Subaru WRC debutants Donegal’s Manus Kelly/Donal Kelly took a superb win on the Seven Oaks Hotel Carlow Rally, the third round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship.
They finished 9.9 seconds ahead of the Clonmel/Cork pairing of championship leaders Roy White/James O’Brien (Ford Fiesta WRC). Longford’s Tommy Doyle and Cork co-driver Liam Moynihan (Subaru WRC) were 21.8 further behind in third.
Despite stalling at the start, Manus Kelly made a great start and finished the stage at the top of the leaderboard — nine-tenths of a second ahead of Peadar Hurson (Subaru WRC) with the Escort of Frank Kelly only eight-tenths of a second back. White (Fiesta), Doyle, and Daragh O’Riordan (Fiesta) followed.
Hurson was quickest through the second stage but Frank Kelly (Escort) retired with a broken crankshaft and Group N leader Shane Maguire dropped out with transmission troubles. Heavy fog forced the cancellation of the third stage.
Kelly arrived at the Carlow service park as rally leader, albeit two-tenths of a second ahead of Hurson. Daragh O’Riordan (Fiesta WRC) slotted into third 6.7 seconds behind the Warrenpoint driver and three ahead of Roy White. Intercom problems and an incorrect tyre selection failed to deter an upbeat White — a change of helmets for the second stage brought some respite. Fifth-placed Doyle also had tyre selection woes.
Come Stage 7, White had cut the deficit to 6.8 seconds but a determined Kelly punched in the best times on the remaining pair of stages to claim victory. White had ample consolation as he extended his lead in the Triton series by taking maximum points, including three extra for winning the Power Stage. Doyle was impressive in his first WRC outing to claim third. Unfortunately, Hurson and Wesley Patterson failed to finish, both crashed on the penultimate stage, with the former’s Subaru catching fire. O’Riordan. Maguire, and Mel Evans completed the top six, Pringle won the Mk. 2 Escort Challenge.
Meanwhile, Derry pair Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia S2000) and niece Caron won the Tour of Sperrins Rally in Maghera, round three of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally.
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