DONNELLY EXTENDS IRISH TARMAC CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD WITH DRAMATIC LAST GASP VICTORY ON ULSTER RALLY
Eugene Donnelly had much to celebrate after taking his Kumho-shod Skoda Fabia WRC to a dramatic final stage win on last weekend’s (August 21/22) Ulster Rally – it was the Irishman’s third victory on this particular rally, his fourth of the 2009 season and a result that sees him well on the way to clinching his fifth Irish Tarmac Championship.
Donnelly and co-driver Paddy Toner started the rally’s 14th and final stage ½ a second behind rivals Gareth MacHale and Brian Murphy in their Ford Focus WRC. MacHale was all too aware that this was Donnelly’s home turf – where he grew up, where he cycled as a kid – so pushed the Focus to the limit. In doing so he overshot a crossroads, stalling the engine in the process and losing vital seconds that were eventually to cost him the rally by a mere quarter of a minute! Third place went to the Subaru WRC of Derek McGarrity and James McKee.
Donnelly was understandably overjoyed with the result. He said, “We gave it everything at the end and it was obviously brilliant to win on my home stage.”
The final round of the championship is the Cork 20 Rally on October 3/4, an event the Donnelly/Toner pairing will start with an 18 point lead, so there will be a few chewed fingernails between now and then! Said Kumho’s European Motorsport Manager Steve Thompson, “It’s been great to have Eugene back in the Kumho camp this season and he has driven brilliantly from the first stage of the first event. We’ll do everything we can to ensure he is victorious in Cork and secures that record fifth championship – he certainly deserves it.”