Damian Gallagher has told Highland Radio Sport, he and his co driver Mac Walsh are extremely disappointed and frustrated they cannot defend their Donegal Rally title in 2018.
The Glenswilly crew who won the National Rally for the first time in their Ford Escort last year have had their Motorsport Ireland licences revoked and banned from competing this year.
The pair were hit with the suspension having been judged to have failed to stop with Kevin Eves who crashed on the Knockalla Stage on the Saturday of last year’s rally.
The rule states, if a crew does not have an ok board out at a crash, the next crew has to stop.
Gallagher and Walsh came upon the Eves crash but said they were waved on by the crew in the Toyota.
The situation was given the all clear at the time but it was raised by Motorsport Ireland in the months after when an anonymous letter was sent to Motorsport Ireland.
An MI Tribual then suspended their licences for 2018.
Speaking with Oisin Kelly, Damian said it has been a very frustrating time for the crew…
Damian and Mac released a statement on Sunday night.
It is with deep regret that Damian Gallagher and Mac Walsh, winners of the 2017 Donegal National Rally, find themselves unable to defend their title in 2018.
Following a protracted legal battle with Motorsport Ireland, the Donegal crew find themselves without licences for the 2018 season.
On the Knockalla stage of the Donegal last year, Damien and Mac passed the car of Kevin Eves, which had spun off in clear view of the Knockalla start line. Kevin’s navigator was out of the car, clearly uninjured. Kevin himself gave Damien and Mac the thumbs up to procced. It later transpired that Kevin, unknown even to him, had injured his ankle and required medical attention, resulting in the stage being stopped and the medical team being brought in. Kevin had broken his ankle, an injury which was successfully treated in LGH later that evening. Kevin confirmed details of the incident and stewards review later that evening found there was nothing wrong with the handling of the incident, either by the relevant crews or the MI stewards on site.
Months later, Damien and Mac were summoned to an MI tribunal in Dublin at which the simple rule was applied ‘No OK board = STOP’.
The testimony of Eves made no difference and a licence suspension was applied. A lengthy legal battle has followed which Damien and Mac have recently lost as MI continued to apply their bottom line, ‘No OK=STOP’. As a result, Damien and Mac cannot defend their Donegal title, which they battled for over 20 years to achieve. They would like to state their appreciation for their sponsors over the years and to thank the thousands of spectators who turn out annually to support the event. They wish the 2018 Donegal International Rally every success and hope to return to the sport they love in the very near future.