Motor Sport News - - Donegal International Rally -

The fi­nal day had six stages, start­ing with a very wet High Glen. Just 33s cov­ered the top four driv­ers. Manus Kelly was fastest, by 9s from Keith Cronin. Manus was on a huge charge, but Cronin said he had a bit left. Overnight leader Sam Mof­fett said he ‘took no risks’ and although he set a de­cent time he still slipped from first to third.

Sea­mus Leonard clipped a front cor­ner of his Subaru but he still led the rally. On the fol­low­ing stage, the dra­matic At­lantic Drive, Cronin was re­mark­ably fastest in the R5 car and moved into the lead, with Sea­mus Leonard hold­ing sec­ond.

The third stage of the Sun­day loop, the al­ways tricky 12.26-mile Fanad Head test, pro­vided many dra­mas. There is one long, very fast sec­tion, with many chi­canes, and Manus Kelly put his WRC power and trac­tion to good use go­ing 18s faster than Cronin. Keith still led, but his ad­van­tage over the Subaru pilot was re­duced to just 9s. Sam Mof­fett held on to third, but was 15s back from Cronin. Many driv­ers came un­stuck, in­clud­ing Sea­mus Leonard, Jonny Greer and Joe Mc­go­nigle – all stuck in ditches and out of the rally.

The af­ter­noon should have been a re­peat of the three morn­ing stages, but the first of them, High Glen, didn’t run be­cause an elec­tric pole had been felled by a late run­ner on the first loop. On the penul­ti­mate stage, At­lantic Drive, Cronin was able to hold Manus Kelly at bay, and in­deed was fastest by just over 1s giv­ing the Citroen driver a small gap of 9.3s. Would it be enough?

On the fi­nal stage, the re­run of Fanad, Manus Kelly gave it ev­ery­thing he had and was al­most 10s faster than Cronin to win by 0.5s. Cronin’s cause was not helped when his Citroen lost fuel pres­sure. The stage claimed an­other high pro­file scalp – Eu­gene Don­nelly had been fifth but banged his Mini WRC into the scenery and burst the ra­di­a­tor – a dis­ap­point­ing end to his rally.

But at the end it was all smiles for Kelly, who’d stolen a fairy­tale win. Cronin held sec­ond for max­i­mum over­all Ir­ish Tar­mac points and an epic fight­back, as Sam Mof­fett, fin­ish­ing third, now ties with Alas­tair Fisher in the stand­ings after he re­cov­ered to an im­pres­sive sixth over­all. The fight for a new Tar­mac cham­pion is on, but Manus Kelly and his car named ‘Mandy’ were the he­roes of Done­gal.

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