The Donegal International Rally is an annual sporting event held in County Donegal, Ireland. It is one of Ireland's oldest annual rally competitions and is a top event in the Irish Rallying calendar. It has a reputation for being one of the country's most challenging rallies. The event begins and concludes in Letterkenny.
The event began in 1972 with Cahal Curley the first winner. The event was postponed for the two consecutive years of 2001 and 2002 due to the Foot-and-mouth disease and a serious accident. The rally was abandoned in 2008 after a spectrator was hit by a driver.
The rally attracts approximately 50,000 spectators each year. The event is estimated to be worth over €20 million to the Donegal economy each year. The event was previously sponsored by Shell. The current sponsors of the Donegal International Rally are Topaz Energy and The Mount Errigal Hotel.
At the 2002 event two marshals were killed. The two 22-year-old men, one from Moville, the other from Crossmaglen, died when a car crashed into spectators at around 2.00pm. Three men were also injured. The remaining stages of the event were cancelled after the serious accident on Stage Two. Andrew Nesbitt was announced as winner as he led the rally at the time of the accident.
This led to the Motorsport Commission to inspect safety at all future events.
At the 2008 event an 18-year-old spectator died after being hit by a competing car, at 3.30pm. The accident happened at Ballyare, about four miles from Letterkenny. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. The road was closed and did not re-open for some time. Organisors cancelled the rally for the rest of the day and later announced that the 2008 event would be abandoned as a mark of respect Eugene Donnelly was announced as winner as he led the rally at the time of the accident.
On Saturday Afternoon 19 June 2010, a co-driver died after the car he was in crashed on the Knockalla stage, south of Portsalon, of the event shortly after 3pm. Thomas Maguire, Aged 26, from Longwood, County Meath was killed and his driver, Shane Buckley, critically injured. As a result, the final stage of the rally was cancelled. This was the first time in the rally's history that a competitor was killed during the rally.