Donagh Kelly seals Dogleap victory!

Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan emerged victorious from Saturday’s WN Nutt & Son and LGC sponsored Dogleap Stages Rally, round six of the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship.

Kelly, in his production category Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, was perhaps a surprise winner at the eight-stage forestry event. Former champion, Kenny McKinstry, had been hotly tipped to claim the Dogleap spoils on his return to the Hankook series but he and navigator Harvey Bell hit trouble during the second stage.

“We finished stage two with a broken driveshaft,” McKinstry explained. “There was only a short road section afterwards and we arrived late at the start of the third stage.”

“We were given a 40 second penalty for being four minutes late,” McKinstry continued, “although I think it should only have been a three minute penalty. It was one of those things but I drove as hard as I could after that. It was a close finish but Donagh drove very well.”

McKinstry had been leading the event by seven seconds at the end of that second test, but the penalty dropped him behind a number of crews. One stage later, he found himself in fourth overall, 29 seconds behind new rally leaders, Johnny McKenna and Noreen McShea.

McKenna led the event by a slender one second from Donagh Kelly, but sadly for the new leader, his rally was set to come to an abrupt end towards the finish of the fourth stage when he rolled his Mitsubishi after clipping a metal post.

Then second placed Richard Hogg also suffered the same fate. After setting fastest times through stages four and five in his Evo 6 Lancer, he went off the road on stage six when a brake pipe burst.

With two stages remaining, 17 seconds stood between leader Donagh Kelly and second placed Kenny McKinstry. It was always going to be a tall order for McKinstry to regain the number one position after his earlier dramas but he did all he could during the closing miles.

Fastest on the penultimate test by eight seconds, the battle was going down to the wire. The Banbridge pilot was on the limit in his Impreza WRC, and he pulled out all of the stops during the final test. He was fastest again, closing the gap to Donagh Kelly by another seven seconds but it was not enough to overhaul the Mitsubishi pilot.

Kelly, together with navigator Kevin Flanagan, had held on to secure a two second victory over the chasing McKinstry. It was the second outright win on the trot for Kelly, as he also claimed victory at July’s non-championship Donegal Forestry Rally event.

While McKinstry was forced to settle for second behind Kelly, who also topped the Sunoco Fuels production category, Mark Donnelly and Stephen O’Hanlon had an excellent run to finish third overall. As a result, Donnelly moved in to second position in the Hankook N.I. championship standings.

Martin Cairns and Andrew Purcell finished fourth ahead of Marc Johnston and Colin Harkness, with Ian Cochrane and Thomas Nugent sixth. Cyril Doherty and Graham Henderson finished seventh ahead of Stuart Biggerstaff and Anthony Nestor.

The Dogleap Rally was Biggerstaff’s first foray into the woods, and he acquitted himself well. Another solid points finish sees him maintain his position at the top of the championship tables, and he now leads the series by 11 points from Mark Donnelly.

In the two-wheel-drive category, Frank Kelly and Liam Brennan claimed the spoils ahead of Michael Conlon and Hugh McKenna, while the Montgomery Motorsport historic category was won by Tommy O’Connell and Sean Magee.

The tussle for the 2010 crown will continue in County Fermanagh next month for round seven of the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship, the Fisher Engineering Stages Rally. More details about the event, which takes place on Saturday 11 September, will be announced soon.

WN Nutt & Son and LGC Dogleap Rally – top 10

1 Donagh Kelly/Kevin Flanagan (Lancer Evo 9) 56m01s
2 Kenny McKinstry/Harvey Bell (Impreza WRC) 56m03s
3 Mark Donnelly/Stephen O’Hanlon (Lancer Evo 9) 57m20s
4 Martin Cairns/Andrew Purcell (Impreza WRC) 57m27s
5 Marc Johnston/Colin Harkness (Lancer) 58m19s
6 Ian Cochrane/Thomas Nugent (Lancer Evo 9) 58m35s
7 Cyril Doherty/Graham Henderson (Impreza) 58m50s
8 Stuart Biggerstaff/Anthony Nestor (Impreza WRC) 59m17s
9 Trevor Ferguson/David McElroy (Impreza) 59m28s
10 Joseph McGonigle/Niall Burns (Lancer) 59m54s

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