Kelly’s Electric Drive!

Donegal driver Donagh Kelly secured his third Carryduff Forklift MSA N.I. Rally Championship victory on Saturday when he claimed victory at Magherafelt and District Motor Club’s Tour of the Sperrins Rally!

Navigated by Kevin Flanagan, Kelly powered his Airtricity backed Subaru Impreza World Rally Car to victory by 8.8 seconds from reigning champion and current series leader, Derek McGarrity.

In fact, it was McGarrity who secured maximum points and extended his championship lead as Kelly is not registered for the series. So despite having to settle for second on this occasion, the Glengormley driver bolstered his chances of securing another Carryduff Forklift N.I. crown.

The Event…

At the start of the event, almost 100 crews lined up outside Walsh’s Hotel in preparation for battle. The event was to be contested over six stages with changeable weather conditions set to make tyre choice a lottery.

On stage one, it was number one seed Camillus Bradley who left the field trailing in his wake aboard his Mark 2 Escort. Navigated by Charlie Beatty, they finished the test five seconds faster than Derek McGarrity and James McKee, with Derek McGeehan and Michael Orr third in their MINI WRC.

“I think I must have caught them sleeping,” Bradley said afterwards. “The stage didn’t feel that good to us. I thought we might have been 10 seconds behind them so I couldn’t believe it when I found out we were leading the rally.”

It was only a matter of time before the World Rally Car crews got to grips with the conditions, and after stage two, Derek McGarrity had surged into a three second lead from Donagh Kelly, with Bradley demoted to third.

That same stage saw the demise of Steven Kane. The Newtownards born man, who is more accustomed to racing a Nissan GT-R, had a troubled start to what was his first rally as the throttle in his MINI WRC refused to work from the beginning of the event. Problems worsened on stage two when he and navigator Noel Orr slid off the road and out of the event.

Back at the top, rally leader Derek McGarrity set the pace on stage three to arrive into a hailstone covered service area with a 7.6 second advantage over Donagh Kelly, while the two-wheel-drive powered Camillus Bradley was doing his best to keep up with his WRC counterparts in third.

Second Loop…

Shortly after the leaders completed that third test, organisers were forced to stop the stage when Trevor Ferguson and David McElroy crashed their Group N Subaru Impreza. After hitting a telegraph pole, their car was pitched into a series of rolls but thankfully neither crew member was injured.

With the cars refettled in service, most crews returned to the stages for a repeat loop of the same three tests. However, eighth placed Kevin Barrett was forced to stay in service as his Impreza WRC developed a gearbox problem.

When the stage times started rolling in from the fourth test, it looked as though second placed Donagh Kelly was on a charge. He had swiped three seconds out of leader McGarrity, leaving 4.6 seconds between the two contenders with two stages remaining.

Then the tide really turned in Kelly’s favour on stage five when he stopped the clocks in his Airtricity backed Impreza WRC some 13 seconds faster than McGarrity. As it transpired, McGarrity lost precious seconds when he caught two boys illegally riding quad bikes on the stage.

Going into the final test, eight seconds separated the leading crews. So when Kelly claimed fastest time once again, he had done enough to secure his third Carryduff Forklift series win!

“Derek has been our nemesis for a while now,” navigator Kevin Flanagan admitted at the finish. “I think he has managed to beat us by a few seconds on the last three occasions that we’ve come up against him, so it’s nice to finally get the win!”

Derek McGarrity and James McKee had to settle for second on this occasion but they were safe in the knowledge that they had done enough to secure maximum championship points.

Meanwhile, Camillus Bradley and Charlie Beattie completed their stunning drive to secure third overall aboard their two-wheel-drive Mark 2 Escort. They did enough to fend off the challenge from the MINI WRC belonging to Derek McGeehan and Michael Orr, while Desi Henry and Damian Duffin secured fifth in their Citroen DS3 from the Escort belonging to Declan McNaughton and Sean Hayde.

Tour of the Sperrins Results – Top 10

1 Donagh Kelly/Kevin Flanagan (Impreza WRC) 40m39.1s
2 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Impreza WRC) 40m47.9s
3 Camillus Bradley/Charlie Beattie (Escort Mk2) 41m30.9s
4 Derek McGeehan/Michael Orr (MINI WRC) 41m45.6s
5 Desi Henry/Damian Duffin (Citroen DS3 R3) 43m18.4s
6 Declan McNaughton/Sean Hayde (Escort Mk2) 43m54.4s
7 Mark Donnelly/Barry McNulty (Citroen DS3 R3) 44m20.9s
8 Keith White/Damian McCann (Escort Mk1) 44m27.8s
9 Paddy McToal/Connor O’Loan (Escort Mk2) 44m34.8s
10 Frank Wray/Joe McNulty (Lancer Evo 6) 44m40.3s

Carryduff Forklift MSA N.I. Championship Standings

1 Derek McGarrity – 36pts
2 Derek McGeehan – 27pts
3 Kevin Barrett – 18pts
4 Jonny Leonard – 16pts
5 James Laverty – 13pts
6 Camillus Bradley – 10pts

Go Motorsport

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