Donegal Record Holder Joins the Déjà Vu Party

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Andrew Nesbitt, the six-time Donegal International Rally winner, will be in the Parade of Power when the crews leave Jackson’s Hotel at 10.00am on Saturday, 31 August on the 120 mile trip of nostalgia over many of the famous Donegal stages.

Andrew’s record breaking run started in 1996 but the writing had been on the Donegal walls from the late 1980s, when the young Armagh ace started to appear regularly in the top 10. The 1996 rally was an epic with Bertie Fisher, James Cullen and Andrew engaged in a triangular tussle that had the whole county on edge. Bertie binned it on Fanad Head and then Andrew overtook James for his first International win.

Andrew Nesbitt

Andrew Nesbitt

He returned in 1998 with his Toyota Celica ST185 and a new co-driver, James O’Brien. It was the start of a highly successful partnership and they led Austin MacHale’s similar ST185 home by over a minute. But his drive in an S5 WRC Impreza in 2000 was the one that made Irish Rallying history. At the finish the WRC car was three and a half minutes ahead of James Cullen and Andrew and James had won every single special section!

His fourth Donegal victory in 2002 was a short and sad affair when two marshals were killed. His 2003 win wasn’t a runaway canter as in 2000 as Eugene Donnelly’s Impreza provided stiff opposition but in the end Andrew and James had over a minute in hand and were clutching the Jim Kennedy Trophy for the fifth time.

In 2006 Andrew was teamed with the experienced Mark Higgins in twin Mitsubishi Lancer WRCs. Kevin Lynch and Eugene Donnelly led but as the rally moved into its final day the Mitsubishis topped the times with ‘amateur’ Andrew leading ‘professional’ Mark by twenty-seven seconds.

The Dèjà Vu Donegal organisers have already received a record entry for their charity event in aid of the Donegal Hospice and will soon be setting up a reserve list..

“Everywhere in  Donegal we have received a heart-warming welcome. Donegal Oil helped us with the launch; the Ballybofey and Stranolar Chamber of Commerce have opened many doors; the Donegal Motor Club has given us their blessing and will be providing us with marshals; Bord Failté and the Donegal County Council are supporting our event; we will be announcing some very special arrangements with the Ramelton Festival Committee; Ulster Tyres are hosting the Registration and Jackson’s Hotel the Welcome Reception.

 Old friends Rory Kennedy and Ivan Fuery have rolled up their sleeves, indeed everyone has been so positive it is a pleasure to be bringing the event to the County.” 

Alan (Plum) Tyndall and Dr. Beatty Crawford.



Friday 31st, August

2.30 – 5.30pm                   Registration – Ulster Tyres, Stranrolar.

8.30 – 10.30pm                 Welcome Reception – Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey


Saturday 30th, August

10.00am                          Start – Jackson’s Hotel


                                           Lunch – Singing Pub, Atlantic Drive

3.00pm                            The Ramelton Rumble

7.00pm                            Gala Dinner & entertainment – Jackson’s Hotel


Register on  

Déjå Vu Donegal is a charity event with all profits going to the Donegal Hospice.


About Author

Andy is the founding member of RMS, and when he's not following motoring events around the UK and Ireland he can be found on the track (sideways, having competed in top level drifting for a decade), or of course he'll be on the forum.

RMS Forum Comments

Cooper 08:22 | Mon 20 May, 2019 | Report
THE ‘GENIE’ JOINS THE DÉjÀ VU DONEGAL PARTY 236576 Photo Esler Crawford Photoghaphy Eugene Donnelly, three time winner of the Donegal International Rally, is the latest of an impressive list of former winners who will be in Donegal at the end of August for Déjà Vu Donegal, the rally reunion party that is surpassing all expectations. “We knew the response in Donegal would be massive but we had no conception of how big. With three months still to go we already received 135 entries giving us no option but to start a reserve list when we reach the 150 mark. And it is not just the numbers, the quality is outstanding. Seven former winners have now signed up and five more have indicated their intention to join us. And look at the cars that will start the 120 mile route! Two Lancia Stratos, Renault Alpines, Sunbeam Tigers, Metro 6R4s, Vauxhall Chevettes, Sunbeam Talbots, and Lotus Cortinas. Three Toyotas and Mercedes. Five BMWs. Eight Opels. Ten Mk I and Mk II Escorts. Eleven Minis, eighteen Porsches and an Aston Martin!” Enthused Alan (Plum) Tyndall & Dr. Beatty Crawford the event organisers. EUGENE DONNELLY Eugene will be accompanied by Paul Kiely on Déjà Vu Donegal, when he won the rally in a Toyota Corolla WRC in 2004 and 2005, but it was Paddy Toner who was alongside ‘The Genie’ in 2008 in a Skoda Fabia WEC when the county Derry driver got his third Donegal win. The Donnelly/Derek McGeehan engineering partnership succeeded where others had failed in adapting a Toyota Corolla to Irish tarmac, and to the surprise of many in 2004 the Corolla led the rally from the start. But by stage four Nesbitt’s Subaru had moved ahead, then a stage blocking incident on day two enabled the Toyota to slip back into the lead and Eugene and Paul Kiely took their first Donegal win and went on to become the 2004 Irish Tarmac Rally Champions. Eugene’s task a year later was more difficult as Andrew Nesbitt and Derek McGarrity were in upgraded Subarus, but Nesbitt crashed and McGarrity retired and Eugene’s second Donegal win led to his second consecutive Irish Tarmac Championship. The Donnelly/McGeehan combo was again at work in 2008, this time on a Skoda Fabia WRC. Sadly the rally was curtailed on the second day when an errant spectator strayed onto the road and was fatally injured. Eugene and Paddy Toner received the Jim Kennedy Trophy but there were no celebrations. DÉJÀ VU DONEGAL WEEKEND FORMAT. Friday 31st, August 2.30 – 5.30pm Registration - Ulster Tyres, Stranrolar. 8.30 – 10.30pm Welcome Reception - Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey Saturday 30th, August 10.00am Start - Jackson’s Hotel 120-route Lunch - Singing Pub, Atlantic Drive 3.00pm The Ramelton Rumble 7.00pm Gala Dinner & entertainment - Jackson’s Hotel Déjå Vu Donegal is supported by The Donegal Motor Club, the Ballybofey and Stranorlar Chamber of Commerce, Bord Failté, Tourism Donegal, Jackson’s Hotel and the Ramelton Festival Committee. All profits will be donated to the Donegal Hospice.
cormac81 10:32 | Mon 20 May, 2019 | Report
Has the actual route been communicated yet?

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