Subaru's Donnelly Prepares To Take The Title
Topics: Eugene Donnelly
September 28, 2007
Subaru’s Eugene Donnelly prepares to take his fourth Irish Tarmac rally title in a row this weekend. But enthusiasts say that he will get less satisfaction from that victory than any of the previous three. This is because of the mess he created on and off the special stages.
The 40-year-old driver from County Londonderry has been rallying for 22 years. His first victory came in 2002 in Galway. Donnelly, the reigning Irish Tarmac Champion for three years in a row, has been driving WRC cars for four years now. After driving a Toyota Corolla to three successive Tarmac Championships, he shifted to Subaru Impreza S12 WRC this season.
Currently, Donnelly leads the championship by five points from Mark Higgins, Brit rally champion, with two points rounds left. This year, Donnelly has two victories in the championship – at the Jim Clark International Rally and the Rally Isle of Man.
Donnelly 'only' has to finish within a couple of places of Higgins on the final round, the Cork '20' International, and the title will be his again. But even that unique achievement is likely to be eclipsed on the day because the international status of the two-day Cork event will see World champion Sebastien Loeb in action along with his young Citroen teammate Dani Sordo and Ford No.2 Mikko Hirvonen, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
For the rally enthusiasts and critics, it is all about acclimatizing to Irish tarmac ahead of Rally Ireland and the predicted showdown for the World title next month. Donnelly competing against Higgins will just be the sub-plot despite the fact that it is the duel Irish fans have been looking forward to since February. The twists have included Donnelly leading Leob's arch-rival for the World title, Ford's Marcus Gronholm, on the Galway International only to crash out on the penultimate stage, the report continued.
Wins in Scotland and the Isle of Man pushed Donnelly to the top of the championship table but he acknowledges they were made comparatively easy because Higgins was also committed to the defense of his British title and could only combat him in a production Subaru.
Donnelly would like to set the record straight by beating Higgins in Cork, at the same time gauging his prowess against Loeb and Co. But that is to jeopardize blowing the one real solace he can grab from a horrendous season - the four-in-row title.
"I see this as an opportunity to get things right after all the trials and tribulations," Donnelly said. "There have been times this season when I haven't driven well at all, especially in Donegal and on the Ulster Rally, but I'm excited about Cork. The incentives are there - the chance to be Tarmac champion again and line up with Sebastien again. Who wouldn't be looking forward to it?"
As the rumors continue to wander around the Reid team, their two other entries in Cork for James Cullen, who still had an outside chance of the production championship, and Shaun Reid, have been withdrawn.
At present, Donnelly has 66 points followed by Higgins with 61 - both drivers are from the manufacturer of Subaru distributor cap team. On the third spot in the position driver points is Eamonn Boland with 41 points. On the fourth and fifth spots are Andreas Mikkelsen and Gareth Jones with 28 and 20 points, respectively. Boland, Mikkelsen and Jones are from the Ford team.
Also ready to rumble are Meeke and McGarrity as the DMG team focuses on backing the Tarmac title protagonists. The talk of triple Northern Ireland champion Kevin Lynch in a Citroen Xsara has proved unsubstantiated.
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