AN Armagh woman is celebrating after scooping a top award in the prestigious Cannon Run across Ireland.
The event - which sees a cavalcade of cars traverse the country - is styled on the classic 1980s Burt Reynolds movie ‘The Cannonball Run’.
An all-star cast compete in a wild and exciting - and highly illegal - cross-country caper-filled chase.
All of the same adrenalin is there and it’s an unforgettable experience - but well-planned and perfectly legal, rest assured!
With the buzz of the big event still ringing, Maggie Donnelly and brother Peter have been bitten by the Cannon Run bug.
And there was a big bonus for Maggie, who lives in the Newry Road area of the city, as she was presented with the ‘Spirit of the Cannon Run’ award, one of three handed out at the conclusion of the big event.
Brother Peter - who has enjoyed competing in the Circuit of Ireland back in its hey-dey in the 70s and 80s - was her co-driver in their Porsche Carrera.
And he is justly proud that his sister was singled out for such success.
They decided to take part in memory of their brother, Michael, also a motorsport enthusiast, who passed away in Australia two years ago, and so the award is all the more personal and welcome.
Peter, from Dungannon, was full of praise too for the organisers of the event and would be quick to recommend it to anyone who is into motorsport in any way.
He explained: “It was a five-day event taking place throughout Ireland. It started in Dublin and the event covered many of the traditional Circuit of Ireland stages together with fast motorway sections.
“We stayed overnight in Portmarnock, Waterford, Kilarney, we stopped for lunch at Trump’s Golf Course. Then we went up to Galway and stayed there.
“It was a brilliant drive, brilliant scenery, country roads...
“It attracted all types of high performance cars including McLarens, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, Maseratis, Jaguars and Mercedes - even a Pontiac Trans Am!
“The entrants arrived from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland over a five event concluding at Bunratty Castle.
“It runs in the UK, Wales, Scotland, England, and they bring it over here sometimes. I think there’s another one in September.”
Peter had a big part to play and, while this was their first outing in this type of event, it was a hark back to his own days racing. In fact, the terrain was very familiar, to say the least.
“It was the first time doing the Cannon Run,” he said. “But it was very similar to my experiences back in the 70s and 80s doing the old Circuit of Ireland.
“It was a very similar route.
“I would rate myself as Maggie’s co-driver because there was navigation involved. You had to follow the route on the iPhone.
“It wasn’t a high speed race for first place because of public road safety. There was only three trophies.”
One of these was awarded for best classic car, another for best decorated - featuring decals, stickers and the like - and then of course there was the Spirit of the Cannon Run award.
And it had Maggie’s name all over it!
“It’s a big thing,” reflects Peter. “The fact that this girl from Armagh won the Spirit award among 50 or 60 other cars. Any one of them could have picked it up.
“I think it was the fact that she was a good sharp driver and was spotted by the organisers. That, and the fact she’s got a big personality. She’s just a very exuberant person.
“She is a fairly high speed driver and a lot of the men couldn’t keep up with her!”
With such a wide entry field, it is a remarkable and rewarding accolade to have bestowed upon Maggie, with the siblings in no doubt whatsoever that they’ll be back to do it all again.
“That’s the first question we got when we came home,” laughs Peter. “We were interrogated.
“But yes, we are definitely doing it next year again. It’s brilliant craic, great fun.
“It’s a brilliant experience for a motoring enthusiast.
“It’s a brilliant social event. We were meeting people, couples from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland, exchanging numbers and they’re WhatsApping away at us now.
“It’s just a great mix altogether.”