Donagh Kelly rounded out his 2015 Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship with another flawless drive to take victory on last weekend’s Cork 20 International Rally. Kelly, who had already sealed the Tarmac title on the previous round in Ulster, renewed his partnership with co-driver Conor Foley for the season finale.
Kelly was to face strong competition over the weekend from local ace, Daragh O’Riordan. The Middleton driver was in the hunt for a 5th consecutive Cork 20 win and he started well, taking a slim lead on the opening test on Saturday morning just south of Fermoy. O’Riordan held on to his lead for 3 stages until Kelly hit the front on stage 4 with a scintillating time. Kelly and O’Riordan swapped times for the remainder of the opening day seeing Kelly arrive at the overnight halt with a 5.2 second advantage. Behind the top 2, Keith Cronin was holding 3rd in his R5 Citroen DS3.
Kelly stamped his authority on the rally on the opening stage on Sunday morning with a time 11 seconds faster than O’Riordan. O’Riordan, in an effort to keep with Kelly and still with dreams of that 5th win, then slipped off the road on stage 11 and retired. On that same stage, Tipperary driver Roy White, also retired. White was making his World Rally Car debut and had been lying comfortably in the top 5. With O’Riordan out, Keith Cronin inherited 2nd place and held that position all the way to the finish. Just behind Cronin, Welsh visitor Melvyn Evans enjoyed a successful weekend taking the final spot on the podium in his Subaru Impreza. But it was Donagh Kelly’s rally, and indeed his year as this was his 5th win in his Irish Tarmac Championship season. His final winning margin was 1 minute 49.5 seconds.
Behind the leaders, Clonakilty driver David Guest won the Group N category in his Mitsubishi Lancer but it was Aaron MacHale and Paul McGee who would be crowned Irish Tarmac Group N Champions with a 10th place finish giving them the necessary points to take the crown. Finishing 5th overall with Joe McGonigle in a Skoda Fabia S2000 meant that Ciarán Geaney was crowed champion co-driver.
In the national section of the rally, it was once again Declan Gallagher and Ryan Moore who took the spoils with a stunning drive in their Toyota Starlet. Having built up a comfortable advantage on the opening day, Gallagher could afford to back off over the closing stages but still managed to win the category by almost 2 minutes ahead of the fantastic sounding BMW 1 Series of Eugene Meegan with Enda O’Brien taking 3rd in his Ford Escort.
Rob Duggan continued his winning ways taking a convincing win in the junior rally which was held on Sunday’s stages. Duggan had an outside chance of winning the junior championship but championship leader John O’Sullivan had only to finish to lift the title. O’Sullivan dis just that and in the process, became the first ever junior Irish Tarmac Rally Champion. Gareth Lloyd won this historic rally in his Mark 2 Ford Escort, narrowly beating the similar car of Ernie Graham.
Image from Sean Hassett