1982 Donegal

John Lyons presses on in the Downtown/Primark Escort, always out in front of the pack.

This report is reproduced from Autosport Magazine

The Lyons Share

John Lyons and Bill Moffett uncatchable – Austin McHale and Billy Coleman both fall by the wayside – Report by Brian Patterson.

John Lyons and Bill Moffett in the Downtown/Primark Escort RS1800 scored a start to finish victory in the new-look Donegal International Rally. Their only serious challengers, Austin McHale in the Chevette HSR and Billy Coleman in an Opel Ascona 400 retired with mechancial problems, but never looked like catching the flying Lyons.

The rally had a new base for this year, moving to the Great Northern Hotel in the seaside town of Bundoran, on the western side of the County. Many people had misgivings about the move, feeling it detracted from the traditional convivial atmosphere, and sleep was certainly one of the questions for most residents in rally HQ, the noise of the marquee disco in the grounds vibrating around the bedrooms. However, new boss of the rally, James Cullen, couldn’t do a lot about that, but did succeed in running an efficient event, his year long effort thwarted somewhat by the inclement weather, particularly on the Saturday, most un-Donegal like. A bonus for the Clerk of the Course was the birth of his first baby, a boy, on the last day of the event.

Of the 116 starters from the 136 entries, principal top twenty interest centred around Billy Coleman, for the first time driving the Opel Ireland/Boleyn-Cattini Ascona 400. Coleman was taking cousin Ger Buckley‘s place in the Opel Ireland team after Buckley was informed prior to the event he would not be allowed to start, a decision that was reversed by a Dublin court injunction. By then it was too late to do the event in any case.

Escort honours in Donegal were being upheld by John Lyons and Bill Moffett in last year’s Downtown/Primark Donegal winning car. An MCD fuel injected Escort had none other than Roger Clark behind the wheel, raring to go after an 8 months lay off. His co driver was Ellen Morgan, apprehensively intent on broadening her rally experience. Talbot honours were being upheld by Tarmac Championship leader John Coyne and Christy Farrell in the Lotus, and Damien Campbell and David Gray in the pushrod version.

Vauxhall Chevette HSRs were in the hands of Austin McHale and John McGee and Everclear/Esso car of Donie Keating and Micky Condon.

The top seeds were rounded off by the Browns of Hereford Renault 5 Turbo driven by John Price and Hugh Wyllie and the lone Porsche Carrera of Noel Smith and Ian Turkington from Dublin.

The Donegal Rally started after lunch on Friday. The weather, after a shaky start, soon dried and the first day’s 70 asphalt competitive miles (5 stages done twice) promised fast action.

John Lyons completed the first 5.5 miles well under 5 mins, McHale was 9 secs slower. Coleman was feeling his way, 18 secs slower, becoming used to the Ascona. Behind the leader, Alan Fraser and James Leakey inverted their Group 4 Escort at high speed. They went no further, and delayed half a dozen following drivers.

The Browns of Hereford Renault 5 Turbo made a welcome appearance in the hands of John Price and Hugh Wyllie.

Paul Windsor’s new Escort went no further than the first stage either, back axle trouble the cause. After stage 2 Lyons extended his lead to 31 secs. Ken McKinstry was second, McHale losing a few seconds with an overshoot, and overheating problems, his Chevette already having a second-hand gearbox fitted at the start. Vincent Bonner was third, Coleman speeding up in fourth, Coyne going steady in fifth and Roger Clark settling down in sixth. Another expected top local runner, James McDaid crashed his Escort on stage 3, his time loss putting him over maximum lateness.

Lough Eske was the next stage. and provided a sad blow for the organisers and spectators. Roger Clark‘s MCD Escort stopped on the stage. The engine just cut out, all the appearance of an electrical fault. Roger and co driver Ellen Morgan were enormously disappointed, and all efforts to repair the Escort and run as course car were in vain,

Billy Coleman had by now come to terms with the Ascona 400 and started to set stage times within 3 and 4 seconds of Lyons, the question mark being would he be able to speed up just a little more and provide a serious challenge.

