I first went to Donegal for the International rally in 1979 as service crew for Yuk and Ian J in a Mini. Things were not so good in Ireland then, you were very conscious of driving a UK registered car and the border crossings were formidable, we had to go to a few before we found speed humps low enough for the Granada and trailer to go over. Once there we ate and drunk in little bars that were part of peoples houses in little villages, people were mostly friendly but we stayed clear of Letterkenny where the rally was based apart from returning at night to our hotel.
I think our car retired with a broken driveshaft on the second day and we spent the rest of the week drinking. Yuk returned to compete many times over the years and became a bit of a celebrity, if you've met him you will know where i am coming from.
It was 15 years later before i went back to Letterkenny the town had grown and the whole place was more relaxed, again i was servicing for Yuk, this time in a BMW M3. He retired with electrical problems in the middle of nowhere and by the time we got there he'd found a very drunk woman in a bar with more on her mind than she had in it. She reckoned to be getting married next day, i think she ended up back at the hotel in town, we never found out if she got married.
Over the following years we went with another local Roy Jarvis who rallied a beautifully built Corsa, he was perfect to service for as nothing usually went wrong with the car. By this time we were staying in a village outside Letterkenny called Ramelton famous for the Bridge Bar, a popular venue for bands on a Friday and Saturday night. We almost lived there quite often going home in daylight and getting up again at 7.00 am for the rally start.
By the Millennium Letterkenny was a big town, new housing and Industrial estates at every turn. The Rally by this time was massive, possibly the best and biggest (certainly in terms of the quality of cars) in Europe. This also meant that UK competitors found it too expensive to compete and it was getting almost impossible to get an entry unless you were a big name. I last went in 2003 just spectating but this year a few locals are going again with Roy who is competing in the Historic class in a Mini. The Irish economy is on its arse, its easy enough to get entries again now, the whole thing has almost gone full circle, except there is less risk of geting beaten for speaking with an English accent.
With the stages being tarmac on closed public roads the rear wheel drive Escorts and the like (Modifieds in Ireland) have always been the peoples favourite, this vid gives an idea of the atmosphere, there cant be a much better way of spending a warm summer day than sitting outside a pub next to the Atlantic watching this.
Its just Michael Dunlop on 4 wheels.