Donagh Does it Again- West Cork report with Aaron McElroy

It was two from two for Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan in the 2015 Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship as they continued their winning ways when they crossed the finish ramp of the Quality Hotel Clonakilty West Cork Rally with almost seventy seconds to spare over the Ford Fiesta WRC of Sam Moffett and Karl Atkinson.

As the Championship leader after his win in Galway, it was Kelly who led the entry over the start ramp. Declan and Brian Boyle were second on the road in their Subaru WRC looking to make up for the penalty that put them on the back foot after the first round, with Daragh O’Riordan and Tony McDaid behind them in a Fiesta WRC. The Combilift Fiestas of Sam and Josh Moffett had numbers four and six on their doors respectively, and Melvyn Evans split the Monaghan brothers in his Impreza WRC. Declan Gallagher again led out the modified contingent with the likes of Phil Collins, Wesley Patterson and Adrian Hetherington all aiming to out-pace the flying Starlet.

After the opening stage only nine seconds separated the top three with Kelly leading Sam Moffett with Daragh O’Riordan just behind. Declan Boyle didn’t make it through the stage as his bad luck continued with similar problems to what set him back in Galway. Donagh Kelly stretched his legs and the lead on the second stage and went into the first service of the day with fourteen seconds over Sam Moffett. Daragh O’Riordan was a further eight seconds behind. Melvyn Evans was fourth after the first loop despite a half spin as well as saying that he expected to be of the pace at the beginning. Josh Moffett was still learning the Fiesta and sat just one second off Evans. Forestry

Champion Owen Murphy was sixth in his Mitsubishi. Stephen Wright led Jonny Greer in the R5 category in his Fiesta R5 that is on its first outing. Declan Gallagher was seventh overall in the Toyota Starlet and led the Modified section. The second stage was stopped after Phil Collins and Diarmuid Falvey put their Escort off the road. Thankfully both of the crew were unharmed. Joe McGonigle also failed to make it to service after he retired with a damaged suspension on his Skoda Fabia S2000. There was much of the same in the following loop of stages. Donagh Kelly settled into his Focus WRC and extended his lead over Sam Moffett to twenty six seconds. Daragh O’Riordan was still within touching distance of the top two and was looking very promising for his first rally back after a break. Josh Moffett leapfrogged to fourth after setting a time just three seconds off Kelly on Stage three. However on Stage four he had two large overshoots in the Fiesta. Melvyn Evans dropped time with tyre issues. This allowed Owen Murphy to jump to fifth. Stephen Wright held position in the Fiesta R5 but Jonny Greer dropped down the order with pop off valve trouble on his turbo. Declan Boyle’s crew managed to get the Subaru running again and under the Rally 2 rules he was fit to set a time eight seconds faster than Kelly over Stage three. Due to the penalty occurred by Rally 2 this made little difference to the overall standings, with Boyle near to the end of the entire leader board. On the fifth stage of the first day Donagh Kelly took another five seconds out of Sam Moffett. Daragh O’Riordan lost time on the leaders on the same stage when his Fiesta WRC visited a ditch, although luckily without damaging the car. Josh Moffett remained steady and took no risks to remain fourth. Melvyn Evans suffered an electrical fault which meant the car wouldn’t fully open the throttle and lost more time to the drivers at the front. Declan Gallagher remained the front of the modified section with Mark Straker and Mike Coady his nearest challenger in a Darrian. Adrian Hetherington retired after he broke the suspension on his Escort; he had been lying just outside the top ten up to that point.

By the overnight halt, Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan were comfortably in the lead, forty eight seconds clear of Sam Moffett in his Fiesta WRC. Sam had a big moment before the end of the day after his car got stuck in a ditch but luckily he and Karl Atkinson lost little time. Daragh O’Riordan remained third almost a minute of the similar car of Moffett. Melvyn Evans was back up to fourth after Josh Moffett had a misfiring Fiesta and Owen Murphy retired after damaging his Mitsubishi’s radiator on Stage seven.

Declan Gallagher finished the day as he started it leading the Modified. He had over a minute and a half’s advantage over John Bonner and Leon Jordan driving an Escort. Vincent McSweeney sat third in his Honda Civic and led Class 11F from Cal McCarthy. Brendan Cumiskey ended the first day ahead of Aaron McHale in the Group N Category. Brian O’Keefe had been leading earlier in the day but lay third ahead of David Guest. Rob Smith led the Historics from Denis Moynihan. Gareth Lloyd sat third and Ernie Graham. Before the racing began on Sunday morning there had been changes to the leader board. Melvyn Evans retired his Subaru despite being fourth overall, as he and his mechanics couldn’t find the fault in the throttle issues he had been having. Tarmac Champion Declan Boyle also decided not to start the second day. Although he had fixed his electrical gremlins he was a huge sixteen minutes off the lead.

There was a surprise on the time sheets after the first test of the morning, as Donagh Kelly wasn’t fastest. That honour went to Josh Moffett. Spark plug problems meant that the young Monaghan driver was fifty third overall coming into the final day. Some fastest times throughout the day meant that Josh recovered to eighteenth overall.

Over the following two stages Donagh Kelly just focused on getting his car to the end of the rally with no problems and preserving the fifty two second lead he had on Sam Moffett. Daragh O’Riordan’s rally lost momentum after he got a puncture from running wide and skidding into the ditch. He dropped from third to sixth overall in what had been a very good rally for the Midleton man. This promoted Steven Wright to third and Declan Gallagher to fourth place.

By the time the cars returned to the Clonakilty finish ramp, the Ford Focus of Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan had built a one minute and nine second advantage to Sam Moffett and Karl Atkinson. Stephen Wright was a superb third overall in his Fiesta R5, with Jonny Greer and Kirsty Riddock fourth. Daragh O’Riordan set a fastest time on the last stage of the day to move up to fifth overall. Declan Gallagher was sixth having taken no risks on the final loop to make sure he remained in the lead of the Modified category. Gary Kiernan and James Fulton took second Modified in their Escort MKII.

Aaron McHale won Group N in his Lancer Evo 9 from Brendan Cumiskey’s Subaru. Denis Moynihan took the Historic class win after Rob Smith retired on the final stage. Ernie Graham took second by 0.8 of a second over Gareth Lloyd. In the Junior category, Rob Duggan took the spoils in his Fiesta. The next round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship is the Circuit of Ireland Rally on the 3rd and 4th of April, a counting round of the ERC.

Text: Aaron McElroy.

Image from Kevin O’Driscoll