Donegal’s Donagh Kelly and his Monaghan co-driver Conor Foley campaigned their KN Network supported Ford Focus WRC to back-to-back wins on the Cartell.ie Rally of the Lakes in Killarney.
They capitalised on yesterday’s retirement of overnight leaders Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy, who crashed their Subaru WRC on the stage at Beallaghbeama early yesterday.
Second spot — 49.6 seconds in arrears — went to the Northern Ireland duo of Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble (Fiesta R5), who are the new leaders of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship. The Monaghan/Cork combination of Sam Moffett/Karl Atkinson (Fiesta R5) were 37.9 seconds further behind in third.
On the opening stage at Gortnagane, Garry Jennings (Subaru WRC) was 5.8 seconds ahead of the Fiesta R5 of Alastair Fisher, with Sam Moffett’s similar car just six 10ths of a second behind. Top seed Donagh Kelly slotted his Ford Focus WRC into fourth, 9.7 seconds off the lead.
There was drama for championship contender Keith Cronin when the brakes of his Citroen DS3 R5 locked up prior to the stage start. Eventually, the issue was resolved but he departed the stage start some 19 minutes late. Although he was six fastest on the stage, a subsequent 19-minute road penalty dropped him to last.
Jennings also held sway through the second stage, but it wasn’t all plain sailing as the digital read out of the gearing system failed to show on the dashboard in the cockpit of his Subaru WRC. He also had some intercom issues. Nevertheless, he arrived at the Fossa service park with a lead of 8.3 seconds, with Fisher remaining in second, Kelly moved into third — 2.8 seconds further behind.
The Moffett brothers Sam and Josh were next in classification, the latter reckoned that an overheating warning light caused some distraction, on the opening stage — he had to take evasive action to avoid a dog.
By the repeat of both stages, Jennings had consolidated his position and led Fisher by 17.1 seconds, the latter endured a half spin on SS4. Kelly was only three 10ths of a second further behind. Josh Moffett crashed his Fiesta R5 out of fifth place on the stage at Gortnagane.
Continuing his good form, Jennings also dominated the afternoon stages with the gear issue sorted at the day’s penultimate service. The rally leader ended the day 26.8 seconds ahead of the Fiesta R5 of Alastair Fisher, with Kelly 2.2 seconds further behind.
The turning point of the rally came on yesterday’s second stage (SS10, Beallaghbeama) when Jennings, who had his lead cut to 13.8 seconds by Kelly after Moll’s Gap, crashed his Subaru WRC out of the rally. From there on, Kelly drove at a steady pace and secured back-to-back wins by a margin of 49.6 seconds.
Second-placed Fisher took maximum points to move into the lead of the Tarmac series while Sam Moffett, 37.9 seconds further back, completed the top three. On SS11 he lost the battle with Fisher when he clipped a rock, punctured and broke a wheel rim.
The Fiesta R5s of Stephen Wright and Alan Ring, who gave a much-improved performance yesterday, and the Skoda of Owen Murphy, completed the top six. Keith Cronin (Citroen) finished 13th. after a troubled outing. He was fastest on one stage — SS13. David Guest in the Amari-liveried Mitsubishi won the Group N category and the national event was won by Eugene Megan (BMW 1M).
Meanwhile, in the Pirelli Carlisle Rally, round three of the British Rally Championship, Swedish driver Fredrik Ahlin (Fiesta R5) took victory and the championship lead as he had selected the event as his “joker” round.
Ahlin finished 27.6 seconds in front of the Fiesta of Matthew Wilson with early leader Elfyn Evans (Fiesta R5) recovering from a puncture to secure third.
Irish drivers Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia S2000), Jonny Greer (Citroen DS3 R5) and Desi Henry (Skoda R5) were fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.
Killarney’s Rob Duggan (Vauxhall Adam) cemented his series lead in the Junior BRC Championship with another category win.
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