The Joule Donegal International Rally which takes place this coming weekend the 19th to the 21st June will be the fifth round of the 2015 Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. As usual the event is one of the most popular on the calendar and can boast a capacity entry, no mean feat for a three day rally! Championship leader Donagh Kelly in a Ford Focus WRC is a Donegal man and this is one event he would dearly love to win. Kelly has been almost unbeatable this year, winning all three Tarmac Rounds he has started and has also notched up a few wins in national rallies as well so he will be the one to watch in the North West in June. With the Moffett brothers absent from Donegal due to ERC commitments, the chasing pack have a chance to close the gap to Kelly should he hit any trouble over the weekend.
One driver who has had very little luck in 2015 is Declan Boyle and last year’s Tarmac champion will be out in a new state of the art Fiesta WRC after enduring a troubled time in his Subaru Impreza recently. Boyle won Donegal last year, only the third Donegal driver ever to do so, and will look to become the first home driver to win successive Donegal Internationals. Garry Jennings has been virtually absent from the series this year following his accident in Galway and will in in Donegal looking to show that he still can’t beat the best. Having won the event in the past, he can’t be discounted from taking overall honours again this year. Daragh O’Riordans recent trips to Donegal haven’t been the happiest for him, having failed to finish in 2012 and on his last trip two years ago his Fiesta was plagued with handling problems which did nothing for his confidence. With only eight points on the board so far and a recent retirement in Killarney he will be hoping for a change of fortune.
The Group N battle has been very closely contested all year between Aaron McHale and Brendan Cumiskey with the former winning three of the four rounds and Cumiskey taking maximum points on the Circuit of Ireland. The two are also fourth and fifth overall in the championship and will stand to gain even further with a good overall finish in the absence of the Moffett brothers. Joe McGonigle is in 6th overall in the championship and currently top R5 registered driver, but Stephen Wright, Tommy Doyle and Paraic Duffy will be sure to put on a good showing having all performed well on the various rounds they have competed on this year to date.
The Modified Championship sees Declan Gallagher out on his home event and the reigning champion is still in the overall lead of the category despite having missed the previous two rounds. Although his lead has been cut to four points, none of his closest rivals have entered Donegal so its Frank Kelly and Ross Hunter in joint fifth place who have the chance to close the gap. If Gallagher were to non-finish and either Kelly or Hunter were to take maximum points, they would move into the lead with Gallagher, so there is plenty of incentive for them. Brian Brogan and Eugene Meegan are two others who could stand to gain from any of those currently ahead of them failing to finish.
The Historic category sees Gareth Lloyd the series leader taking part and he will renew rivalry with Ernie Graham who is currently in third place overall. Reigning champion and current second placed driver Denis Moynihan is not competing this coming weekend so Lloyd will be hoping to restore his healthy lead which was cut down dramatically in Killarney due to his retirement. Graham has won most of the battles between the pair when they have met, but Lloyd scored well on the early rounds of the series to hold the advantage. There is a strong Historic list and others that will look to gain points are Andy Johnson, Adrian Kermode, Philip McKibbin and Luke McCarthy to name but a few drivers. The Junior Category appears to be a two horse race at this stage with John O’Sullivan leading from Rob Duggan after three rounds. Duggan will be the favourite, but O’Sullivan holds a six point lead and if he can score well in Donegal it will make things more difficult for Duggan.
Updates for the coming weekend can be found on the Irish Tarmac Championship App (can be downloaded for free for iOS and Android devices), Facebook (Irish Tarmac Championship) and Twitter (@IrishTarmacTROA). You can also get live results on http://results.shannonsportsit.ie/ and rally updates from Brian & Liz Patterson at www.rallynews.net.
T.R.O.A. Press & Media Officer