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'Genie' Donnelly confident new project can fulfil all of his wishes

 

By Sammy Hamill

Eugene Donnelly is back but he warns not to expect anything like the fireworks of the past. Not yet anyway.

The record-equalling five-time Irish Tarmac champion, known as 'The Genie', makes his return to the series in this weekend's West Cork Rally with an exciting new project involving Hyundai and Indian tyre manufacturer MRF. But he stresses it is early days and he sees the opening round of the 2018 championship as "purely a test run".

"I may have won 18 Tarmac rounds and a load of championships but that was a while ago and this is a bit of a step into the unknown," he says. "But I'm excited about it.

"To bring in a company like Hyundai and a new tyre supplier has to be good for the championship but it will take time to get up to speed. I don't expect to be challenging the likes of Sam and Josh Moffett or Robert Barrable any time soon.

"But everything has been encouraging so far. We got the R5 Hyundai i20 a couple of weeks ago and had a brief shakedown run in Donegal before a more extensive test in the Sperrins on Tuesday. It was all positive."

It is almost three years since Donnelly appeared on a Tarmac round and in between he suffered injuries, co-driving for his friend Paul Kiely, when they crashed on the 2016 Sligo Rally.

Now fully recovered, the Maghera driver has lost none of his enthusiasm or commitment.

He takes his place at No.8 In Clonakilty this morning in a line-up that is headed by the WRC Ford Focus of four-time winner Donagh Kelly and which will see NI champion Jonny Greer switch to a Ford Fiesta after parts failed to arrive in time to complete his new Citroen DS3.

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