Motorsport: Back to back victories in the Quality Hotel West Cork Rally are rare achievements.
However, Donegal’s Donagh Kelly and Derry co-driver Kevin Flanagan became only the third crew in the event history to claim the unique feat.
Leading from the start, their KN Network-liveried Ford Focus WRC finished one minute and 9.1 seconds ahead of the Ford Fiesta WRC of Monaghan’s Sam Moffett and his Bandon co-driver Karl Atkinson. The Monaghan/Kerry combination of Stephen Wright/Mikie Galvin (Ford Fiesta R5) were third.
Aaron MacHale/Paul Magee (Mitsubishi) won the Group N category; Denis Moynihan/Ger Conway (Escort) took the Historic section and Killarney’s Rob Duggan and co-driver Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta R2) were easy junior category winners.
Kelly was quickest through the Ring stage but his nemesis Declan Boyle only managed a few miles when his Subaru WRC succumbed to a fuel pressure sensor issue. His demise, albeit he later returned under Rally2, robbed the event of a fine contest. Meanwhile, Sam Moffett was 4.7 seconds behind Kelly and four seconds ahead of the Fiesta WRC of Daragh O‘Riordan.
Kelly also punched in the best time at Clogagh and arrived at the Darrara service park with a lead of 14.5 seconds over Sam Moffett, with O’Riordan a further 7.5 seconds in arrears.
Josh Moffett (Fiesta WRC) occupied fourth with Melvyn Evans, who spun his Subaru on the first stage, next in classification and followed by Owen Murphy (Mitsubishi). As expected, Declan Gallagher (Toyota Starlet) set the pace in the modified section, he also held seventh.
The repeat of both stages allowed Kelly stretch his advantage, untroubled, he led Moffett by 25.8 seconds, Moffett spinning and overshooting a junction.
Although O’Riordan improved his stage times, he remained in third. Elsewhere, fourth-placed Josh Moffett spun twice; Murphy was four seconds behind and Evans, off the pace in sixth.
On the afternoon stages, though Kelly had concern about a clutch issue, he continued to reign supreme and overnight, he led by 48.2 seconds. Second placed Sam Moffett recalled a massive moment on SS7 when he slid into a gully. Luckily, his path was unobstructed and he was able to get back on the road.
On the day’s penultimate stage Owen Murphy spun his Mitsubishi and damaged the radiator, bringing instant retirement. Josh Moffett’s Fiesta WRC stopped with a misfire. Their demise promoted Evans into fourth but throttle issues hampered progress. An impressive Wright gained in confidence in the R5 Fiesta and Declan Gallagher ended the day sixth and leader of the Modified section. Elsewhere, the overnight top 10 also included Jonny Greer (Citroen), John Bonner (Escort), Vincent McSweeney and Mark Straker (Darrian).
Yesterday, prior to the start, Boyle and Mel Evans both decided there was little point in continuing. Kelly’s only blemish on his way to a fine victory was a spin on the day’s opening stage.
Moffett secured a solid second but Daragh O’Riordan lost third when he punctured on Stage 11 and had to be content with fifth. Wright netted a fine third with Greer fourth. In the Modified section Gallagher (Starlet) was an impressive winner.
Elsewhere, the local crew of Bandon’s Vincent McSweeney/Michael Kearney (Honda Civic) won Class 11F and netted the final spot in the top 10.
In the Bishopscourt Rally, second round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship, Derek McGarrity (Subaru) took a start to finish victory to finish a minute and 5.1 seconds ahead of the Mini WRC of Derek McGeehan. Late entry Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC) was 23.3 seconds further behind in third.
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