Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver David Kelly will embark on a season in the highly acclaimed Irish Tarmac Rally Championship in 2022, driving his Glebe Builders backed Ford Fiesta R5.
Kelly, just 26 years old from Donegal and co-driver Dean O’Sullivan will tackle seven rounds of the all-asphalt calendar, starting with this weekend’s Galway International Rally [5-6 February].
After contesting the prestigious Junior British Rally Championship in a two-wheel-drive Fiesta Rally4 in 2021, Kelly’s blistering pace and top stage times were mixed with bad fortune and a string of mechanical woes.
With championship hopes dashed at the mid-point of the season, Kelly upgraded to the top-flight Fiesta R5 and contested a handful of events to get a better understanding of the all-new machine.
Fifth place in Wexford was a highlight for the progressive youngster and now Kelly will commit to the ITRC in 2022 and aim to battle towards the front of one of the most hotly contested championships in Europe.
“I`m really excited to be embarking on such a fascinating season of the ITRC and stepping up full-time into the R5 category,” says Kelly. “For the last two seasons it’s been tough to get a full plan together thanks to the pandemic but finally 2022 feels like it’s going to be able to provide a proper calendar of events. Competing at home will be really exciting too and give me the chance to settle in properly to the new car and improve our pace as the season progresses. We are remaining realistic about our prospects in such a high-quality field but are eager to gain valuable mileage and experience of the events and the car.”
The 2019 Billy Coleman Award finalist has an impressive CV of events under his belt, with a conscious effort to gain experience on all surfaces leading to a Fastnet, Cavan and Midland Stages Rally Junior win and runner-up Junior in the Irish Championship that year.
Kelly then contested the opening round of the 2020 Junior BRC and secured an impressive podium before COVID forced the cancellation of the series, returning in 2021 with some success in the closely fought championship.
“Although we showed a lot of promise in the Junior BRC, the stars didn’t quite align in terms of results” he continues. “But it gave us a wealth of understanding and experience of tackling top-class events and fighting at the front which will undoubtedly help going forward with the Fiesta R5. Whilst I don’t have that many stage miles under my belt, I certainly feel ready for the challenge this season and that’s testament to the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy and all their support for divers who want to progress their careers. Their support has been invaluable and means I can pretty much hit the ground running this weekend in Galway.”
Kelly is also eager to return to the UK to sample some of the gravel events in the British Rally Championship during the season, but for now, will get his 2022 campaign underway with the number 12 on the doors.
“It’s two days of some of the best Irish asphalt stages, which will be a great but difficult experience. The pace out front will certainly be rapid, but we will do our own thing and build the speed over the course of the weekend. I have to say a huge thank you to our valuable partners Glebe Builders, Donegal Hardware, B. Bonner Painting, Cherry More Kitchens, Sweeney Scaffolding, Gortlee Tool Hire and Briton Tarmac for their support and enabling us to embark on such an exciting season ahead.”