, Donnelly will be slotted into the top 10.

Meanwhile, Welsh ace and 2010 Dunlop National Rally champion, Mel Evans (Subaru WRC) is the top seed. He won the Fastnet last year and is hugely popular in West Cork. Evans hasn't competed in the current Dunlop series since taking second place to the McNulty (Subaru WRC) in the opening round in Abbeyleix.

Irish Independent

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