Donagh Kelly pays the price after gamble backfires
It was always going to be risky tackling two rallies just five days apart and now Donagh Kelly's decision to contest an Irish national championship round at Clonmel on Sunday has cost him his place in the starting line for this weekend's Todds Leap Ulster International.
Kelly was the No.3 seed for the premier Irish Tarmac championship round which begins from Enniskillen on Friday but the engine of his M-Sport Ford Focus was damaged during the Stonethrowers Rally in Tipperary and he has been forced to withdraw.
Kelly, winner of the West Cork Rally earlier in the year, briefly led Sunday's rally but with the engine showing alarming signs of overheating he elected to withdraw in the hope of saving it.
However, it now appears the engine has been damaged and will need a re-build which won't be completed in time for the Ulster Rally's Friday afternoon start.
There was also trouble for top seed Declan Boyle, who was the early leader in Tipperary before he, too, had to retire at the end of the second stage when his Subaru suffered transmission problems.
It turned out to be a broken input shaft to the gearbox which, although the early exit may have severely damaged his chances of retaining his Irish national title, will not prevent the Donegal driver taking his place at the head of the line-up on Friday.
Boyle, who won the first two rounds of the national series, is now 33 points behind new leader, Welshman Steve Wood, and 20 adrift of Paddy McVeigh who also retired on Sunday. It was transmission gremlins, too, which sidelined the Dungannon driver who is scheduled to take part in the national division of the Ulster event.
His Subaru was hit with a similar problem on last month's Sligo Rally and despite the gearbox being rebuilt it re-surfaced on Sunday and unless the issue can be resolved, he may pull out.
Meanwhile, the Enniskillen Club, who are hosting the 'Ulster' for the second year in a row, are also gearing up for their Lakeland Stages Rally on September 6.
It will be part of the club's 50th anniversary celebrations and in an acknowledgement of its founding year in 1964, the entry fee will be pegged at £196.40p.
Sponsored by Samdec Security, it is the only round of this year's Northern Ireland championship to be staged on forest tracks.