Winner on the Boyle but Donagh takes title
Declan Boyle finally secured his first victory of the season in Sligo yesterday but it came way too late to prevent Donagh Kelly becoming Irish national rally champion for the first time. It was also the first Irish win for Boyle's new evolution version of M-Sport's WRC Ford Fiesta.
But second place for Kelly and his Derry co-driver Kevin Flanagan in their Ford Focus was more than enough to ensure they succeed Boyle and his cousin Brian as national champions with two rounds to spare.
The 1-2 finish by the two Donegal drivers came on a weekend when their home motor club announced the Donegal Rally would not be part of next year's Irish Tarmac championship. The move follows the decision by the series organisers, TROA, to exclude WRC cars, like those driven by Boyle and Kelly, from scoring points in the overall championship next season.
These cars can still take part but the emphasis in Ireland's premier championship is to switch to the more cost-effective R5 group of cars.
Boyle, meanwhile, was delighted to put an end to a miserable run in which he suffered a string of misfortunes with his S12 Subaru. He made a shock decision to switch to the latest version of the WRC Fiesta just before his home Donegal Rally last month, finishing second, and yesterday demonstrated something of the car's potential by pulling back a 20-second deficit to take his first win of the year.
Declan Gallagher won the two-wheel-drive division in fifth place in his Toyota Starlet.
In Belgium, Andrew Watson and Scottish partner Ross Wylie finished in eighth place in the overseas round of the British GT championship in their Von Ryan Racing McLaren. The 20-year-old student from Donaghmore, driving the final hour of the race, had moved up to sixth place entering the final few laps put lost two places due to a mechanical issue with the car.
Teenager Josh McErlean increased his lead at the top of the Junior 1000 Rally Challenge series with victory at Bishopscourt. McErlean in his Peugeot won by just a second from the Citroen of Peter Bennett with Philip White taking third in his Micra.