Tens of thousands of people crowded into the North Roscommon/South Leitrim/South Sligo area at the weekend to witness Rally Ireland – a leg of the World Rally Championship – and they were not disappointed as the whole event was judged to be a major success. It is now hoped that the Rally will be returning to the area in two years’ time. In the race itself Frenchman Sebastian Loeb, who was driving a Citroen, moved one step closer to another championship title with an almost faultless display of masterful rally driving through the Roscommon, Leitrim, Cavan, Tyrone Donegal and Sligo countryside in what were very tough conditions. The Rally was not one to remember for the championship leader going into the race, Sweden’s Marcus Gronholm, who crashed out in spectacular fashion in Friday at Lough Gill. The conditions were described by the drrivers as very difficult, particularly on Saturday, when torrential rain fell throughout the day. The top Irish driver was Gareth McHale who finished in 12th place overall while local competitor Michael Murray, who is a member of the Midland Motor Club, finished in a very creditable 54th place in his Mitsubishi. The event was judged to have been a major success and it is hoped that it can return again to the area in 2009 (the 2008 schedule has already been decided). Several thousand people flocked into Boyle for the festival which was held at the weekend in conjunction with the rally. Events included a fashion show, a display of top class rally cars and vintage cars, a Christmas market, and there were special events on the street and in many of the local pubs, restaurants and hotels which were very well attended. Chairperson of the Boyle Festival Committee, Jim McGrath, says that it was a fantastic weekend for Boyle. ‘It went really well, especially on Friday night. The town was packed and every B&B and hotel in the region was booked out. There were some places that even had to close on Friday night to re-stock, it was that busy’ he said. ‘Another remarkable thing was the amount of families that came to the event which was great to see and we were lucky with the weather on Friday too – so it was a fantastic weekend for Boyle and surrounding areas’ he concluded.