Donagh Kelly wrapped up the Triton Showers National Rally Championship, after a trouble-free run to second overall on the Sligo Stages Rally. The Donegal man, who has been in commanding form all season, needed to finish seventh or better in order to guarantee the title. He went some way to securing that place by setting the fastest time by almost 20 seconds on the opening stage.
Whilst Kelly reveled on the first test, county compatriot, Declan Boyle, still appeared to be getting to grips with his new Ford Fiesta WRC. Despite some recent set-up tweaks, including springs more suited to Irish tarmac, Boyle struggled, spinning the car and later, clipping a bale. Sam Moffett, in the previous generation Fiesta WRC had a cleaner run and was sitting in an early third place.
By the second stage though, Boyle seemed to have banished his early rally blues. He outpaced Kelly by two seconds and began a run of five consecutive stage wins. At the beginning of the final loop of 3 stages, Boyle pegged Kelly’s lead back to only 0.2 seconds. Another blistering run by Boyle saw him move into the lead by a significant margin.
Kelly was clearly mindful that their was a title at stake and an all-out battle with Boyle would serve no purpose. He settled into a comfortable groove on the two final tests, ultimately securing the points required to lift the Cecil Vard trophy. Boyle, on the other hand, finished the afternoon in style, with two more fastest times and a power stage win.Sam Moffett, who had been third, succumbed to mechanical problems on stage 7 and retired shortly after. Despite a promising start, Moffett had a difficult event, spinning at high speed on stage 4 and also tangling with a bale. Moffett’s demise allowed Niall Maguire to take the final podium position in his Subaru Impreza WRC.
In the two-wheel drive category, Declan Gallagher swept all before him in his Toyota Starlet, finishing over a minute ahead of his nearest challenger, Jonathan Pringle. Whilst Gallagher has been in a class of his own, Pringle had managed to steer his Escort clear of a four way struggle with Chris Armstrong, Gary Kiernan and the very impressive David Moffett.
Both David Moffett and Armstrong had shown some serious early pace; however an off road excursion finished David Moffett’s rally on stage 5. Armstrong, too, had been pushing hard, picking up battle scars from the Sligo scenery along the way. This enabled Kiernan and Pringle to move ahead. By the last stage of the day, Kiernan led Armstrong by the finest of margins. Nevertheless, he managed to fend off Armstrong and hold on to the spot by just 1.1 seconds. In Group N, Aidan Wray took yet another win with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evoultion X.
At the finish ramp, Donagh Kelly expressed his delight at capturing a maiden National Championship and praised the efforts of his team and co-driver, Kevin Flanagan. The next objective for the Kelly camp is to add the Irish Tarmac Championship trophy to this season’s honours. A feat they can achieve at the Ulster Rally in August.
Pictures courtesy of David Harrigan Photography. For more event coverage, please check out the gallery below.
Sligo Park Hotel / McCormack Car Sales Sligo Stages Rally
1. Declan Boyle / Brian Boyle – Ford Fiesta WRC
2. Donagh Kelly / Kevin Flanagan – Ford Focus WRC
3. Niall Maguire / Enda Sherry – Subaru Impreza WRC
4. Roy White / James O’Brien – MG ZR S2400
5. Declan Gallagher / Ryan Moore – Toyota Starlet
1. Aidan Wray / Kieran McGrath – Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
1. Cormac Phelan / Katja Auhl – Citroen C2 R2 Max