Donegal’s Donagh Kelly and his Monaghan co-driver Conor Foley in a VW Polo GTi R5 won the TF Royal Hotel/Casey’s and Mulroy’s Londis Mayo Rally, the opening round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship.
The rally ended in dramatic circumstances when long-time leader Josh Moffett stopped after the penultimate stage due to problems with his Hyundai i20 R5.
Warrenpoint driver, Peadar Hurson, who was lying third, rolled his Ford Fiesta WRC on the penultimate stage.
Clonmel’s Roy White in a Ford Fiesta WRC finished second, 30.8 seconds behind, also winning the Power Stage to secure an extra championship point.
Cavan’s Gary Kiernan in a Ford Escort was 38.3 seconds further behind in third.
Moffett was best on the opening stage, 3.2 seconds ahead of the VW Polo GTi R5 of Donagh Kelly with Peadar Hurson (Fiesta WRC) ninth tenths of a second behind, followed by the Toyota Starlet of James Black.
The Fiesta WRC’s of Roy White and Eaun Thorburn completed the top six.
Former triple national champion Niall Maguire retired when his Subaru WRC slid off the road at a left hand bend towards the end of the stage.
Top two-wheel drive contender Damian Toner retired his Escort with an electrical issue that manifested itself on the opening stage, although he re-joined the event under Rally2, he withdrew at the final service.
Another retirement was that of Monaghan’s Derek Mackarel, his Vauxhall Nova seem to aquaplane on the approach to a right hand junction, it careered on to the grass margin before crashing through a fence and landing back on its four wheels.
Luckily he and his co-driver Grace O’Brien were uninjured.
The second stage was cancelled due to a local issue as Moffett, quickest on S.S. 3, arrived at the Castlebar service park with a lead of 7.9 seconds over Donagh Kelly (VW Polo GTi R5).
The rally leader remarked he was pushing but was still keeping a safe pace while Kelly admitted being at a comfortable pace and was looking forward to the second loop.
Third placed Peadar Hurson, who was 6.3 seconds further behind, was losing time at the junctions. Roy White (Fiesta WRC) stopped using the handbrake as it was locking up all four wheels when it was deployed at the tight junctions.
Cavan’s Gary Kiernan (Escort) in fifth was the top two-wheel drive exponent as Scotland’s Eaun Thorburn (Fiesta WRC) and his fellow countryman David Bogie (Escort) were next in classification in a top ten that also featured Jason Black (Toyota Starlet), Eugene Donnelly (Proton Iriz R5) and Ian Roche (Subaru WRC).
Donnelly was pleased with his performance through S.S. 3 while Roche reckoned confidence was needed to traverse the stage at speed. In Group N, Niall Devine (Mitsubishi) had a substantial lead over late entry Tomas O’Rourke with Colin Flanagan completing a Mitsubishi top three.
Heavy rain made it difficult on the repeat loop, especially on stages four and six. Moffett extended his lead on stage four where Kelly reckoned he lost around fifteen seconds when he caught up with the punctured Fiesta of White.
As a result, Hurson slotted into second place – 17 seconds behind Moffett. Kelly was best on S.S. 5 and White topped the time sheets on S.S. 6 where incessant rain brought additional difficulties for all concerned.
At the final service Moffett’s lead was 21.6 seconds as Kelly reclaimed second spot with Hurson another nine seconds adrift, the latter was taking no risks. White was next and admitted his pace on S.S. 6 was a confidence booster.
In the modified category Gary Kiernan and David Bogie were trading stage times with the former holding a 14.2 second advantage.
Eugene Donnelly (Proton Iriz R5) was next, he lost a few fleeting seconds when he caught up with the Millington engined Proton of Simon Chapman that had spun and stalled.
The remaining places in the top ten went to Jason Black, Mickey Conlon and Group N leader Niall Devine.
In a dramatic final loop Hurson rolled his Fiesta WRC on the penultimate stage where Moffett retired at the stage finish leaving Kelly to go on and claim the laurels.
White was quickest on the final stage to secure the extra Triton point for winning the Power Stage.
Kiernan survived a moment on the final stage to claim third with Bogey and Black and Tyrone’s Declan McCrory (Fiesta R5) next in classification.
Monaghan’s Raymond Conlon (Toyota Corolla) admitted he had no answer to the pace of his rivals, he netted seventh followed by Westport’s David Carney (Ford Fiesta R5), who was the top local driver.
Group N winner Niall Devine (Mitsubishi) was untroubled in ninth as Ballinrobe’s John Warren and his co-driver Ruthann O’Connor survived a few issues to finish tenth overall and the top local crew.
- Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley (VW Polo R5) 55m. 43.1s.
- Roy White/James O’Brien (Ford Fiesta WRC) 56m.13.9s.
- Gary Kiernan/Ryan Moore (Ford Escort) 56m. 52.2s.
- David Bogie/John Rowan (Ford Escort) 56m. 55.5s.
- Jason Black/Karl Egan (Toyota Starlet) 58m. 49.3s.
- Declan McCrory/Stephen O’Hanlon (Ford Fiesta R5) 59m. 00.9s.
- Raymond Conlon/Damien Fleming (Toyota Corolla) 59m. 06.1s.
- David Carney/Ray Fitzpatrick (Ford Fiesta R5) 59m.16.5s.
- Niall Devine/Liam McIntyre (Mitsubishi EvoIX) 59m. 16.6s.
- John Warren/Ruthann O’Connor (Toyota Corolla) 59m. 27.9s.
Triton Showers National Rally Championship (positions after Round 1): 1. D. Kelly 20pts; 2. R. White 19pts; 3. G. Kiernan 16pts; 4. D. Bogie 14pts; J. Black 13pts.