Sam Moffett needs slice of luck to repeat Donegal triumph
Sam Moffett slipped in under the radar to become the youngest winner of the Donegal International Rally last year.
It was only his second drive in a full WRC car, the McKinstry Motorsport Subaru S14, and the focus had been all about the enthralling duel between Irish Tarmac champions Garry Jennings and Darren Gass.
But Gass crashed out, seemingly leaving 2012 winner Jennings to coast to his second Donegal victory in a row. Then, late night controversy as Jennings was penalised for an early departure from the Saturday evening Milford service area and suddenly the unsung Moffett was thrust into the role of potential winner.
He steered the Subaru through the final day with aplomb to record his first international win, a feat he repeated last month when, having now switched to an M-Sport Ford Fiesta, he picked up the pieces as Declan Boyle and Donagh Kelly crashed out on the Rally of the Lakes.
Yes, he was lucky on both occasions but they say you have to be lucky as well as good to win any rally. We know Sam, a former Irish production champion, is good but he will need luck on his side again if he is to win a second Donegal International this weekend.
Jennings and Gass are back, as are Boyle and Kelly, plus five-time Circuit of Ireland winner Derek McGarrity, all vying for the top spot in a rally viewed as the highlight of the motorsport summer.
Covering three days over some of the most demanding stages in the country, it takes good fortune as well as skill, bravery and mechanical reliability to emerge No.1 from a 150-strong entry list.
Moffett, of course, has done it before, as has Jennings who returns to action with his S12 Subaru freshly re-built after crashing out of the lead within sight of the finish of the Circuit of Ireland.
It was national champion Boyle who capitalised at Easter, just as he did when the Jennings Subaru aquaplaned during the Galway International in February.
So he, too, has had luck on his side but not when it comes to his home international, the one he wants to win more than any other. It has been over 30 years since the locals have welcomed one of their own onto the finish ramp.
The rally starts from Letterkenny today (12 noon) and covers 20 stages before finishing at 5.30pm on Sunday.
It will also see TT hero Michael Dunlop make his rally debut, driving a Mk2 Ford Escort. Is he having second thoughts? After checking out the stages this week he tweeted: "Now asking myself why, just why!"
Top of the entry list: 1 Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta), 2 Declan Boyle (Subaru Impreza), 3 Garry Jennings (Subaru Impreza), 4 Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus), 6 Derek McGarrity (Subaru Impreza), 7 Darren Gass (Subaru Impreza), 10 Josh Moffett (Mitsubishi Evo), 12 Steve Simpson (Subaru Impreza), 14 Gary McPhillips (Ford Escort), 15 Daniel McKenna (Ford Escort).