The duo finished with a 50-second advantage over the Subaru WRC of Robert Barrable/Damien Connolly with Castleisland’s Alan Ring and his West Cork co-driver Adrian Deasy some two and a half minutes further behind in third.
Just eight-tenths of a second separated Kelly and Barrable on the opening stage, Moll’s Gap with former winner Daragh O’Riordan (Fiesta WRC) 5.2 seconds further back.
Kelly eked out a few more precious seconds on the run over the Tim Healy Pass to lead by 6.2 seconds with O’Riordan slotting into second followed by Barrable, who was a further 5.6 seconds in arrears. Ring was fourth.
Over the two stages in the Beara Peninsula – Cods Head and Ardgroom - Kelly continued to post the best times. With the second run over the Tim Healy Pass cancelled on safety grounds due to deposits of oil, Kelly arrived at the Castletownbere service halt with a lead of 27.4 seconds. Barrable had regained second even though he admitted he found it difficult to replicate the form he showed on the opening stage.
Thoughts of a third win for O’Riordan were dispelled on S.S. 3 by a broken front driveshaft, he was fortunate that he didn’t have to traverse the Healy Pass in competitive mode, he was sixth in classification.
Meanwhile, Ring arrived at the service halt with a fuel issue, the filter was changed but the car wouldn’t fire up as his due departure time grew near. Luckily, a sensor was replaced and the S14 duly started.
Extending his lead to 33.2 seconds, Kelly admitted he backed off a little on the stage at Ardgroom where Barrable cut the deficit to 27 seconds.
The day’s final stage changed the complexion of the rally as transmission difficulties for Barrable and Ring contrived to give Kelly an overnight lead of a minute and 26.7 seconds.
Barrable’s Subaru lost second, fourth and sixth gear while Ring had no sixth gear, yet both retained their respective second and third place positions. O’Riordan made up ground and was fourth followed by the Fiesta R5 of Stephen Wright and the Skoda of Joe McGonigle.
Aaron MacHale (Mitsubishi) led Group N – 4.1 seconds ahead of the Subaru of Brendan Cumiskey.
Elsewhere in the national event, Roy White had an untroubled run and his MG ZR led the Escort of Fergus O’Meara by a minute and 39.5 seconds.
In the FIA Historic category, Denis Moynihan (Escort) was hugely impressive and ended the day almost three minutes in front of the Escort of Ernie Graham.
Having fitted new gearboxes, both Barrable and Ring were back on full throttle on yesterday’s opening stage at Moll’s Gap where Barrable was fastest to win the Bertie Fisher Trophy. Up front, Kelly was under no real pressure and measured his drive accordingly.
His only glitch was a malfunction of the launch control on the penultimate stage but it was no consequence. On his way to second Barrable set some fastest stage times while Ring was able to retain third once Daragh O’Riordan crashed on the second run over the gap.
Elsewhere, Monaghan’s Stephen Wright (Fiesta R5) was fourth, followed by the Skoda of Joe McGonigle and the Mitsubishi of Group N winner Aaron MacHale.
Meanwhile, there were strong wins for Roy White (MG ZR) in the National section; Denis Moynihan (Ford Escort), who took the laurels in the FIA European Historic category; Joe Connolly (Escort) in the National Historics and Rob Duggan (Fiesta), a dominant winner of the Junior category.
In the second round of the World Endurance Championship in Spa, Cork’s
Matt Griffin and his team mates Duncan Cam,eron and Alex Mortimer finished seventh in the GTE–Am class.