What can we expect from Donegal Rally’s epic itinerary?

Donegal International Rally’s three days, 300 stage kilometres, and nine unique routes will provide Ireland’s rally crews with the biggest test they have faced in 2022.

Some call Donegal a three-day sprint, others say it is a battle of survival. In reality, it is the ultimate mix of both. We have seen it all in the past – ferocious fightbacks, continual lead changes, and blowing victory hopes with car-bruising and soul-destroying mistakes.

From Gartan to Glen, and Fanad to Atlantic Drive, there is little respite from Friday morning to Sunday evening.

Onthepacenote’s Killian Duffy helped walk us through what to expect from this year’s Donegal International Rally itinerary.

Dooish Hill (15.37 km) // SS1/4

Dooish is going to be a tricky stage to start off the marathon that is Donegal. It will be hard for crews to get into from the beginning.

There is a lot of work to be done straight away and drivers will immediately be busy behind the wheel.

The 15-kilometre stage has a lot of late corners and slippery sections as well.

An Grianan (11.14 km) // SS2/5

This stage has been used on Donegal’s International and Harvest Stages rallies before. Maiden City Motor Club has also used it in some of their events.

It is a very committed stage on really fast roads. It might not be as tricky as the first stage but it will be dusty thanks to the agricultural land in the area.

If it is wet, An Grianan will be particularly difficult.

Mouldy Hill (12.99 km) // SS3/6

Mouldy Hill’s second pass will bring a close to Donegal International Rally’s opening day of action. It is quite committed with numerous bumps and jumps.

The mountainous stage starts near Burnfoot, at the bottom of the Inishowen peninsula, and finishes at the entrance to coastal town Buncrana.

Those who make it to Buncrana will be deserving of a few refreshments after a string of difficult stages on Friday. But as we know, Friday is only an appetiser of the challenges to come over the next two days.

Carnhill (14.19 km) // SS7/10/13

Donegal Motor Club will utilise a mix-match of roads for Carnhill this year.

There are a lot of options in the area so sections will be in the same direction while others will be in opposite directions to the stage route over the years.

Returning crews will be pretty familiar with the areas to be careful in Carnhill. The last kilometre and a half is particularly committed, it is absolutely flat out.

Fanad Head (19.88 km) // SS8/11/14

Fanad runs in the opposite direction this year compared to previous editions.

It will start with a very fast section close to the football pitches before swinging right to go around Shannagh Lough.

It goes in the same direction as Craig Breen had an off in the Fiesta S2000 12 years ago.

There is so much work in it and it is always very hard on tyres. The last section can be slippery under the trees, there is no break in it really.

Fanad’s third pass is shortened, running as an eight-kilometre Fanad Beag test.

Knockalla (19.61 km) // SS9/12

Perhaps Donegal’s most famous stage, starting with those iconic hillclimb hairpins overlooking Portsalon.

This year’s stage route is the same as 2019 at the start and at the finish. It is different in the middle, though, and the new section should be more enjoyable. It is more flowing and less bumpy than the previous version.

Knockalla is the only stage on Saturday to run twice rather than three times.

Gartan (15.64 km) // SS15/18

Gartan is Donegal’s big rollercoaster stage, although, there are a few chicanes added in this year ahead of some big jumps.

It will be a tough one to wake up for on Sunday.

There is always action on Gartan, Declan Boyle and Garry Jennings are some of the stage’s biggest casualties in recent years.

Expect drama on Sunday’s opening stage, there are plenty of places to go off.

High Glen (12.00 km) // SS16/19

High Glen is probably the opposite of Gartan. It is more forgiving and runs in an identical format to 2019.

It is fast, committed, and with a lot of the crews already knowing it, there probably won’t be huge time differences here.

Atlantic Drive (12.87 km) // SS17/20

What a stage to finish Donegal’s three-day epic – Atlantic Drive.

It runs in the opposite direction to last time. A short stage but every bit of it is demanding on the driver and co-driver.

It is shiny at the start and then it gets grippier after the Singing Pub. There are a lot of short corners and lots of corners that link together.

You mightn’t have a big accident on Atlantic Drive but it is very easy to get caught out on one of the many corners.

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Photos by Adam Hall. Thanks to Killian Duffy for the expert stage overview!