The six stages of the opening leg saw Donagh Kelly, who has yet to win this rally, open up a 12.2-second lead over the Subaru WRC of last year’s winner Manus Kelly with double winner Jennings (Subaru WRC) 10.8 seconds further behind in third. Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC) was a non-starter due ot a family bereavement.
On the opening stage just outside Letterkenny, Donagh Kelly set the pace as he led the Subaru of Manus Kelly by 2.1 seconds with Jennings 1.9 seconds further behind in third; Alistair Fisher (Fiesta) was best of the R5 competitors.
Donagh Kelly continued to set the pace, and following the opening loop, had amassed a 9.7-second advantage, although the grip level of his tyres faded towards the stage end. The Subaru WRC of second-placed Manus Kelly was similarly affected with tyres, not surprising as they both admitted to a sharp pace. Jennings was fortunate that rear left drive shaft broke just two kilometres from the end of SS3 and he lost little time — he was 2.9 seconds further back.
Meanwhile, Alastair Fisher led the R5 competitors as he enjoyed a clean run on all three stages.
Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship leader Sam Moffett (Fiesta) was 3.9 seconds behind and content in the knowledge that he had something in reserve although he also reckoned Fisher was also on a quick but safe pace. Josh Moffett, still trying to build his confidence after his Monaghan Rally accident was sixth overall and setting times relatively close to his R5 rivals. Robert Barrable lost time on the opening stage when he spun his Hyundai i20 R5. He also traversed part of the stage without the intercom but held seventh.
On the repeat loop, Donagh Kelly retained his superiority and stretched his advantage to 12.2 seconds.
Manus Kelly and Jennings were also trouble free, Jennings extremely pleased that a harder suspension set-up and a switch to a harder compound tyre really transformed the car.
In Group N, Tyrone’s Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi) leads after the early pacesetter Limerick’s Colm Murphy (Mitsubishi) punctured and dropped down the order.
Donegal’s Kevin Eves (Toyota Corolla) leads the Modified section. There are eight stages today and six tomorrow.