The 2018 Joule Donegal International Rally gets underway today with the first six of the 20 Special Stages taking place.
Competitors today tackle stages at Breenagh, Cark Mountain and Letterleague, with each stage down twice, either side of a service at the Neil T Blaney Road in Letterkenny.
Manus Kelly in his native Glenswily this week where he will lead the rally out on Friday morning on the Brennagh Stage. Photo Brian McDaid
Cars will leave the start ramp at the Mount Errigal Hotel around noon.
Today’s schedule is a change on recent years with the Breenagh-Cark-Letterleague loop making its return while the start ramp heading for the Mount Errigal is a big alteration, having been at the foot of the Port Road for many years.
The start at Breenagh means that car number 1, the back-to-back winner Manus Kelly, starts this year’s rally on home territory.
SS 1&4 – Breenagh
An old favourite returns as the first stage this year. The fast and flowing nature of this 9.50km test provides a tricky opener.
The tight and gravely start provides a real wake-up call from the outside before the square right and the blast over the hill. This stage has caught many crews napping.
Kevin Lynch fell victim on the bumpy mid-section in 2005 after he had set the quickest time over the first loop of the stage.
This stage was last used in 2014 when it was a three-way tie after the 4:22.2 bogey time was beaten by Declan Boyle, Darren Gass and Garry Jennings. In 2005, Andrew Nesbitt finished it in 4:14.5 but that was with two less chicanes on the stage.
Last time out in 2014, Gary McPhillips was the fastest of the modified men in 4:28.9 – 3.5 seconds ahead of an Escort driven by Manus Kelly.
SS 2&5 – Cark Mountain
‘The trickiest stage in the world’. Those were the words, in 2006, of Colin McRae and Nicky Grist.
This shows the demanding nature of the mountainous and fast bit of tarmac from Cloghan to the finish just outside Drumkeen.
The stage takes on the flowing corners at the start, where time can be made up and then to the open hairpins and the windmills, a corner that caught out Eamon Boland in his WRC Escort 20 years ago.
Fastest on this stage in 2014 – when it was last run – was Sam Moffett, but this year’s stage sees it revert to the original start and it is a format last used 20 years ago in 1998.
SS 3&6 – Letterleague
The downhill version of Letterleague is back after a four-year absence. Crews tackle a section last used in the 2012 Mini Stages before going into Woods’ crossroads and heading for Legland Bridge – a jump that is a real favourite among spectators.
The square right at Ballystrang School is another vantage point popular with Donegal Rally enthusiasts.
It’s downhill towards Letterleague School and the section before the finish shows the last of the late breakers and those crews trying to make every second count.
When Billy Coleman beat Austin McHale by one second in 1984, this was the last stage of that event.
Tune into Donegal Daily’s Facebook page, where we will be providing live coverage right throughout the 2018 Joule Donegal International Rally. Charlie Collins will anchor the coverage, with live end-of-stage and in-service reports from Chris McNulty and Toni Kelly. As well as the live coverage, a highlights package will also be available each evening.Tags: