Belfast Telegraph

Donnelly and Gass aiming to clock up points

By Sammy Hamill

Darren Gass and Eugene Donnelly head for the Rally of the Lakes this weekend with the same objective in mind.

For the two Ulster drivers, who are one and two in the Irish Tarmac championship standings, it will be more about gathering points than chasing victory.

True, Gass has won the first two rounds of the series and Donnelly has five Tarmac titles to his credit but both suspect their older generation WRC cars will be out-gunned by the more powerful S12 Subarus of Tim McNulty and Daragh O’Riordan on the fast Kerry stages.

As well as his S10 Subaru being at a disadvantage, 23-year-old former British junior champion Gass has little experience of the Killarney-based event and although Donnelly has won it in the past, he will again be at the wheel of a Toyota Corolla and not the hired Prodrive Mini WRC he started the season in.

“The Mini is just too expensive for people in Ireland to run,” he explained. “It is a great little car but, as well as the cost factor, I feel more at home in the Toyota.

“It may not have the speed nowadays to beat the Subarus, but I’m hoping that consistency will keep me in the race for the championship. It is all about hanging in there and seeing what happens.”

Gass, too, will be looking for a strong points finish as he seeks to defend his championship lead against the renewed threat from reigning champion McNulty and last year’s Lakes winner O’Riordan. They both sat out the Circuit of Ireland, which Gass won from Donnelly, and are now under pressure to win if they are to stay in the title chase.

“Obviously Darren has the edge with his two victories but it is still early days in the championship and anything can happen,” said McNulty. “But in all honesty I probably need to win if I’m going to retain my title.”

The impressive Garry Jennings heads the production entry in his Mitsubishi and is the clear favourite to add to his Group N wins in Galway and on the Circuit. The rally starts from Killarney on Saturday morning and finishes back in the town on Sunday evening.

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