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donnelly 5th titleBy guiding his Kumho-shod Skoda Fabia WRC to a finely judged second place on the recent (October 3/4) Cork 20 International Rally, Irish rally ace Eugene Donnelly has clinched his fifth Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. His five titles match the record set by the legendary Austin MacHale, while his tally of 19 individual rally victories is just one less than the late Bertie Fisher’s all time total. Last but not least, Donnelly’s victory in this year’s series marks the first major international championship success for the Skoda Fabia WRC.

Donnelly entered the event – the last in the 2009 series – with a solid 18-point lead. The championship was therefore his to lose and he admits to making a nervous start. However he remarked, “I must say I enjoyed the first day that comprised three stages run three times. We got the choice of Kumhos right and the car was working very well. The format reminded me of the old Irish national rallies, and by bedtime on Saturday we were a lot more settled. The last three stages of the rally were torture though. I was never so paranoid about what could go wrong, but in the end everything held together – I could hardly believe it.”

Ironically the Cork event was won by the Ford Focus WRC of Gareth MacHale (one of the two rallying sons of Austin MacHale), which finished just over a minute ahead of the Donnelly Skoda.

Said Kumho’s European Motorsport Manager Steve Thompson, “We were delighted when Eugene rejoined the Kumho fold this year and even more so when he started winning straight out of the box. He and faithful co-driver Paddy Toner thoroughly deserve their success, which we are proud to have contributed to. With memorable results in rallying, rallycross and Formula 3, 2009 has been our most successful European motorsport season to date.”

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