For Immediate Release!


Noel Lawler and Charlie Bradley, top rally competitors in the U.S. who are natives of Ireland, have received sponsorship from Western Brand Chicken of Ireland to return to their homeland to challenge the roads at the Shell Donegal International Rally June 19-21, 1998. Donegal is the premier event in the Toshiba Equium Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, and is renowned as one of the toughest rally courses in all of Europe.

Driver Noel Lawler of Vermont has been dreaming of this opportunity since he saw his first rally at the age of seven. Lawler has varied experience in gravel rallying, road racing, hill climbing and endurance racing in the U.S. Co-driver Charlie Bradley of Pennsylvania, won the Production 1300 class in the Donegal International Rally in 1984 and hopes to repeat the performance in the faster Group A class.

Team Western Brand Chicken will compete in a 16-valve, 2-liter Subaru Legacy which was built by Prodrive and won the 1994 British Rally Championship driven by Richard Burns. It features 340 hp at 4800 rpm, and 440 lb/ft of torque at 4500 rpm.

The Legacy will be prepared and serviced during the rally by McKinstry Motorsports. Kenny McKinstry is one of the top drivers in Irish rallying. He has competed in the Donegal International 10 times; won the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship in 1992 and 1995; and took second in the British Rally Championship in 1992.

Lawler/Bradley will have to adjust their racing style since the rally is run on paved roads and uses pace notes like World Championship rallies. "Donegal has some of the best asphalt stages in all of Europe," said Lawler, "featuring narrow, twisty roads lined with stone walls. Much of the course runs along the rocky coastline on the northernmost tip of Ireland through harsh terrain with dramatic elevation changes."

The rally is so challenging that it draws World Championship rally teams and Formula 2 teams from all over Europe resulting in stiff competition. Over the past 27 years of the event, many of the top names in rallying have challenged the course. Organizers had to turn cars away after 130 entries. The event covers three full days of racing with 21 stages and 180 race miles.

According to Bradley, in addition to the course, the history and the competition, the Donegal International has "crack," an Irish term for having fun. It is the most popular race event in Ireland, drawing up to 40,000 spectators.

In U.S. rallying, Lawler and Bradley linked up in 1990 and won more than half of the 18 rallies they entered in Production GT (Group N spec) driving a Mazda 323, including five top three finishes overall. In 1990, they were second in the Northeast Production GT Rally Championship. In 1991, they took first in the Divisional Production GT Championship, and third in the overall national Production GT Championship.

In road racing, Lawler placed first in Sedan Class in the 1990 One Lap of America (Cannonball Run). He competed in the IMSA Firehawk Series from 1990-93; the Sebring 12-hour event from 1992-94; and the IMSA Super Car Series in 1994-95.

Bradley has 15 years of co-driving experience. In Ireland, he won the Donegal Rally Co-Driver's Championship in 1983 and 1984, and took second in 1985. In addition to his successes with Lawler in the U.S., Bradley won the Northeast Rally Co-Driver's Championship in 1993, and the Michelin/SCCA PRO Rally Group A Co-Drivers Championship in 1995.

For two seasons, Lawler/Bradley have been competing with the Hyundai Elantra that won the 1996 Michelin/SCCA PRO Rally Championship and Manufacturer's Cup, previously driven by national champions, Paul Choiniere/Jeff Becker. The Elantra is prepared by Libra Racing run by John Buffum who has won 11 U.S. rally championships. "We hope that our varied racing background and the experience on American rally roads that can feature everything from snow and ice to dust, mud and water crossings, will prepare us to adjust to the course and conditions in Donegal," said Lawler.

Contact: Thompson Smith

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