The Joule Donegal International Rally ended in tragic circumstances early yesterday when Manus Kelly, who won the event for the last three years, lost his life after his Hyundai i20 R5 crashed and left the road on Stage 15, Fanad Head.
With maximum points from the Prestone British Rally championship category of the Renties Ypres Rally in view, there was final stage agony for the Cork-Kerry duo of Keith Cronin/Mikie Galvin (Hyundai i20 R5) — a puncture that relegated them to third of the BRC contenders.
Although second spot was snatched away on the final stage, Ballylickey’s Keith Cronin was satisfied with third place on his debut in the PCRS Hyundai i20 R5 on the Pirelli Rally, the opening round of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship in Carlisle.
Cork driver and four-time British Rally Champion Keith Cronin will campaign the new generation Hyundai i20 R5-N in this year’s British Rally Championship that includes rounds of the World Rally Championship (Wales Rally GB) and the European Rally Championship (Rally Ypres).
Triple British rally champion Keith Cronin from Ballylickey, with co-driver Killarney’s Mikie Galvin, are back into contention for this season’s Prestone MSA British Rally Championship (BRC) as they annexed top points in the Ypres Rally in Belgium, the first overseas round in the 59-year history of the BRC.
The Rathkeale House Hotel Circuit of Munster on Sunday marks the halfway point of the eight round Triton Showers National Rally Championship. However, it also contains several subplots including preparation for the next rounds of the British and Irish Tarmac Championships and also forms part of the Top Part West Coast regional series.
There was late drama in the Cartell.ie Rally of the Lakes in Killarney, where Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Fiesta R5) and his Bandon co-driver Karl Atkinson took victory after long-time leaders, Roy White and co-driver James O’Brien, clattered their Fiesta WRC against a chicane bale on SS 13 and limped to the stage finish before retiring.
This weekend is likely to be a defining moment in the annals of the Cartell.ie Rally of the Lakes in Killarney. A glance through the list of previous winners reveal that drivers of World Rally Cars have triumphed since the Millennium, but that thread is tenuous as the new breed of R5 cars is set to bring the sequence to an end.
Although victory in the Abbey Hotel Munster Moonraker Rally wasn’t the ultimate goal for Ballylickey’s Keith Cronin and his Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin (Ford Fiesta R5), they secured a fine win with a measured and composed drive that provided the perfect preparation for their next outing in the British Rally Championship in three weeks time.
Having failed to go the full distance in the opening two rounds of the World Rally Championship, the Irish duo of Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) seek better fortune on this weekend’s Rally Mexico, the first gravel event of the year.
For the second time in succession, Craig Breen/Scott Martin were the top finishers for the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT as they brought their Citroen C3 WRC to fifth spot at the end of Rally Sweden, the second round of the World Rally Championship.
The two most prestigious awards within Irish motorsport were presented to the sport’s brightest talents last evening as Monaghan’s Josh Moffett, 24, scooped the Billy Coleman Award for the Young Rally Driver of the Year while Ciaran Carey, 22, from Rathoath, Co Meath, won the Sexton Trophy for the Young Racing Driver of the Year.
Donegal’s Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) would happily trade all his rally wins and even his Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship and the Triton Showers National Rally Championship titles for success in the Joule Donegal International Rally that gets underway today.
Having built his racing career in Northampton and within earshot of Silverstone, Matt Griffin is content with life following his decision to return to his native Leeside from where he continues his globetrotting motorsport career as a professional Ferrari factory-racing driver.
Waterford’s Craig Breen (26) will defend his Circuit of Ireland title against opposition that includes European Rally Champion and last year’s event runner-up Kajetan Kajetanowicz along with former triple British rally champion Keith Cronin and Ulster driver Alastair Fisher.