Suddenly the order was changed, McHale, suffering from a misfire, had the Chevette engine expire, and a good second place was out the window . . .Donegal has never been the luckiest place for Austin and John McGee. John Lyons had a punctured rear wheel on a stage, and Coleman, after eight stages, was in second place, the gap a constant 1one and a half minutes. Bonner was now third, just 2 secs behind Coleman, then it was Coyne McKinstry and Keating.

The rally arrived back in Bundoran at 7pm on Friday with the gap between Lyons and Coleman still one and a half minutes. John Coyne was keeping it consistent in third place, almost one and a half minutes behind the Ascona. Ken McKinstry was 20 secs back, Keating over a minute behind in fifth place. The Chevette had been giving brake problems all day, this having an affect on Keating’s driving. Robert Moffett had his Escort up to sixth, despite an injured hand.

John Lyons relished the wet conditions and applied all his autotest experience to control the rally from the front.

Saturday promised to he a long day. 19 stages, 140 competitive miles, and the rain was heavy and unremitting. John Lyons rubbed his hands, fitted the rain tyres, and ran away from Coleman over the opening stages. The Cork man had never driven the Ascona in the wet before, the tyres were not quite suitable, and he dropped 3Osecs on the first stage alone. Ken McKinstry ended his fine drive here when his KD Kars sponsored Escort dropped a valve.

The rally. by mid morning had wound its way to the traditional stages around Fanad Head in the North East of the County, and based itself for the day at the Milford Inn. Lyons lead after 20 stages was now 3 mins over Coleman, Billy by now settled with the Ascona in the rain but unable to do anything about the flying Escort. Robert Moffett went off a long way on Atlantic Drive, fortunately without injury to himself or co driver Gerard Kelly. A crane was later required to lift out the Escort.

All interest in the fight for the lead evaporated when Coleman and co-driver Con Murphy (Ger Buckleys brother-in-law) coasted to a halt with a suspected differential problem. The Ascona was out, and a later axle change didn‘t resolve the problems which remained a mystery.

Lyons’ lead was now nearly 5 mins over Coyne who was nearly 5 mins ahead of Keating, so that all interest was now centred on the middle and lower end of the top ten. John Price was going well in the rain, and had passed Ken Irwin for fifth place, Noel Smith had lost two gears from the Porsche gearbox. it didn‘t get any worse, and he was holding seventh.

There were only seven stages on Sunday, three proper stages done twice and then a stage through the streets of Bundoran – a stage lined with many thousands of spectators. Lyons made a slow start; but by the 5.30 pm finish he had again set some fastest times, secure in the knowledge that Coyne was not going to dent his 6 mins lead. For Coyne it was a case of preserving his second place, while Donie Keating once again struggled with a virtually brakeless Chevette.

John Lyons and Bill Moffett get ready to sample the champagne for the second year in a row.

It was John Lyons‘ second consecutive victory in Donegal, the £1500 first prize, awarded by MKF Marketing, justly earned for his victory on this well organised Donegal International Rally.


  1. John Lyons/Bill Moffett (Ford Escort RS) 231m 43s;
  2. John Coyne/Christy Farrell (Talbot Sunbeam Lotus) 238m 19s;
  3. Donie Keating/Nicky Condon (Chevette HSR) 246m 21s;
  4. Damien Campbell/David Gray (Talbot Sunbeam Lotus) 246m 58s;
  5. John Price/Hugh Wyllie (Renault 5 Turbo) 248m 15s;
  6. Noel Smith/Ian Turkington (Porsche 911SC) 249m 26s;
  7. Ken Irwin/John McCafferty (Talbot Sunbeam 1600) 250m 22s;
  8. Mal Stuart/Ken Rees (Talbot Avenger) 251m 49s;
  9. Frank Fennell/Tom Callanan (Talbot Sunbeam 1600) 253m 13s;
  10. Ken McMillan/David Bole (Ford Escort XR3) 255m 57s.