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Eugene Donnelly pays tribute to ‘gentleman’ Don Wilmont

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Don Wilmont

Don Wilmont

Don Wilmont

Leading drivers on both sides of the border have paid tribute to former navigator and Irish Tarmac Rally Championship (ITRC) manager Don Wilmont, who has passed away following a short illness.

Mr Wilmont became ITRC manager in 1999 and carried out the role until 2012.

“His professional approach, thorough understanding of often complex regulations, and ability to arrive at a reasoned decision meant he quickly earned the trust and respect of competitors,” said Eugene Donnelly.

This was particularly true in Donnelly’s case in 2004 when, as he sped towards the first of five titles, debris placed in his path on the last stage of the Cork 20 Rally caused the Draperstown man to crash.

It meant Glengormley’s Derek McGarrity was deemed the winner and therefore overall champion before a meeting of rally stewards led them to announce that the results would, in fact, be final after the penultimate test. Hours later, Donnelly and McGarrity agreed to share the trophy.

“Don was a gentleman in every way,” said Donnelly, whose ITRC crowns came between 2004 and 2007, and again in 2009. “His understanding of his role in the Tarmac Rally Organisers’ Association (TROA) as Championship co-ordinator was very professional, and he knew the rules inside out.

“He was a great support to me personally. When we had the controversial incident on the Cork 20 Rally at the end of the 2004 season, he put his heart and soul into supporting me in getting to the bottom of what happened. With his help I returned in 2005 – because I nearly didn’t.

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“Don also worked tirelessly to find support and sponsorship for the Tarmac Championship and to make it as professional as possible. He oversaw what I would say were the best years of the ITRC.”

Prior to taking up the role of ITRC manager, Mr Wilmont – who lived in the town of Bushmills and is survived by his wife Jeanette and daughter Arlene – navigated for various drivers, the most notable being Tony Pond in a Group B Metro 6R4.

That insatiable love of rallying was the quality that endeared him to Tim McNulty, the 2011 ITRC champion.

“Don had a passion for Irish motorsport and had a professional approach as a competitor and the administrative roles he took on in recent years,” said the County Meath businessman.

“He played an enormous part in promoting Irish rallying which everyone involved in the sport has benefited from. He will be sadly missed.”


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