Belfast Telegraph

Popular Manus Kelly was so proud of his 'dream come true' successes in Donegal

 

Family man: Manus Kelly after winning the International Rally of the Lakes 2018 with his son Conan and Dermot Healy, Clerk of the Course
Family man: Manus Kelly after winning the International Rally of the Lakes 2018 with his son Conan and Dermot Healy, Clerk of the Course

By Sammy Hamill

You rarely saw Manus Kelly without a smile on his face. He was always beaming, always appeared happy with his life.

He was a successful businessman, had a lovely family and had a passion for motorsport and politics.

Known as 'Mandy' and married with five young children, Kelly was a popular and widely known figure in Donegal. From Glenswilly on the outskirts of Letterkenny, he ran a number of businesses and just in May this year had been elected to Donegal County Council.

But the Donegal International Rally was where he shone brightest, bringing him and his co-driver Donall Barrett an unprecedented three victories in a row.

He talked about them as a dream come true and his greatest achievement.

Sadly, it has now claimed his life at the age of 41.

He crashed his Hyundai i20 on the Fanad Head stage yesterday afternoon, the car leaving the road and finishing in a field. Barrett also suffered injuries and was taken to hospital in Letterkenny.

They had formed an unbeatable team in Donegal over the past three years. But they had success, too, further afield, winning the Killarney Rally of the Lakes last year as well as the Carlow National Rally.

However, Donegal was where Kelly excelled. It was his home patch and he knew the bumpy, jumpy roads intimately.

His three wins had been achieved in a WRC Subaru Impreza supplied by Welshman Melvyn Evans but when the car was sold he switched this year to the Hyundai i20, an R5 class car which complies with the Tarmac Championship regulations.

He had trouble adapting to its different characteristics and struggled to make an impact. Ninth place on the Easter Stages Rally in Northern Ireland was the best result he had managed so far.

But he was optimistic about the Donegal International, although with so many drivers reverting to their WRC cars, including Craig Breen and Sam Moffett, he didn't think it was likely he could add a fourth win to his collection.

What no one expected was that he would be killed in a crash on the Fanad stage he knew so well. It is a tragedy that has rocked Irish motorsport, a driver so skilled and so popular it has left his fellow competitors in a state of shock.

There have been other fatalities in the Donegal event, two marshals dying after being hit by a competing car in 2002 and a spectator was killed in 2008.

An inquiry into the Kelly crash has now been launched.

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