Chal­lengers fall at the way­side as Kelly and Cronin star. By

Motor Sport News - - Donegal International Rally - Photos: Roy Demp­ster, Kevin Glen­den­ning Brian Patterson

On only his sec­ond rally in a WRC car, Manus Kelly tamed the treach­er­ous test of Done­gal by snatch­ing a dra­matic vic­tory on the last stage, win­ning the event with co-driver Don­all Bar­rett by 0.5s.

Keith Cronin had sur­vived the three-day event as at­tri­tion struck most of the lead­ing crews, and looked set to give an R5 its first Ir­ish Tar­mac Cham­pi­onship out­right win in his Mikie Galvin­nav­i­gated Citroen DS 3. But the Melvyn Evans-pre­pared Subaru Im­preza WRC S12B of Kelly had too much oomph over the con­clud­ing test. Kelly be­comes the first per­son in event his­tory to win the na­tional event and the in­ter­na­tional event in con­sec­u­tive years.


Manus Kelly/don­all Bar­rett Keith Cronin/ Mikie Galvin Sam Mof­fett/ Karl Atkin­son Josh Mof­fett/john Rowan Stephen Wright/arthur Kier­ans Alas­tair Fisher/gor­don Noble Aaron Machale/ Paul Mcgee Ai­dan Wray/ Kieran Mcgrath David Guest/ Paddy Robinson Cal­lum Devine/ Keith Mo­ri­ar­ity

11 Pau­ric Duffy/ Kevin Glynn (Fi­esta R5); 12 Paul Row­ley/ Pa­trick Brides (Fabia S2000); 13 John Mul­hol­land/jeff Case (Fabia S2000);14 Cathan Mccourt/ Brian Hoy (Lancer E9); 15 Marty Gal­lagher/ Dean O’sul­li­van (Peu­geot 208 R2); 16 Tony Quinn/ An­thony Nestor (Subaru Im­preza WRC); 17 Fraser Mul­hol­land/ Geoff Patterson (Ford Fi­esta R2); 18 Gus Kear­ney/tommy Hayes (Lancer E9); 19 Christo­pher Boyce/ Pas­cal Dil­lon (Honda Civic); 20 Alis­tair Glenn/ Gavin Do­herty (Peu­geot 206). Class win­ners: Devine/ Mo­ri­arty; Boyce Dil­lon; Wray/ Mcgrath; Mof­fett/ Rowan.

pro­moted Sea­mus Leonard to third, his times gen­er­ally just a few sec­onds slower than the top WRCS. He did need a gear­box change for the Mckinstry Subaru be­fore the day was over. In the bat­tle of the R5s, overnight leader Alas­tair Fisher cut a cor­ner too tight on Knock­alla, dam­ag­ing a sus­pen­sion leg. This let Sam Mof­fett in front, and all the while Keith Cronin was slic­ing away at his deficit, and re­ally keep­ing the pres­sure on the cars in front. Keith ad­mit­ted that his er­rors on the rally were down to push­ing too hard on cold tyres and that the R5s have such a light foot­print that this is crit­i­cal.

The first two stages of the day were re­peated as stages nine and 10 and Don­agh Kelly equalled Boyle’s time over Knock­alla. The race be­tween the two was turn­ing into a clas­sic rally bat­tle. There was still five sec­onds be­tween the two at sec­ond ser­vice. Sud­denly though it was all over, as in stage 11, Don­agh Kelly’s Fo­cus WRC ground to a halt with en­gine mal­adies. It was Kelly’s first re­tire­ment in the car since Au­gust 2014, and that left Boyle with a 1m44s lead over Leonard.

Boyle im­me­di­ately went into preser­va­tion mode. He was happy enough to drop a few sec­onds per stage in an at­tempt to win his home event for the sec­ond time. But un­be­liev­ably, drama struck again. On the fi­nal stage of the day, Gar­tan, Boyle’s Fi­esta WRC, with­out any warn­ing, ground to a halt be­cause of a re­cal­ci­trant gearchange mech­a­nism. That meant three of the ral­lies favourites, Boyle, Kelly and Jen­nings were all on the side­lines.

Also hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the or­der was Alas­tair Fisher col­lid­ing with a chi­cane on stage 13. In try­ing to get out of his predica­ment, Alas­tair re­versed his Ford Fi­esta R5 into a ditch then broke a drive­shaft get­ting out, hold­ing up Sam Mof­fett in the process. This dropped Alas­tair to the back of the leaderboard and re­ally shook up the R5 run­ners.

For a few hours Sea­mus Leonard was shown as lead­ing the rally, but at a late night stew­ards meet­ing Sam Mof­fett was com­pen­sated 19s for his de­lay at the Fisher in­ci­dent. This moved Sam into the lead by 0.4s from Sea­mus Leonard, with Keith Cronin a fur­ther 3.3s back. Manus Kelly had also driven hard since his ‘off ’ to come back to fourth. Josh Mof­fett’s Fi­esta R5 en­gine had cut out in stage 12. He had to switch it off and restart it, which was a bit wor­ry­ing for him, but he was still fifth.

Don­nelly re­gained his old form dur­ing the Satur­day af­ter­noon stages and the five-time Tar­mac cham­pion had ex­plored the per­for­mance pos­si­bil­i­ties of his Mini WRC to move up to sixth. Jonny Greer con­tin­ued his quiet run to hold sev­enth. A de­flated Alas­tair Fisher was 10th go­ing into the overnight halt, but he cer­tainly hadn’t given up on scor­ing as many Tar­mac Cham­pi­onship points as he could.

Kelly (l) and Bar­rett cel­e­brate his­toric win

Cronin beat­wrc cars in his R5,tak­ing max­i­mum Ir­ish Tar­mac points after a tough rally

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