DONEGAL INTERNATIONAL RALLY KELLY CLAIMS SHOCK VICTORY
Challengers fall at the wayside as Kelly and Cronin star. By
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.