Manus Kelly turns up power at finish to claim Donegal International Rally prize
Unsung Manus Kelly won a Joule Donegal International Rally that had more twists and turns than the special stages themselves.
The Letterkenny businessman, in only his second drive in a WRC car, snatched victory by half-a-second on the final stage of the three-day event.
Kelly, who had been off the road and in a field on the Carrigart stage on Saturday morning, fought his way back up the leaderboard as many of the favourites like Garry Jennings, Declan Boyle and Donagh Kelly fell by the wayside. But he was still nine seconds behind Keith Cronin, the fourth leader of the rally, starting the last of the 20 stages, Fanad Head, yesterday afternoon.
But Kelly made the power of his Melvin Evans Subaru S12 tell by beating Cronin's R5 Citroen DS3 by a fraction under 10 seconds to record the smallest ever winning margin in the Irish Tarmac championship.
Jennings, the 2015 winner, was an early casualty, his Subaru suffering engine failure on the first stage on Friday. It left Boyle, the 2014 winner, with a near two-minute lead but his Ford Fiesta stopped on the last Saturday stage with a broken gearbox.
Omagh's Seamus Leonard briefly took the lead in his McKinstry Motorsport Subaru but an overnight adjustment to the times promoted Sam Moffett, who had been blocked by an Alastair Fisher accident, to first place.
Then yesterday it was Cronin who surged to the front as Leonard crashed out but all the while Kelly was charging, the local hero finally making it over the finish line by the tiniest of margins as the Citroen lost fuel pressure.
Sam Moffett had to settle for third ahead of his brother Josh with Stephen Wright fifth and Fisher sixth, all in R5 Fiestas.