Donegal rally driver Donagh Kelly is celebrating a first major rally success following his first place finish at the Kerry Stages Rally at the weekend.
Donagh, from Frosses, and his co-driver Kevin Flanagan, Culmore, in Derry, in their Subaru S11 WRC, came home ahead of a very strong field, over six stages in trying conditions on Sunday.
The field included leading drivers Kenny McKinstry, Kevin Barrett and Donegal’s Declan Boyle, who was the number one seed for the popular event.
The Kelly/Flanagan combination completed the rally in a time of 59:00: 05, just under a minute and half ahead of second placed Kenny McKinstry and Kenny Hull in a Subaru SR 14 with Kevin Barrett and Sean Mullally, also in an Subaru WRC S11 back in third place.
Declan Boyle in his new Subaru WRC S12B crashed out of the rally at the end of the third stages. The Leitirmacaward man was leading the rally at the time, with Donagh Kelly in second place.
There had been little between the Donegal crew over those opening stages with Boyle just 11 seconds ahead at the end of the second stage.
“Myself and Declan were having a great battle when unfortunately for him he went off at the end of the third stage, and had to drop out,” Donagh told the Democrat.
“After Declan dropped out, we had a minute to spare over the next car and we took it had from there to the finish and thankfully it was good enough for to see us take the top spot.”
Donagh has enjoyed success before and has already a number of firsts in group N, most notably the Donegal Forest Rally, the Down Forest Rally and the Dog Leap Forest Rally in Fivemiletown, Tyrone.
But Sunday evening’s finish was his first in a WRC car and on tarmac: “I have the car just under a year and Sunday was my first win in the car. I’ve had success before and won a number of Group N, but this my first overall, I was fifth in Galway and second in Mayo.
“But this is my first cup with the big boys and it is good finally to have got the win and we are really delighted as we are still getting used to the car really.
“While there were no tarmac championship points for Sunday’s win, it is still a significant event and good one to win and sets us up nicely for Monaghan the weekend after next and of course the Rally of the Lakes back in Kerry and of course the Donegal International.”
Airtricity are Donagh’s main sponsors while Pirelli supply the tyres and VSM provide the car.
While Donagh was flying the flag for Donegal, it was a disappointing event the Donegal crew of Declan and Brian Boyle. The Boyles, winners in Mayo a number of weeks ago, were setting the early pace and were leading when they had a roll at a place call Hedley’s Bridge.
But while the car had some panel damage both driver and co-driver walked away without a scratch.