Donaghadee driver Jonathan MacDonald is gearing up for his first closed road rally this weekend as he prepares to tackle the infamous Circuit of Ireland Rally.
The two-day event, which features stages across counties Armagh, Down, Antrim, Tyrone and Monaghan, will see ‘Big Mac’ wheel out his Birch Motors backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1.
As editor of Pacenotes Rally Magazine, MacDonald has long been involved in the sport, but it was only in March this year that he entered his first event. After being seeded at 80, he finished 42nd at the Bishopscourt Stages Rally, despite some dramas throughout the day.
“A heavy landing on the first stage caused the car to understeer all day,” MacDonald recalled. “On the final stage, we went straight on, over a large lorry tyre, but managed to get to the finish with only some cosmetic damage.
“Since then, Alan Stewart has been working extremely hard to get the car ready for the Circuit,” he continued. “He has had quite a few late nights but the car is now in pristine condition and ready for the rally. I wouldn’t have been on the start list without his help!”
More than 100 competitors have entered the ‘Circuit’, and MacDonald is seeded at 102.
The Donaghadee driver, who is also sponsored by Millers Oils, admits that he won’t be attempting to perform any “giant killing acts”. Instead, he is concentrating on merely finishing the tough event.
“The Evo 1 is an 18-year-old car and runs in the same class as the World Rally Car competitors,” MacDonald said, “so I won’t be anywhere near the times at the top of the order.
“I just hope we don’t have any major problems. It’s a long, two-day event, with more than 100 stage miles, so if we can get to the finish in any position, I’ll be happy!”
The rally starts from Armagh City Hotel at midday on Easter Saturday, and crews will tackle 10 stages before the overnight halt.
Action resumes on Sunday with a further six stages before the winners are crowned in Armagh.