BY CHRIS MCNULTY
Tim McNulty was ‘over the moon’ after finally landing success at the Donegal International.
The Co.Meath man has been a constant challenger in Donegal over the last decade, but glory had eluded him – until now.
McNulty had a 38.6 second lead on Friday evening over Alastair Fisher, while he had stretched that advantage to 1 minute 14.2 seconds at the close of Saturday’s action.
When he crossed the finish ramp in the glorious blue Impreza, he was 1 minute 19.3 seconds ahead of Fisher following an almost faultless weekend around the tricky terrain of Donegal.
“I’m absolutely over the moon, it’s fantastic,” said McNulty. “I have waited so long for this and fought so hard. To get a win like this is just fantastic – it’s the pinnacle. Donegal is the top rally and I always said that I would give up everything else in the sport to win it. I’ve done that now.
“We picked our stages. Even on Saturday we had to do Knockalla in the rain and Friday over Fanad was excellent for us. We had our plan mapped out and we stuck to it all weekend. We had to work very hard for it.
“I have been waiting 10 years for this and to get it is just brilliant. You dream of these things and this is the number one, Donegal is just fantastic.”
McNulty paid tribute to co-driver Paul Kiely, who was savouring his fourth Donegal win last night having sat three times previously with Eugene Donnelly. “Paul is a huge influence in the car and it wouldn’t have been done without him. He was great all weekend and his experience was vital,” said McNulty.
Kiely said that Donegal is the ‘one I always want’. He added: “The plan was to get here and do the business to make a break for the Championship.”
The Group N battle turned into one of the most intriguing yesterday morning when gear trouble saw Philip Morrow lose over a minute and Garry Jennings swept into the lead.
Kesh man Jennings managed to cling onto the lead, beating Morrow by 1.8 seconds. Afterwards, Jennings was a relieved man. He said: “It’s six years since I won Group N here. I had led it every year since, but didn’t get to the line. I didn’t expect to win by that thin of a margin, but it’s good to get it. 1.8 seconds of a win after three long days is a great result.
“We creeped up and took the lead when Morrow hit a problem. We managed to keep hold of that.
“It was all about being neat and tidy and getting the car to the finish with no damage. I’ve learned not to race the big boys, but to race the Group N fellas. It’s a great result for us.
“It’s a great feeling and the buzz is unreal. This was a marathon of a rally.”
One of the stories of the weekend was Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna, who set some schorching times in the MkII Escort – and he took a landslide victory in the National Rally. “We’re delighted with the victory,” he said.
“We were very lucky with a couple of incidents to be still in the rally at all. It was a brilliant weekend with brilliant stages.
“We made a lot of mistakes and usually I wouldn’t overshoot or spin as much as I did. To a certain extent we stayed out of trouble and we’re delighted to be finished.” Despite making what he termed ‘a lot’ of mistakes, some of McKenna’s times were right up there with the big guns – including one on Friday that was second quickest to McNulty.