Donegal drivers were very much to the fore despite the severe weather in the opening round of the 2014 Irish Rally Championship.
The Clonakilty Blackpudding championship began with the two day (Saturday and Sunday) Colm Quinn BMW sponsored Galway International Rally last weekend.
Among the 100 entrants was a strong Donegal contingent. Garry Jennings with Letterkenny co-driver Rory Kennedy, were seeded number one, with the Leitirmacaward crew of Declan and Brian Boyle, seeded fourth. Frosses driver Donagh Kelly with Kevin Flanagan alongside him were seeded 5th with Ballybofey’s Martin Doherty and his co-driver Conor Foley, seeded 15th and Pat Kirk/ ohn McElhinney seeded 27th.
In the National section the Declan Gallagher, Ryan Moore combination was seeded 16th with Wesley Patters/Johnny Baird 17th, Brian Brogan /Mac Walsh 24th, Kevin Eves/Chris Melly 27th, Mickey Peoples /Liam McIntyre, 61st, John Dolan/John (Jack) McGinley 74th. In the junior section, which ran behind the main field, J10 Paul Creamer/Danny McCloskey started their second rally.
First blood went to Sam Moffett in his new Fiesta WRC; he stopped the clocks 0.03sec quicker that Declan Boyle at the end of the first stage.
Boyle turned in the quickest time on SS2 with Garry Jennings, second and Donagh Kelly third. Martin Doherty lay 11th with Pat Kirk and John Mc Elhinney in 12th after two stages.
In the National section Declan Gallagher was flying in his RWD Toyota Starlet and held second overall with Wesley Patterson and Johnny Baird back in third spot.
Also at the end of SS2 Pettigo man Kevin Eves was 11th and led his class while Brian Brogan was 16th after getting held up behind a slower car for most off the stage. John Dolan was 31st with Mickey Peoples 48th after losing around 3 minutes on SS1 with a suspected overheating engine which later turned out to be a faulty gauge
SS3 saw the gap reduced between Boyle and Jennings to 2.9 seconds with Kelly slipping down to 5th. Martin Doherty also lost some time and was now lying 13th.
There was no change in the National Rally at end of stage three. Gallagher still lay second overall tucked in behind Peadar Hurson. Wesley Patterson remained 3rd 16.8 seconds down on Gallagher.
SS 4- Declan Boyle took 1.1 seconds from Jennings to led the rally by four seconds. Donagh Kelly was still in fifth but only 13.4 seconds off Boyle. Martin Doherty was now 12th and fourth overall.
SS5- Jennings was quickest to reduce Boyle’s lead to just 1.6 seconds.
With Peadar Hurson out, Gallagher took over the lead in the National and held a 28.8 second lead over Patterson at the end of stage four. Kevin Eves was now lying eight and led his class with Brian Brogan back in 19th place and John Dolan 29th and Mickey Peoples 40th.
SS6- The last stage on Saturday saw Boyle finish two seconds ahead of Jennings to finish the day 3.6 seconds in front. Donagh Kelly moved ahead off Moffett to hold fourth spot overnight just 22.4 seconds behind Boyle. Martin Doherty ended day one in 11th place.
Gallagher, ended day one, as the clear leader of the National almost 30 seconds ahead of Patterson who was third. Kevin Eves was in eighth position while Brogan ran into brake problems on the last stage off the day and lost some time. John Dolan finished the day 29th with Mickey Peoples starting a great recovery run to finish day one in 39th.
Day Two - Garry Jennings was quickest out off the blocks to reduce Boyle’s lead back to 0.07 seconds at the end of SS7. Eugene Donnelly, who was third overnight, was the first casualty of the day two. This promoted Donagh Kelly up to third and Martin Doherty up to 10th and 3rd in GpN
Brian Brogan and MacWalsh were forced out of the rally on the first stage on Sunday morning due to water in the fuel system.
SS8- Jennings took a further 0.05 seconds from Boyle to reduce to gap to 0.02 seconds. Gallagher started to pull away at the top off the Nationals with Kevin Eves now up to 6th overall.
SS9 - This was the stage the changed the rally. Jennings had a high speed spin after hitting water and lost around 40 seconds to the leader.
Declan Gallagher extended his lead over Patterson/Baird to now lead the national by 51.1 seconds. Eves moved up to fifth with John Dolan, 24th and Mickey Peoples, 31 st.
SS10- Jennings responded to his spin by taking 13 seconds off Boyle, while Kelly moved back up to third, 0.01 ahead off Moffett.
In the National Gallagher/Moore continued his charge to extend his lead over Patterson to 1.27 minutes with Eves moving into fourth place.
SS11 - Jennings was quickest by a second as the gap between himself and Boyle remained 25.9. Kelly lost five seconds to Moffett and dropped back to fourth. Doherty/Foley was now eighth overall while Gallagher was the runaway leader of the National section.
SS12 - Boyle was quickest by two seconds to open up a 27.9 lead once more as Kelly and Moffett continued to have their own private battle back in third and fourth place respectively.
SS13 - There was no change through SS13.
SS14 - At the finish line, the Boyle cousins finished a very tough rally 25.5sec ahead off Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy. The battle for third was won by Donagh Kelly/with Sam Moffett fourth. Martin Doherty/Conor Foley finished eight overall with Strabane’s Pat Kirk and John McElhinney rounded off the top ten.
Declan Gallagher with a 2.10 minute lead over Wesley Patterson won the National Rally with Kevin Eves claiming fourth spot and a class win. Mickey Peoples/Liam McIntyre battled hard to the last stage and they were rewarded with 20th overall and third in class with John Dolan/John (Jack) McGinley 22nd overall and fourth in their class.
Paul Creamer/Danny McCloskey in only their second rally won the Junior section.
The Donegal Motor - Club are holding a Barn Dance on February 22nd in the Mount Errigal Hotel. Club championship awards will be presented to 2013 winners on the night.
The Donegal Motor - Club annual memorial service is on Friday night February 28th in the Church of the Irish Martyrs