One of the greatest Donegal Rallies in years is will be how fans will remember the 2016 event; a great win for local man Manus Kelly in his first attempt behind the wheel of a WRC Subaru. This was the way Donegal Daily watched and reported on Donegal’s Manus and Donall great win.
So it’s the second stage on Saturday morning of the 2016 Donegal International Rally. Two local men with the most hope of winning their home rally for the first time have went off the road and ended up in a field.
Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett put so much into this Donegal Rally and were in pouncing distance in third place overall and now their Subaru is sitting in the field. The only thing moving when they were sitting there stopped in the field was their time clock.
One minute and forty seconds past which must have seemed like one hour and forty minutes to the two boys.
Winding the clock back to the first stage, Trentagh on Friday and the crowds were gathering for hours before it started. Last year’s winner, Gary Jennings and his navigator, Letterkenny man, Rory Kennedy blasted through the stage. We didn’t really notice at the time. But the Subaru was putting out a trail of smoke, Gary and Rory were to retire before they made it to the finish of the stage with a blown engine and were out of the rally.
Losing a multi winner like Gary Jennings so early changed the game plan for everyone else.
For the first time in the history of the Donegal International Rally at the end of day one, the first three positions were in the hands of Donegal drivers. Former winner of the event in 2015, Declan Boyle from Glenties was leading the rally followed by the reigning Tarmac Champion, Donagh Kelly from Frosses. And in third place was last years winner of the national rally, Manus Kelly. And there was more…
Lining up as possible outright winners, 2013 winner Sam Moffett, the ’04, ’05 and ’08 winner Eugene Donnelly was back in his WRC Mini. Allister Fisher and in particular the Bantry man, Keith Cronin were all very impressive.
Men from Boys
Saturday sorts the men from the boys and with stages like Knockalla, Garrygort and Carnhill the battle royal had begun. Manus missed his first ever fastest time of the rally by less than a second on the opening stage on Saturday morning.
The “meet and greet” of measuring up the opposition on Friday was over. Once Saturday morning arrived the gloves were off and the real fight began. Three Donegal men were in the mix, Declan Boyle was in the lead from his efforts on Friday, now it was Donagh Kelly who was punching in the fastest stage times on the fastest stages. The first Donegal man to get a standing count on Saturday morning was Manus Kelly and he wasn’t even in the ring when it happened, he was out sitting in a green field.
The crowd seen the Subaru ending up in the field and thought the show was over for the boys. Manus sat in his car and gestured to the crowd looking on.. “wee push boys”. The car could well have had a wheel missing for all Manus and Donall knew following their off, but they were not about to give up with out a fight.
Supporters and marshals replaced horsepower with manpower, to get Manus untangled from fencing that he carried into the field.
If this Donegal crew’s effort to win their first outright win was to end on Saturday morning, huge respect was still there for them.
It’s times like this that you think of past Donegal drivers over the years, Derek McMahon, Robert Ward, James McDaid, John Connors, Joe McHugh, Paul Harris, to name but a few all were knocking on the door for victory on their home event.
Back in Manus’ Café, “Uptown” in Letterkenny, Manus has big pictures of Donegal competitors on the wall, one is of Vincent Bonnar and Seamus Mc Gettigan on their way to victory as the first ever all Donegal crew to win their home event, another one has James McDaid and Rory Kennedy in a Opel Ascona high above the road on a Fanad stage just before their massive crash out of the Donegal Rally.
In the service area in Milford it turned out that the Subaru had little or no damage from its trip into the field, the question was how much damage was done to the morale of the boys.
Falling is not where the damage is done, it’s how you get back on to your feet and accept what has just happened.
What you can do is get on with it. And this possibly is where Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett believed they could still win their first Donegal Rally. The crew went from 3rd to 10th at the half way point and now they were about to step back in the ring. Gartan stage on Saturday evening is where Manus made his intentions a strong possibility, as he posted his first ever overall fastest time on a stage of a Donegal International Rally as Boyle and Kelly were to suffer mechanical failure.
At the end of the day, Seamus Lenord was now leading the Donegal on the road but on paper it was the 2013 winner Sam Moffett who was the man who started first on the road on Sunday morning. By now the British Tarmac Champion, Keith Cronin had recovered from his puncture and other bother and was in the mix for an outright win as well, Manus rattle the ropes big time through High Glen and Fanad Head stages with fastest times.
Seamus Leonard was possibly in the best position to lead the rally, but that Fanad Head stage can make you or break you, and break Seamus Lenord it did, he was to crash out on the 1st run through, Eugene Donnelly was lucky to get out of Fanad in one piece following a big spin as he pushed for the podium.
Time was ticking away for Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett with the news that High Glen was cancelled second time through, because of electric cables down.
In the national section, the final results on the 2016 Donegal rally will not just show up this great drive but Damien Tourish is the one that got away.
This driver put in the drive of drives on the Donegal Rally this year. On the Friday in an underpowered 2 litre Ford Escort Mk2 he led all the cars that should have been in front of him.
Up onto stage 10 on Saturday morning Damien Tourish and his navigator Domhnall McAleany were leading the National Rally in the modified class, where the sky is the limit for car specification. It was the talent of this Donegal driver that was stealing the show on till the longer faster stages reeled him in.
I would love to see Damien Tourish in the R5 class, but probably never will because of his lack of a decent rallying budget. Well done lad.
I am celebrating watching my 40th Donegal Rally this year and what a celebration it has been.
In 1976 at twelve years of age I wasn’t allowed to even go out to the old Ballyraine Hotel to have a look at the cars, but I did.
An Old 28” gents Raleigh bike was my means of escape which I abandoned at the back of the Ballyraine Hotel. The cars were just coming in to Parc Ferme on the Saturday evening after a full days rallying and were parking up in the field at the back of the hotel. Brian Nelson won the rally that year in his Tuca Tile Porsche.
Forty years on and these childhood memories were sparked to life over the weekend by a cracker of a Donegal Rally and the icing on the cake was a great home win by Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett.
Well done lads.