Donagh Kelly tastes Cork glory ahead of big championship revamp
If Donagh Kelly is to be the last driver to win Ireland's premier Tarmac rally championship in a WRC car, he made sure the era ended in style.
His victory on the Cork '20' International at the weekend was his fifth of the series in his M-Sport Ford Focus, but if Kelly wants to defend his title in 2016 he will have to switch to the newer breed of R5 and S2000 cars following the contentious decision by the TROA organisers to revamp the championship.
The move has split Irish rallying and Frosses businessman Kelly, one of those in the against camp, brought the curtain down on two decades of WRC dominance with a Cork win which was harder than the near two-minute margin he enjoyed at the end.
Kelly had been involved in a close fight for the lead with four-time winner Daragh O'Riordan but was left in the clear when the Cork driver put his Ford Fiesta off the road on Sunday's second leg.
It left triple British champion Keith Cronin to take the runner-up spot in his R5 Citroen, the kind of car which will have precedence in 2016. Welshman Mel Evans finished third in his WRC Subaru with Stephen Wright (R5 Fiesta) and Joe McGonigle (S2000 Skoda) in fourth and fifth.
Meanwhile, Kevin O'Hara upstaged the more fancied Formula Ford runners to win the Martin Donnelly Trophy at Kirkistown. The 25-year-old from Kildare has made few appearances this year but still dominated the end-of-season finale at the Co Down track.
He was fastest in qualifying in his Van Diemen and won his heat to start the final from pole position. He battled with new British and All-Ireland champion Jonny McMullan before pulling clear to take the chequered flag five seconds in front of the Newtownabbey driver's Van Diemen.
Newly-crowned NI champion Jake Byrne was third in his Ray with last year's Trophy winner Alan Davidson (Mondiale) fourth.