Fri­day

Motor Sport News - - Donegal International Rally -

As ever the Done­gal Rally gen­er­ated a great deal of hype and sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion, so it was a big let down when last year’s win­ner and Done­gal hero Garry Jen­nings re­tired his Subaru at the end of the very first stage, his Im­preza WRC en­gine spew­ing out oil and smoke.

It was re­mark­able that Jen­nings was still sec­ond fastest on that open­ing Trentagh test, with Declan Boyle in his Ford Fi­esta WRC the pace­set­ter, just over 2s to the good over Jen­nings. Don­agh Kelly (Ford Fo­cus WRC) and Manus Kelly, were third and fourth, just a few sec­onds fur­ther back.

Keith Cronin was the fastest of the R5s, with Alas­tair Fisher and Sam and Josh Mof­fett in tight for­ma­tion be­hind, promis­ing a real R5 tus­sle.

The first day was held west of Let­terkenny, with mostly fast and bumpy roads typ­i­cal of the event. Don­agh Kelly snatched the lead from Boyle on stage two, but by ser­vice after stage three Boyle was again in front, by less than 2s from Don­agh Kelly, with Manus Kelly in his Subaru a solid third just 5s back. Con­sid­er­ing this was only Manus’ sec­ond time in a World Rally Car, his per­for­mance was as­tound­ing, and re­in­forced his vic­tory first time out on the Carlow Stages Rally in May.

Fol­low­ing a cold damp morn­ing, but with the am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture ris­ing by lunch time, most of the top driv­ers reck­oned that they had picked softer tyres than re­quired. Keith Cronin was fourth over­all and best R5 after stage three. He, as did nearly ev­ery­one else, chose a harder com­pound for the late af­ter­noon stages. A de­lay at the start of stage four meant the tyres go­ing cold, and on a fast right han­der his Citroen broke away, clipped a bank and sus­tained a punc­ture. Sam Mof­fett got held up slightly when he caught the strug­gling Citroen. The punc­ture cost Cronin over a minute and left Alas­tair Fisher lead­ing the R5s. Co­in­ci­den­tally Fisher re­ported that he felt a lot more com­fort­able through the lat­ter stages and his times im­proved no­tice­ably. The points leader in the Tar­mac Cham­pi­onship start­ing the rally, Fisher main­tained that he was driv­ing just as fast as he felt com­fort­able with in his Dom Buckley-pre­pared Fi­esta.

At day’s end Boyle led Don­agh Kelly by just un­der 7s over­all. Boyle was cov­ered in per­spi­ra­tion after that sixth stage. He main­tained that he needed to drive ex­tra hard in his 1600cc car to com­bat the two-litre WRC ma­chines. Don­agh Kelly was as cool as ever, while Manus Kelly, still a strong third, re­marked that he re­gret­ted not push­ing harder over the fi­nal few Fri­day stages. Sea­mus Leonard in the hired Mckinstry Subaru lost time on the first stage of the day when he both stalled the Im­preza and also for­got to switch it from road to stage mode. He charged hard to drag him­self up to fourth by day’s end, with Alas­tair Fisher fifth and Sam Mof­fett sixth. Josh Mof­fett was sev­enth, 11s be­hind his brother Sam and re­ported no prob­lems. Keith Cronin had im­proved from ninth to eighth, while his team-mate Jonny Greer had a steady run to ninth. Seven-time Tar­mac cham­pion Eu­gene Don­nelly rounded out the top 10, hav­ing not com­peted in Done­gal since 2009.

CAR

Subaru Im­preza WRC S12 Citroen DS 3 R5 Ford Fi­esta R5 Ford Fi­esta R5 Ford Fi­esta R5 Ford Fi­esta R5 Skoda Fabia S2000 Mit­subishi Lancer E9 Mit­subishi Lancer E9 Opel Adam

Eu­gene Don­nelly’s im­pres­sive run to sixth fell apart on the fi­nal stage of the rally with an off

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