Irish Notes 26th June 2019
From delight to despairing grief was the spontaneous mood change on last Sunday’s leg of the Donegal International
Rally when the news came in that 41 year old Manus Kelly had died when his Hyundai R5 crashed out over a bumpy fast left corner on the Fanad Head Stage. Co-driver Donall Barrett was hospitalised, his injuries reportedly non life threatening. Manus, winner of the Donegal Rally for the last three years, reportedly died almost instantaneously at the scene above Shannagh Lough. It was an unimaginable tragedy against the stunning picture postcard backdrop. As the hours ticked away after the accident, the tributes for Manus poured in. It quickly became evident that the Letterkenny man, married and with five children, was extremely highly thought of as a family man, in business life, in politics and of course in rallying. A very special person indeed was Manus, his death a huge loss to the community. To his wife, children, family and friends, we offer our deepest condolences.
And to Donall Barrett we wish a speedy recovery, although doubtless, along with so many others, life will never be the same following Manus’ death.
The tragedy meant that the rally itself, the performance, the dramas, the atmosphere, the thousands of spectators, all paled into somewhat insignificance. For the record, Callum Devine led the rally initially then Declan Boyle forced his Fiesta WRC to the front through the remainder of the Friday stages. Declan lost time on the Saturday morning and then crashed out, leaving Sam Moffett in front, chased hard by Craig Breen and with Callum Devine 3rd. Donagh Kelly didn’t make the first stage after his Focus suffered half shaft failure on the road section.
That is the way it finished on Sunday lunchtime. The results were declared final after the interrupted and fateful stage 15 Fanad. Sam Moffett/James Fulton were in 1st place, with 13 seconds in hand over Craig Breen. The latter, co-driven by Paul Nagle, had put a big push on through that classic but tragic opening Sunday stage, and were 4 seconds faster than Moffett. Callum Devine/Brian Hoy delighted many with their superb drive on this rally. They finished 3rd in their Fiesta, best of the R5 crews and top points scorer in the Irish Tarmac Championship.
Garry Jennings & Rory Kennedy were 4th in their Subaru, following a slightly
hesitant start and then a great run. However such was the pace at the front that it was not easy to pull back any time, although Kesh man Garry was only 7 seconds behind Devine when the final whistle had to be prematurely blown. Josh Moffett/Keith Moriarity (Hyundai R5) were 5th, Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble (Fiesta R5) 6th. Alastair set some cracking stage times, but some not so good ones also as his car displayed a bit of ill temperament on occasion. Joe McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney were 7th in a Fiesta WRC and Merion Evans/Jonathan Jackson (Hyundai R5) 8th. Manus Kelly had been lying 6th before his accident.
In the National section of Donegal Ryan Loughran/Gareth Doherty came out tops in their Escort and Mark Falvey/Diarmuid Lynch (Escort) won the Historics.
Further afield on the Red Kite National A Stages in South Wales Adrian Hetherington/Ronan O’Neill were a fine 4th o/a in their Escort RS 1800, with Stanley Orr/Graham Henderson 5th o/a in their Escort Mk1. The overall winner was Simon Webster/Jez Rogers (Escort RS1800).
One of the good news stories this week is the announcement that Craig Breen will return to theWRC for a one-off appearance on Rally Finland in August driving for Hyundai. Breen will have a seat fitting this week and as expected, Paul Nagle will co-drive. The pair will also contest Rally Estonia as a pre-event test along with team mate Mikelsen. Craig said “I am chuffed to be given this chance to join Hyundai Motorsport for Rally Finland, and to get back in a World Rally Car. It’s been a long and patient wait, having to watch everyone else drive this year. I am honoured to have this one-off opportunity with Paul as my co-driver. I’ll be competing with the Number 42, a number I’ve raced with since my first year in karting in 1998, and that has always been very lucky. Let’s hope it remains that way.” Craig has a good record in Finland, finishing in the top five on two of the last three rallies and on the podium with third place in 2016.
This weekend coming both the British Rally Championship and the Triton Showers National series swing back into action.
The BRC round is at Ypres and current champion Matt Edwards (Fiesta R5) and Tom Cave (Hyundai R5) seem to be the two main title contenders. Other top drivers in R5s include Marty McCormack and Rhys Yates, both in Skoda Fabia R5s as well as Alex Laffey and Enda McCormack in Fiesta R5s. Top drivers not involved in the British series include Craig Breen, who will drive a VW Polo GTi R5 and Darren Gass (Skoda Fabia R5), while top Belgians include Kris Princen, also in a VW Polo GTi R5 and ‘Fast’ Freddy Loix in a Skoda R5.
There are some great drivers in Course cars and in a special section called ‘Ypres Masters’. Eric Camilli is driving the new M-Sport Fiesta R5 Mk2 as a course car, while in the Masters are such drivers as Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai i20 WRC, Bryan Bouffier in a Fiesta WRC, Paul Lietar in a Ford Escort Cosworth and Bruno Thiry in a GpA Opel Corsa GSi.
Perhaps some of the greatest interest in Ypres, certainly from our point of view, will be to see the performance of the Juniors. The young drivers from this part of the world, all in R2 cars, include Josh McErlean, Marty Gallagher, James Wilson, William Creighton and Jordan Hone. (Jordan has Aileen Kelly co-driving this time and not his father Paul). Another young driver coming on in leaps and bounds is Ruari Bell. Although not from this side of the Irish Sea, his father Harvey Bell is no stranger to Irish Rallying. The Ypres Rally starts on Friday afternoon and concludes on Saturday night. It may seem like a piece of cake rallying through the farmland around Ypres, but the unrelenting high speeds and narrow roads generally take their toll.
Closer to home, on the Ravens Rock Rally in the South East around Dungarvan, there are a variety of entries, some aiming for points in one of the three championships concerned – the Triton Showers National, the Suirway South East and the Southern Four. Just some of the interesting names include Josh Moffett, this time in a Fiesta WRC, Triton Showers man Kevin Barrett in his Subaru, West Cork specialist John Dalton from Wales in his Darrian, Hugh Hunter in his Focus WRC and Clonakilty’s David Guest in his Skoda S2000. Quite a few drivers are making the trip from Wales, no doubt lured by the mouth watering quality of the stages laid out by Co C James Coleman. The rally had received around 80 entries earlier this week, with more expected before the weekend.
On a slightly different note, well known Co Antrim driver Robert Woodside switched to the circuits last weekend when he drove in the arduous Nurburgring 24 Hours. Robert described it as one of the toughest races in the world and ended up driving 10 of the 24 hours eventually finishing 2nd in class in a Porsche Carrera. At the French GP, Jack Young made the most of the occasion and won the Clio Cup race which was making a one off trip to the glamourous F1 world at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
There were to be two rally launches this week – one by the Ulster Rally organisers and another by the Sligo Stages team. However both launches have been put off in respect for the death of Manus Kelly.
The Rainbow Communications backed Loughgall Country Park Rally is reporting that entries are coming in strongly with some interesting names including Adrian Heatherington and Shane McGirr. The 6th July event will consist of 6 stages and online entries are available at www.rallyscore.net.
It is on that sad note, on this catastrophic week for rallying, that we finish our rather foreshortened Irish Notes for this week. Once again we send our deepest condolences to all the family and friends of Manus Kelly. This is a very sad time for Irish Rallying and the Donegal people. The world will be a lesser place without ‘Mandy’.
Regards, Brian, Michael & Liz Patterson