Callum Devine and Brian Hoy claimed their second rally success in two weeks winning Sunday’s Donegal Harvest Rally. The Cork 20 Rally winners retained their 2019 Harvest victory by countering an impressive comeback drive from Declan Boyle.
Devine had built a nine-second lead over Boyle after the rally’s first three stages but a brace of stage wins by Boyle’s Ford Fiesta WRC cut the margin to just 3.8 seconds ahead of Donegal Harvest’s final stage. With Devine seemingly struggling to find his earlier form, the rally was set for one last shootout.
The WRC and Rally2 rivalry set the timing boards alight on the last stage with both crews going over 10 seconds quicker than anyone else through the 13-kilometre test. It was Devine’s day however as he responded from a cautious approach on the previous two stages to go 5.9 seconds quicker than Boyle on the finale.
The emphatic response was enough for Devine to seal a 9.7-second win ahead of Boyle who was making his return to rallying after a two-year layoff.
Sam Moffett completed the top three, albeit 46 seconds behind Devine’s rally-winning pace. Moffett’s times were improving all day after finishing the opener down in ninth. He reckoned he had found a good Irish asphalt set-up for his Ford Fiesta Rally2 through the day which was encouraging for the future.
Donegal Harvest’s battle for fourth was equally as entertaining as the fight at the very front. Just four seconds separated Donagh Kelly, Cathan McCourt, and Josh Moffett at the end of the fourth stage.
Kelly held fourth with a 3.3-second advantage over McCourt before the final stage. The local favourite fell short on the finale though with McCourt claiming the position by 0.8 seconds over Josh Moffett who also displaced Kelly’s Volkswagen Polo R5.
Slippery conditions in Donegal made it a true Irish tarmac challenge throughout the six stages. The treacherous tests were too much for some and put an end to a few crews’ rally hopes.
Garry Jennings was the biggest victim as he slid wide out of a square right corner and nosed through a fence on the opposite side of the road. Jennings had been well in the mix with Devine and Boyle up to the Stage 4 moment which cost him three minutes.
Boyle had his own scare two stages earlier. He oversteered out of a junction and subsequently lost his Fiesta’s rear spoiler after rubbing along a hedge. With his car repaired in the following service Boyle began to claw back time to Devine but in the end it just wasn’t enough.
Desi Henry had been running in the top ten, on his first post-lockdown closed-road rally, but an overshoot into a hedge on Stage 3 cost him five minutes. The Hyundai driver was able to complete the remaining stages.
In modifieds, Kevin Eves and Chris Melly secured a 14.5-second victory over the Mitsubishi Evo of Michael Carbin. Carbin went for one last push on the last stage but ended up in a field which undid his hard work.
Eves was the two-wheel-drive man to beat most of the day winning five of Donegal’s six stages.
Gary Kiernan finished third in modifieds, pushing to the end in a bid to sneak ahead of two-wheel-drive rival Eves.
The wet and greasy roads made life difficult for the Class 14 cars. Kiernan spun at a junction on the opening stage while Eves did the same on the next test when he had to fix a seat cushion which had gone astray mid-stage.
Daniel Breslin showed an impressive turn of pace to claim third in Class 14 while rally returnee Daniel McKenna just missed out on an overall top twenty.
Michael Boyle ensured his family came home with a winner’s trophy after grabbing Group N honours. Fermanagh’s Jody McManus received front-wheel-drive honours after long-term leader, Eamonn Kelly, slid into a ditch on the rally’s final junction.
Photos courtesy of Mark Mc Cullagh