DONEGAL’S Donagh Kelly and his Monaghan co-driver Conor Foley gave the Volkswagen Polo GTi its first Irish national rally win with victory on the Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally in Bantry, the final round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship.
A few weeks ago Derry’s Marty McCormack and co-driver Barney Mitchell gave the car its Irish International debut win on the CBtoolhire.com Cork “20” International Rally.
With a slight glitch on the final two stages, they still ran out comfortable winners, 37.1 seconds ahead of the Ford Escort of Donegal’s Damian Tourish/Domhnaill McAlaney.
Welsh driver Mel Evans and co-driver Patrick Walsh in a Skoda Fabia R5, 50.8 seconds further behind in third.
Donegal’s Kevin Eves (Toyota Corolla co-driven by Chris Melly), who was eighth overall, did enough to clinch third overall in the Triton series and also won the rally.ie award (top two-wheel drive) within the eight-round series.
Meanwhile, Donegal’s David Kelly (Toyota Starlet), co-driven by Kenny Bustard, won the Junior event and also clinched Class 16A within the Triton series.
Glanmire’s Aaron Browne co-driven by Galwegian Stephen Joyce (Honda Civic) overcame the loss of fourth gear and were second in the category.
Just two seconds separated Kelly and Tourish on the opening 15.8km stage that skirted along the Wild Atlantic Way on the Mizen Head peninsula.
Bandon’s Vincent McSweeney (Mitsubishi Evo) made a great start to hold third — 5.6 seconds further behind and a mere 10th of a second in front of former Fastnet winner Daniel Cronin (Ford Fiesta R5), who experienced an overheating issue.
Evans and Cavan’s Chris Armstrong (Ford Escort) completed the top six.
Unfortunately both McSweeney and Cronin crashed out on the second stage at Mount Gabriel as Kelly stretched his advantage over Tourish to 15.5 seconds. Evans moved into third, but was 19.2 seconds further adrift. Kelly and Tourish had the same time for the stage at Mount Kid.
At the Bantry service park, rally leader Kelly remarked that he had chosen a tyre compound that was far too soft for the opening stage while he had a few moments on the second stage.
Tourish reckoned that the second stage was very tricky and he wasn’t as quick as he was the previous year.
Evans, 21.6 seconds further behind in third was untroubled but admitted he lacked match practice. The Escorts of Gary Kiernan, Armstrong and JF Shovelin completed the top six. Armstrong was co-driven by Barryroe’s Dylan Doolan.
Eves reckoned a change of springs for the previous rally didn’t suit the West Cork terrain and having lost time opted to concentrate on securing third overall in the Triton series and also claiming the rally.ie award for the top two-wheel-drive in overall standings. Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan (Ford Escort) was 10th.
On the repeat, loop Kelly stretched his advantage to 31.6 seconds, the rally leader had changed from a soft Michelin tyre to a medium compound Pirelli for the second loop. Kiernan moved into third from Evans as Armstrong and Eves rounded out the top six. O’Riordan stayed 10th.
Kiernan retired from third place on the penultimate stage with a broken rear differential. Kelly went on to claim the spoils and gave the VW Polo GTi its first Irish national win, he backed off on the final pair of stages as the car felt somewhat twitchy.
“I’m not sure what it was, it’s either suspension or alignment, it’s just some wee thing that was making the car nervous. It was perfect before that so we just took it handy.”
Following Kiernan’s demise, Evans slotted into third with Armstrong, David Moffett and Shovelin rounding out the top six. Donegal’s Aaron McLaughlin (Fiesta R5) was next in a top 10 that was completed by Eves, O’Riordan and Kevin Barrett (Subaru). Youghal’s Jason Ryan and The Pike’s Peter Keohane (Toyota Starlet) had a fine win in Class 11F from the Durrus/ Dunmanway pairing of Etienne O’Sullivan/Donnachadha Burke.
Elsewhere, Kealkil’s Mick Cremin (Mitsubishi) won Class 15 and Bandon’s Robert Beamish (Opel Corsa) won Class 9. Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan guided Louth’s Brendan Cumiskey (Mitsubishi) to victory in Class 20.
Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy had a disappointing outing and was forced to retire his Citroen DS3 R5 after the second loop of stages.
Ballylickey’s Denis Cronin and co-driver Helen O’Sullivan (Ford Escort) lost the clutch with a few hundred metres of the opening stage, but recovered to finish fourth in the Historic section.