Declan Gallagher and co-driver Ryan Moore secured a second consecutive Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Modified Championship at the Ace Signs Cork 20 rally, in their diminutive Toyota Starlet. Gallagher set a ferocious pace from the first stage, blowing away his nearest challenger, Frank Kelly. Any chance of a final round showdown between the two title contenders disappeared on stage 3 when the engine in Kelly’s Escort expired just before the finish. With Kelly out, Gallagher capped another dominant season with a commanding victory.
By contrast, the Group N Championship did go the full distance. Since the start of the season, the upper hand had passed back and forth between Brendan Cumiskey’s Subaru Impreza and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution of Aaron MacHale. The latter held the advantage prior to this final event, so Cumiskey knew he had to set the pace and hope MacHale would falter.
And set the pace, he did. However, MacHale had the comfort of knowing that a controlled drive would secure the points required and simply shadowed Cumiskey’s times across the fourteen stages. So whilst Cumiskey won the final round, Aaron MacHale’s second place ensured that one of Ireland’s most famous rallying families would be title winners yet again.
As Donagh Kelly had wrapped up the overall Championship on the previous round, his primary objective was to stop Cork native, Daragh O’Riordan, from taking his fifth consecutive event win. O’Riordan surged into an early lead, but by the end of the first day, Kelly had pegged him back, topping the time sheets by the relatively slender margin of 5 seconds.
The pulsating battle continued into day 2, until O’Riordan went off the road and out of the rally on stage 11. Roy White, who had unveiled his new Ford Fiesta WRC prior to rally, had a fighting chance of inheriting second place from O’Riordan. But he too, foundered on stage 11. This enabled two time British Rally Champion, Keith Cronin to move his Citroen DS3 R5 onto the leaderboard, behind Kelly’s Focus WRC.
Donagh Kelly rounded out the 2015 season with a fifth victory, with Cronin in a comfortable second and Melvyn Evans taking the final podium position.
In the Junior section, Rob Duggan was in the ascendancy once again, winning by well over 3 minutes. Even so, a second place finish was enough for John O’Sullivan and JJ Cremin to be crowned Junior Champions in their Honda Civic. In the Historic Championship, second place was also good enough for Ernie Graham to fight off Gareth Lloyd and take the title by a mere 6 points.
Ace Signs Cork 20 Rally 2015
1. Donagh Kelly / Conor Foley – Ford Focus WRC
2. Keith Cronin / Shane Buckley – Citroen DS3 R5
3. Melvyn Evans / Mark Glennerster – Subaru Impreza WRC
1. Declan Gallagher /Ryan Moore – Toyota Starlet
2. Eugene Meegan / Sarah Whelan – BMW 130i
3. Enda O’Brien / John Butler – Ford Escort