Donagh Kelly is prepared for a busy two weeks as he tackles the opening round of the National Rally Championship in Mayo this weekend followed by the West Cork Rally a week later.
A strong performance in Galway last month, when he held second for most of the event before a hard-charging Sam Moffett pipped him on the final stage, has given Kelly renewed hope for the year ahead. Setting fastest times and battling with the young guns proves he is back to his best in the Volkswagen Polo R5.
Being an exponent of the World Rally Car, Kelly initially made the move to R5 last year with a Skoda Fabia. It was never an easy relationship as work commitments limited his time behind the wheel. The combination only lasted one tarmac event and a handful of gravel rallies. The car wasn’t giving Kelly the same confidence as his beloved Ford Focus WRC.
Kelly had a Polo R5 on order for quite some time and when it was delivered late last year it was with some trepidation that the car was tested. The first full day of testing brought fantastic results, to say he hit the ground running would be an understatement. The car inspired confidence and reminded him of the Focus.
Two events quickly followed, the Donegal Harvest and Fastnet Rally in Cork brought a second and first place. The 2015 Irish Tarmac Champion was back on form.
Kelly is aiming for success in both the Tarmac and National Championships this year but cited that work will take precedence over any rallying commitments, in his new role with KN Circet he is travelling the world and is busier than ever.
The Donegal driver has so far managed to balance the two and has completed a successful test ahead of Sunday’s Mayo Stages Rally.
“I feel confident with the set-up we have with the Polo,” explained Kelly. “After looking at the DVD for Mayo I think the car will suit the second and third stages in particular. The WRCs may have an advantage on the first stage of the loop.
“Mayo is about getting more speed built up and trying to get a good result but with one eye on the West Cork Rally the following weekend.”
Kelly was King of West Cork from 2014 to 2018 taking victories five years in a row.
“I love the stages in West Cork, they reward the brave and I have good knowledge of the stages but it’s going to be some battle there this year.
“Craig Breen is returning, plus Fisher and the two Moffetts. Evans will be there as well not to mention the BRC regulars who all will feel they are going to West Cork with the intention of taking home the silverware.
“We want to go there and be involved in the battle and worry about the result on Sunday evening.”
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