Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett retain crown after thrilling win

Defending champions Donegal’s Manus Kelly (Subaru WRC) co-driven by Donall Barrett took back-to-back wins on an exciting Joule Donegal International Rally. 

Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett celebrate after retaining their Joule Donegal International Rally title in a Subaru. Picture: Philip Fitzpatrick

They secured victory after a pulsating contest with the Ford Focus WRC of another Donegal driver Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) and his Monaghan co-driver Conor Foley, who had led for most of the rally.

The contest ended on the penultimate stage when Kelly/Foley rolled their Ford Focus and withdrew at the stage finish. Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble (Fiesta R5) were second, they took maximum points in the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship to cut the deficit to series leaders Sam Moffett/Karl Atkinson (Fiesta R5) to 7.5 points - the latter were fourth overall yesterday. Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy (Subaru) were third in the event.

It all looked well for Donagh Kelly, as he continued to power his Ford Focus to fastest stage times over the double runs of Garrygort and Knockalla. That domination yielded a lead of 21.5 seconds over Manus Kelly, while Jennings was 22.5 seconds behind in third. Alastair Fisher occupied fourth overall and gained a significant advantage over his Tarmac championship rival Sam Moffett; by S.S. 9, the Fermanagh driver stretched his overnight lead of 2.7 seconds to 9.1 seconds.

However, Moffett, who was far from happy with his performance over the morning’s opening two stages, clawed some time back on the repeat of Knockalla to leave the margin at 6.9 seconds. Josh Moffett also in a Fiesta R5 completed the top six.

The afternoon stages were at Carnhill and Gartan, the latter on the home patch of Manus Kelly. There, Donagh Kelly lost his winning stage sequence putting it down to over pressurised tyres, as a buoyed Manus Kelly cut the deficit to 11 seconds.

There was some reprieve and a shot of confidence when Donagh Kelly punched in the best time on the day’s penultimate stage albeit a tenth of a second faster than his rival Manus, who subsequently pared 3.9 seconds from his home stage to leave the overnight deficit at 7.2 seconds. Jennings remained in third.

In the R5’s Fisher held sway and was 9.9 seconds ahead of Sam Moffett.

Yesterday, Manus Kelly edged ahead by 1.4 seconds when he dominated the stages at Fanad Head and Atlantic Drive, but Donagh Kelly’s tyre selection proved best on the Glin stage and he regained top spot by 4.7 seconds. Tyre selection was crucial for the final loop of stages. Manus Kelly opted for a soft slick and he reclaimed the lead on the repeat of Fanad and went 12 seconds ahead.

The contest was decided on the penultimate stage when Donagh Kelly crashed out and withdrew at the stage finish. Fisher netted second after Jennings lost time with drive-shaft issues. Donegal’s Damien Gallagher (Escort) won the Modified section, while Kevin Eves was fortunate to escape serious injury when a concrete post pierced the floor of his Toyota Corolla on the stage at Knockalla. Kevin Gallagher (Darrian T90) took up the lead role, but he crashed out early yesterday.

Meanwhile, Cork’s Matt Griffin and his Clearwater Racing team mates Singapore’s Weng Sun Mok and Japan’s Keita Sawa (Japan) took their Ferrari 488 GTE to fifth spot in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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