Belfast Telegraph

Eugene Donnelly is back behind wheel at Bantry

By Sammy Hamill

Eugene Donnelly will end an near two-year exile to return to action on the Fastnet Rally this weekend.

The five-times Irish Tarmac champion is to drive a Toyota Corolla WRC on the final round of the Irish national championship based at Bantry.

Funding problems have effectively sidelined the Draperstown driver since the end of 2009, forcing him to sell his Circuit of Ireland-winning Skoda Fabia, but he says he is now in a position to return and is eyeing up a record-breaking sixth Tarmac title next year.

He will be back on board the McGeehan Motorsport Toyota in which he scored nine of his 18 Tarmac international wins.

“It is quite a while since I last drove the Toyota — or any World car — things have moved on since then. The Fastnet run is really to see if I can still be competitive,” said Donnelly.

“There are quite a few World cars in the entry including the Subaru S12 of Daragh O’Riordan who won the Killarney and Cork internationals this year and the Corolla may not have the pace of a car like that but should still be a good test for me.

“I would love to try and win a sixth Tarmac title next year, and I have some irons in the fire, but it will depend on whether I still have the pace to compete with these guys.”

Tim McNulty, already crowned Tarmac and Irish national champion, sits this one out but the Fastnet start list also includes the WRC Subarus of Welshman Mel Evans, the 2010 Irish champion, as well as Denis Cronin and Brian O’Mahony.

Meanwhile, Frank Lenehan and navigator Anthony Preston won the Circuit of Ireland Retro Trial in their Datsun 100A at the weekend, beating the Mini Cooper of Eamon Byrne and Paul Phelan by a 50-mark margin.

Noel Cochrane and Patrick McCollum were the highest placed Ulster finishers in third in their MG Midget.

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