Eugene Donnelly makes Irish return to action
Eugene Donnelly, the five-time Irish Tarmac rally champion, is to return for the first round of the 2015 series, next week's Galway International.
Donnelly has been missing from the championship since crashing out of the Circuit of Ireland last April but will be back for a rally he has already won three times. He will again drive a McGeehan Motorsport Mini WRC but, in a surprise move, the Draperstown team will field a second car for 2014 Young Driver of the Year Dean Raftery.
Both Minis will be backed by rally sponsor and Galway BMW dealer Colm Quinn, who is providing 23-year-old local lad Raftery with his first opportunity in a four-wheel-drive WRC car.
He won the R2 division in the British championship last year, his performances recognised with Motorsport Ireland's Billy Coleman Award and a €50,000 prize.
"Dean is one of the brightest new talents in Ireland and I'm looking forward to offering him as much support and advice as I can," said Donnelly, the second most successful driver of all time in Ireland's premier series.
Donnelly, just back from providing gravel and ice notes for Craig Breen on the Monte Carlo Rally, slots into the 100-plus starting list at No.3 behind the Subarus of new champion and last year's Galway winner Declan Boyle and Garry Jennings, the 2013 champion.
Donagh Kelly is at No.4 in his Ford Focus with Raftery at six, sandwiched between the Moffett brothers, Sam and Josh, who will both drive M-Sport WRC Ford Fiestas. Modified championship winner Declan Gallagher is at eight in his Toyota Starlet with Englishman Steve Simpson at nine in his S2000 Skoda Fabia.
The top 10 is completed by Jonny Greer with the Carryduff DGM team's R5 Citroen DS3.
Meanwhile, award-winning actor Idris Elba has confirmed a story the Belfast Telegraph carried before Christmas - he will be taking part in the Circuit of Ireland at Easter.
Elba, who played Nelson Mandela in the film 'Long Walk to Freedom' and also starred in Luther and The Wire, is making a TV documentary series for the Discovery Channel which will see him compete in powerboat racing, aerobatic flying, street racing and rallying.
He said: "The Circuit of Ireland organisers have been gracious in allowing me to compete. I know a little about Ireland and I'm studying the event as much as I can."
Elba, who is being mentored by Jimmy McRae and Ari Vatanen, will drive an R2 Ford Fiesta on the April 2-4 round of the European championship.