Classy Declan Boyle ends Donegal's wait
Declan Boyle kept his cool and kept his nose in front to become the first local driver in more than a decade to win the Donegal International Rally.
It was back in 1999 when James Cullen won for the second time in his home county and this year, more than ever, the pressure has been on Boyle to end the Donegal drought.
Reigning Irish national champion and winner of the Galway International and Circuit of Ireland National rallies already this season, the Lettermacaward pub tycoon carried the favourite tag.
He wore it well, even though he had to withstand serious pressure from last year's winner Sam Moffett. The lead see-sawed between them for a day and a half until Boyle put the hammer down on Saturday afternoon and used the extra power of his S12 Subaru to ease ahead by 37 seconds.
He set out on the final leg yesterday to keep the flying Ford Fiesta of Moffett at bay and protect his lead without taking undue risks. But 26 seconds was as close as Moffett got before Boyle quickened his pace again over the final four stages to ensure that longed-for home victory.
Indeed, with cousin Brian Boyle in the co-driver's seat, they became the first all-Donegal crew to win in 30 years.
Moffett finished second with Garry Jennings, who won in 2012, having to settle for third. Derek McGarrity made it three Subarus in the top four with the production Mitsubishis of Josh Moffett and Stephen McCann rounding out the top six.
Gary McPhillips won the national division in his Ford Escort after long-time leader Daniel McKenna was forced to retire yesterday after his Escort jammed in fourth gear.
Michael Dunlop's rally debut ended on Saturday afternoon when his Escort suffered headgasket failure.
There was no joy either for Craig Breen, who retired from the Ypres Rally when his Peugeot broke its transmission. His team-mate Kevin Abbring led for much of the way until he, too, was forced out with mechanical trouble, handing a remarkable ninth victory to the Skoda of Freddy Loix.