Local hero Kelly bids for Donegal International Rally hat-trick

The desire to win the Joule Donegal International Rally is the ambition of most drivers and even an obsession for some.

Today, the top Irish competitors begin the quest that will last for three days and 20 stages over some of the country’s most scenic and challenging terrain.

Top seed, back-to-back winner and local hero, Manus Kelly (Subaru WRC) bids for a hat-trick of wins as he battles with fellow Donegal aces Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) and Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC), Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings and Armagh’s Darren Gass, both in Subaru WRC’s. For Donagh Kelly a home win has, so far, proved elusive. 

Last year he led on the final day only to crash on the penultimate stage.

The former Tarmac and National champion does not feel he is under pressure, “No, I don’t because there are a lot of guys capable of winning.” 

He added: “I’ve enjoyed my rallying this year, more so that any year and while you enjoy it the pressure is secondary. 

"The five in a row in West Cork is now a very nice number and the win in Monaghan (also this year) beating Sam (Moffett) on the final stage was special, however, we are not doing this rally to make up the numbers.”

It certainly will be more than just about the Kellys with today’s six stages around Letterkenny providing an opening salvo that may shape the result. 

Winner four years ago, Boyle is also enjoying a good season and that will be beneficial while Jennings is still trying to get the best from his Subaru WRC.

It’s difficult to predict how close Gass will be in the McKinstry-hired Subaru WRC and like Jennings he will be aware that an improvement on his Cavan pace is paramount. 

Antrim’s Derek McGarrity (Fiesta WRC) rounds out the top six, with the rest of the top 10 in Fiesta R5s.

Sam Moffett heads that particular brigade as they chase points and positions in the Irish Tarmac Championship. 

With three rounds remaining the Monaghan man knows there is no room for error as he aims to close the two points deficit to series leader, his brother Josh.

Sandwiched between the pair in terms of the championship is Dubliner Robert Barrable and buoyed by securing maximum points in Killarney is only a point off the top. 

For Derry’s Desi Henry it’s about improving his title bid while former and current Billy Coleman award winners — Callum Devine and Rob Duggan — make their R5 debuts. 

Kevin Eves (Toyota Corolla) heads the two-wheel drive category where opposition is also of a high quality.

Meanwhile, Cork’s Matt Griffin and his Clearwater Racing teammates Weng Sun Mok and Keita Sawa contests one of the biggest events in motorsport, the Le Mans 24 Hours that begins tomorrow afternoon.

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