Belfast Telegraph

Donegal International Rally:: Derek hopes luck will change

By Sammy Hamill

He is a five-time Circuit of Ireland winner and has won the Ulster International as well as the Rally of the Lakes and the Jim Clark Memorial.

But one of Derek McGarrity’s favourite rounds of the Irish Tarmac championship has always eluded him — the Topaz Donegal International which starts tomorrow morning from Letterkenny.

“I’ve led the rally in the past and been second a couple of times but have never been able to get over the finish line in front,” says the two-time Northern Ireland champion.

“It is a hard event over three days and you need a bit of luck which always seemed to elude me. Maybe this time . . .”

However, McGarrity has already suffered his first piece of misfortune — his Circuit-winning S11 Subaru will not be ready in time after it was crashed by Eamonn Hanley on the Circuit of Munster two weeks ago.

It has forced him to switch to a back-up, the McKinstry Motorsport S11 Impreza that has been driven recently by Circuit of Kerry winner Darren Gass. It also means a switch back to left-hand-drive.

“I’ve driven plenty of left-hand-drive cars so it won’t be a problem,” insists the Mossley driver who goes head-to-head against the winners of the other rounds of this season’s Tarmac series in Galway and Killarney, Tim McNulty and Daragh O’Riordan.

For various reasons, including date clashes, all three have not lined up together in any round this year so Donegal represents the first three-way clash of the men seen as the main Tarmac title contenders, even though the championship standings are currently headed by the consistent Kevin Barrett who is also in the starting list.

Despite his win in Killarney, young O’Riordan may struggle to match the pace of his Subaru rivals who are more familiar with the demanding Donegal terrain, and it may come down to a shoot-out between the experienced heads of McNulty and McGarrity.

The 150-strong line-up also includes the front-running Subarus of Barrett and Seamus Leonard, although Garry Jennings has reverted back to his production Mitsubishi in which he will come up against former UK Mitsubishi champion Phillip Morrow as well as Donagh Kelly for Group N honours.

The spotlight will also be on last year’s production winner Alastair Fisher who returns to the Tarmac series to drive Mikko Hirvonen’s Monte Carlo Rally winning S2000 Ford Fiesta for the first time.

Meanwhile, round five of the Tarmac series, the Ulster International on August 19/20, will again be based at the Junction One shopping outlet in Antrim and sponsored by Todds Leap.

Belfast Telegraph

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