Vincent Bonner and Seamus McGettigan pictured at the recent launch of the Donegal Sports Star Awards
Rally driver Vincent Bonner was a Donegal Sports Star of the Year for Motor Sport in 1979 and was the overall Donegal Sports Star of the Year in 1983.
The Dungloe man was one of the leading drivers of the time and the first Donegal man to win the Donegal International Rally.
Last Monday night, he was among those honoured at the launch of this year’s Donegal Sports Star Awards. The award winners from 1979 received special presentations on the 40th anniversary and speaking at the event, Vincent admitted that he had forgotten he won the motor sport award that year.
“To be quite honest I did not realise I had won it in 1979 until Declan Kerr told me,” he said.
“I always associated winning the award in ‘83 because in ‘83 I was the overall winner after winning the International Rally.
“I won the award in ‘79 probably because I finished in ninth place in the Manx Rally and sixth in Donegal which were seen as big achievements at the time.
“The Manx was one of the biggest international rallies in Europe back then and all the leading teams were works teams. Private drivers usually finished from seventh place back.
“I was driving a Sunbeam back then. I bought it from Derek McMahon in Milford and my brother Michael was my co-driver.
“He was co-driver for my first five or six years when I started out and Seamus McGettigan took over from Michael and in later years it was Rory Kennedy.”
Vincent said he remembers those days with great fondness
“I have great memories from ‘79 and right throughout my career,” he said.
“I have fantastic memories and the fun we had was unbelievable.I remember, I think it was around ‘78/‘79, and we were on the way back from the Circuit of Ireland after the car had broken down.
“Michael was a wild man for tea and we stopped along the road to make a cup of tea. We always carried a wee stove for making tea and we had two similar types of jars - one contained water and the other petrol.”
“We had a fella by from Dungloe with us and he put the petrol in the kettle by mistake and put it on the stove and it went 100 feet in the air.
“Incidents like that come to mind when you lie awake in bed at night and they are great to look back on 40 years later.
“It is great to have my senses about me and I’m able to recall from all those years ago. They are great memories.”
Vincent remains as keenly interested in rallying as ever, though his involvement now is through supporting and following his son John who is carrying on the family tradition.
The 2019 Donegal Sports Star awards banquet is on Friday night January 31 in the Mount Errigal Hotel, Letterkenny.
World champion race walker Rob Heffernan will be guest of honour.
MAIN PIC: Vincent Bonner (third from right) and Seamus McGettigan receive a special presentation 40 years on from Vincent’s 1979 award at the launch of the 2019 Donegal Sports Star Awards last week. Also included are Seamus Neely, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council, Cllr Nicholas Crossan, Cathaoirleach Donegal Co. Council, Grace Boyle, chairperson of the Sports Star Awards committee and Myles Gallagher who launched the event PICTURE: GERALDINE dIVER
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