RALLYING: Manus Kelly comes out on top in International Donegal Rally

Donegal winner Manus Kelly

Donegal winner Manus Kelly

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There was a surprise winner of the International Donegal Rally and the overall winner was not decided until the final stage.

In a thrilling finish it was Manus Kelly who came out on top in a Subaru WRC.

Going into the stage he was some nine seconds adrift of Keith Cronin’s Citroen, but a huge effort rewarded him with a narrow victory demoting Cronin to second and best of the R5 class.

The Moffett brothers Sam and Josh filled the next two places in their R5 Fiestas and rounding off the top six, Stephen Wright and Alistair Fisher making it a quartet of Fiestas in the top six places.

The number one seed Garry Jennings was forced to retire his Subaru WRC with a blown engine early on the opening day.

This left the fight for the top honour between Donegal drivers Declan Boyle and Donagh Kelly and at the conclusion of day one Boyle had a nine-second advantage over Kelly.

The first stage on Saturday saw Kelly close in on Boyle while Manus Kelly went off the road in his Subaru he had been holding third place, this promoted Seamus Leonard to third.

Stage 11 witnessed the end of the Boyle/Kelly battle with the Kelly Focus WRC ground to a halt, his challenge was over and Leonard found himself in second.

There was drama for Alastair Fisher, his Fiesta made contact with a chicane dropping him to the bottom of the top 10 as Sam Moffett and Keith Cronin fought it out over the lead of R5.

Stage 14 and Boyle was out, Cronin was up to second with Moffett third and making a welcome return to the Donegal event Eugene Donnelly put in a late charge with his Mini WRC and held sixth place.

There was a surprise for Moffett, held up by the earlier Fisher incident. He was awarded 19 seconds which left him at the top of the leader board at the end of day two.