IRISH TARMAC CHAMPION DONAGH KELLY took victory at the Cork 20 International Rally this weekend.
The Frosses man, who sealed the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship title back in August when he won the Todd’s Leap Ulster Rally in Enniskillen, 1 minute and 45.9 seconds to spare on Keith Cronin.
Kelly, co-driven by Conor Foley, purred the WRC Focus to glory in Cork with a fine weekend’s work, although it wasn’t without drama.
It was a superb event for Donegal crews with ‘The Milkman’ Declan Gallagher and Ryan Moore winning the national rally after a remarkable two days of rallying in the Starlet.
Kelly was only 0.1 seconds ahead of Daragh O’Riordan and Tony McDaid’s Fiesta after the opening stage and O’Riordan led for a time on Saturday.
Kelly upped the ante and was six seconds faster on a sunny stage 4 and he held a five-second lead after the opening day of action.
However, there were some worried expressions at service following stage 6 with the Focus leaking a lot of oil. However, Kelly’s team stripped the sump guards and repaired the broken pipe.
On stage 11, O’Riordan’s rally ended when he crashed off on a square right. From there, Kelly could ease the pace, but he had a moment himself on stage 11, but he only dropped a handful of seconds because of a puncture.
Kelly steered home and took another impressive win. He is also listed to participate in next weekend’s An Grianan Hotel Donegal Harvest Stages Rally in Burt.
Muff’s Joe McGonigle had a panic during the weekend when he found gearbox parts for the Skoda S2000 hard to locate, but he had a superb weekend in Cork and, with Ciaran Geaney on the notes, he finished fifth overall.
In the national rally, Gallagher and Moore were 1:52.5 clear of Eugene Meegan and Sarah Whelan.
Gallagher was enjoying a big battle with Fran Kelly, but Kelly exited on stage three because of mechanical issues.
By the end of Saturday, Gallagher was 1:40 in front and he soared through Sunday to take the modified title of the Tarmac Championship.