A dream Donegal partnership of Donagh Kelly and Rory Kennedy sneaked under the radar on Saturday’s Killarney Historic Rally. It was the pair’s debut rally together – a special moment made even more fitting as they embarked on Moll’s Gap in Kelly’s nostalgic BMW M3.
2021’s Killarney Historic Rally fell one week short of a unique anniversary for Kennedy. 31 years earlier, he claimed his first win alongside Bertie Fisher on Killarney’s 1990 Rally of the Lakes, in guess what… Fisher’s iconic BMW M3.
Three decades on, Kennedy was in the passenger seat of a Bavarian beauty once again.
“It is 31 years since I was in this type of car,” said Kennedy at Killarney’s finish ramp. “It was a fully homologated car on this very rally.
“It is hard to go back that far and recall what it was like but there were a couple of wee moments in the stages, especially on Moll’s Gap, when you got a flash back to remembering what it was like.
“The noise as well, it is all very familiar.
“When Donagh called and asked if I was available to do the rally, I had no hesitation in saying yes. I was delighted to be a part of it.
“Bertie Fisher is synonymous with this rally. He was a huge part of the history and culture of the event throughout the 1990s.
“Each time I come here I take great time to speak to people because I am the Fisher link from those days.
“To come back and do this, for me personally, it is very symbolic and poignant as well.”
Kennedy, who won the Rally of the Lakes six times with Fisher and once with Stephen Finlay, enjoyed his first event guiding Kelly through three of the best stages in Ireland. Indeed, he was full of praise for the 2015 Irish Tarmac Rally Champion.
“Sitting with Donagh, there was no drama whatsoever. I must say, he is definitely my kind of driver. He gets in, drives to the notes, and there are no dramas.
“He is a very good driver as you know anyway. We had a bit of a slow start getting used to the car but once we got going we were consistently in the top five.”
As for Kelly, he too was satisfied with how the day went. It was his second time out in the BMW after completing a tricky Ulster Rally the week before.
“We have different suspension in now,” commented Kelly. “So the car feels so much better. We have a bit of learning still to do with the gearbox, I keep missing gears.
“Other than that, it is a fabulous car and I probably wasn’t doing it justice but it was certainly coming on the last two, I really enjoyed it.
“I now know why Rory is such a successful co-driver, it felt like he was there for the last 20 years. He was calm and reassuring. It was a brilliant day.”
Kelly and Kennedy finished fourth in Killarney’s Historic section, one place ahead of a certain Eamonn Kelly. You really couldn’t help but smile as they all relived their day’s adventure. A warm rally side-story befitting of Killarney’s end-of-season efforts.
Photos by Adam Hall