Donegal’s Donagh Kelly has won numerous Irish rallies some of which culminated in National and Tarmac Championship titles — one of three drivers to win both in the same season. Yet, the one rally that has eluded him is, ironically, the Joule Donegal International Rally.
Today, as the 20-stage, three-day event gets underway from Letterkenny, Kelly bids to end that unwelcome statistic. He is on record in stating he would swap all his successes that include back to back wins in Killarney, an unprecedented four in a row in the West Cork and a national title in six rounds for that elusive Donegal win.
Since he acquired his current Ford Focus WRC, second in the 2013 event is the nearest he’s come to victory. Kelly’s plan is straightforward. “Flat out from the word go. There is no such thing as bedding in on Friday, that’s not in the dictionary in Donegal.”
Acknowledging the challenge that will come from fellow World Rally Car drivers Garry Jennings, Declan Boyle and Manus Kelly, Donagh added “I wouldn’t rule out the R5 cars either.”
That trio have all sprayed the champagne at the Mount Errigal finish and while last year’s winner Manus Kelly was down in eighth at one time, his namesake Donagh reckons his stage times will be at the cutting edge.
Although he’s had few outings this season Jennings, a double winner, is probably viewed as the favourite. While Boyle’s title credentials are not the issue, reliability and a slice of luck are seen as key.
Meanwhile, Sam Moffett (Fiesta) heads the R5 contingent as he seeks to embellish his lead in the Clonakilty Blackpudding ITC where Alastair Fisher, also in a Fiesta R5 is his closest title rival some 10 points behind. The quest for points may lead to a segregation from the WRC quartet, but Donegal is never predictable.
Meanwhile, Dubliner Robert Barrable in his Hyundai i20 R5 will be intent on getting his title challenge back on the road and will offer the Fiesta contingent a strong battle.
Elsewhere, Josh Moffett (Fiesta R5v) returns to the series and the three days will offer further recuperation for pace following a crash on the Monaghan Rally. Tyrone’s Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi) and Limerick’s Colm Murphy (Subaru) are the leading lights in Group N and an impressive two-wheel drive category includes virtually everyone at that level with Cavan’s Gary McPhillips (Escort) spearheading the entry.
Elsewhere, Citroen pair Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle have been stood down for Rally Poland, the next round of the World Rally Championship. The French outfit has announced that Craig Breen, Stephane Lefebvre and Andreas Mikkelsen will drive for that event with Meeke/Nagle returning to defend their title in Rally Finland.
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