Donnelly leads the way in Circuit of Ireland Rally

Although each of the first four stages of the Circuit of Ireland Rally produced a different leader, Eugene Donnelly and his co-driver Paddy Toner were the dominant force throughout today's eight stages.

At the overnight halt, Donnelly/Toner, in their Skoda Fabia WRC, lead the Subaru WRC of Peadar Hurson/Damien Connolly by 24.3 seconds.

Eamonn Boland/Mickey Joe Morrissey (Subaru) are a further 25.2 seconds behind in third - a position they inherited when Derek McGarrity/James McKee retired on today's eight and final stage.

Donnelly led initially, but Derek McGarrity topped the leaderboard by the end of the second test.

However, the Glengormley driver stalled his Subaru on the start line of the third stage and lost precious seconds as Peadar Hurson (Subaru) moved into a slender lead - a fraction of a second ahead of Donnelly.

Donnelly posted the quickest time on S.S. 4, Hamilton's Folly, to move nine seconds clear of Hurson with McGarrity third.

Tim McNulty, who was fastest through Stage 3, slotted into fourth from Eamonn Boland (Subaru) and Gareth MacHale (Ford Focus WRC).

Top seed MacHale lost time with transmission woes - he was over a minute off the lead at the half way mark of today's eight stages.

Donnelly increased his pace through stages 5 and 6 and arrived at the Banbridge service halt with a lead of 23.4 seconds over Hurson with McGarrity a further 10.8 seconds behind in third.

Eamonn Boland slotted his Subaru into fourth when McNulty's Subaru WRC stalled on a number of occasions.

Gareth MacHale (Ford Focus WRC), Darren Gass (Subaru WERC) and Aaron MacHale (Ford Focus WRC) filled the top seven places.

However, Aaron MacHale retired at the service halt with oil pressure problems.

Earlier, Sean Flanagan (Subaru), who led Group N, retired with a gearbox malady.

On the penultimate test, Gareth MacHale was quickest but Donnelly managed to extend his lead over second placed, Hurson to 26.2 seconds.

Derek McGarrity (Mitsubishi) retired on the day's final stage where Hurson was quickest.

There rally concludes with six stages tomorrow.

Positions:

1. E. Donnelly/P. Toner (Skoda Fabia WRC) 1h. 09m. 34.8s.

2. P. Hurson/D. Connolly (Subaru WRC) 1h. 09m. 59.1s.

3. E. Boland/M.J. Morrissey (Subaru WRC) 1h. 10m. 24.3s.

4. G. MacHale/B. Murphy (Ford Focus WRC) 1h. 19m. 51.5s.

5. T. McNulty/D. Moynihan (Subaru WRC) 1h. 11m. 24.1s.

6. D. Gass/D. Falvey (Subaru WRC) 1h. 11m. 46.4s.

7. K. Barrett/B. Goodman (Subaru WRC) 1h. 14m. 25.3s.

8. D. O'Riordan/S. McCarthy (Renault Clio S1600) 1h. 19m. 12.1s

9. A. Carmichael/I. Lamont (Mitsubishi) 1h. 19m. 28.9s.

10. P. White/G. Stewart (Ford Focus WRC) 1h. 20m. 09.0s.

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