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2004 Donegal International Rally - 18-20 Jun 04

Posted: June 22, 2004 9:57 AM - 14535 Hits

Round 4 - 2004 Tarmac Championship

Full Results and Stage times on line

Donnelly dashes in as Nesbitt lets win slip from his grasp

Just when it seemed victory was slipping out of his reach, the Shell Donegal International Rally was dumped back in Eugene Donnelly's lap.

Photo: Seamus Counihan - www.crspics.com

Posted: June 22, 2004 9:57 AM

Andrew Nesbitt, the master of Donegal, had blazed his way to the front and a record fifth win seemed only a formality for the two-time Tarmac champion.

Back in the Pirelli series for the first time this year, Nesbitt had hunted down Donnelly, the leader from the first stage on Friday, until he nosed his McKinstry Motorsport Subaru Impreza S9 ahead on stage 12, Fanad Head on Saturday afternoon. He was only one second ahead at that point but then a stunning run over the notorious Knockalla stage, Fanad again and then the re-run of Knockalla in streaming wet conditions - on slick tyres - had stretched the gap to a seemingly invincible 35 seconds.

Add in a further 10 seconds on the first of yesterday's stages at Glen, allied to the fact that Donnelly admits he had already settled for second place plus a healthy helping of Tarmac points, and it was all over - a Sunday drive to the finish.

But then it all changed. Just a mile or so into the Port Lake stage, the ADL Group Subaru half spun and jammed across the narrow road on a blind corner. Donnelly, following 30 seconds behind, had no warning as he arrived to find his path blocked and his Toyota cannoned off the side of the Subaru. He had just managed to reverse back and squeeze past when Derek McGarrity appeared and his Subaru rammed the back of Nesbitt's car.

Now the road was totally blocked although Donnelly was able to limp clear and carry on to the end of the stage. Eventually Nesbitt and McGarrity were also able to carry on and lead a long convoy of cars slowly through the stage.

For a time confusion reigned but finally rally officials ruled that Donnelly's time for the stage - 10 minutes and 42 seconds - would apply to all competitors except Nesbitt who had caused the blockage. He was credited with a maximum time for the stage, over 36 minutes, and dropped from first to 50th position.

With the car suffering only body damage he was able to carry on and complete the rally, setting more fastest times along the way, to end up in 35th place as Donnelly and co-driver Paul Kiely brought their Kingspan Toyota home to a first Donegal victory ahead of the reigning Tarmac champions McGarrity and Dermot O'Gorman.

Rumours quickly circulated that Nesbitt would protest the application of the maximum time for Port Lake, believing the stage had been discounted completely from the results, but he accepted the decision and stepped up to congratulate winner Donnelly.

"We might have had grounds to protest but I know from past experience that these disputes are not good for the sport. I accepted the decision and that's the end of it," he said, going on to explain that he had been caught out on a narrow, slippery piece of road.

"The tyres were cold, the road was wet and muddy and the car just slid sideways and jammed across the road. I was trying to do an eight or nine point turn when Eugene arrived and then Derek and, well, you know the rest."

Donnelly, who had driven superbly in a car that is technologically outdated by the latest Subarus, was still stunned last night by the sudden turn of events. "I've being doing this rally for a lot of years but never dreamed I would win it," he said before heading off to celebrate with his family and the McGeehan Motorsport team.

"I was second last year and I thought that was as good as it would get. But it is a funny sport; it keeps throwing up surprises. You literally can't be sure what's round the next corner!

"I made my mistakes on Saturday and allowed Andrew to take so much time off me on the Fanad- Knockalla loop but he made his mistake on Port Lake and gave it back to me. I'm just thrilled to have won this rally, it means so much to me," added the Maghera man who now moves into second in the Tarmac series behind McGarrity.

The reigning champion had a disappointing rally by his standards, admitting he was all at sea in his tyre choices in the rainy/sunny conditions. "I never seem to get it right in Donegal," he said, although second place, 86 seconds behind Donnelly, keeps him on course for a second successive Tarmac title.

And it was an all-Ulster 1-2-3 with Kevin Lynch, on only his second international, taking third with the drive of his short career. He had his S9 Subaru in fourth from the first stage and never wavered throughout the three days, crowning it with his first fastest time over the now infamous Port Lake stage second time around.

The Group N production category went to Seamus Leonard in the latest N10 Subaru after a fierce battle with first Seamus Heron, then Aaron McHale and finally Cathal Rodgers, the Omagh man winning in the end by 22 seconds and taking seventh place overall as well.
Report Sammy Hammil for www.pirelliirally.com

Final Results 

Pos Driver/Codriver (Make) Total
1 Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Toyota Corolla WRC) 02:13:11
2 Derek McGarrity/Dermot O'Gorman (Subaru Impreza WRC) 02:14:37
3 Kevin Lynch/Francis Regan (Subaru Impreza WRC) 02:15:57
4 Austin MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus WRC) 02:16:30
5 Tim McNulty/Anthony Nestor (Subaru Impreza WRC) 02:17:21
6 Maurice Gass/James McKee (Subaru Impreza WRC) 02:22:26
7 Seamus Leonard/Gerry McVeigh (Subaru Impreza N10) 02:23:37
8 Cathal Rogers/Paul McLaughlin (Mit. Lancer Evo 7) 02:23:56
9 Sean Devine/Robert McDaid (Subaru Impreza WRC) 02:25:21
10 Dessie Keenan/Enda Sherry (Mit. Lancer EVO 7) 02:25:23

1 John Dalton/Gwynfor Jones (Darrian T90GTR) 02:24:16
2 Damien Gallagher/Mac Walsh (Ford Escort) 02:27:14
3 Robbie Peoples/Keith Stewart (Ford Escort) 02:27:27
4 Drew Hunter/Victor Hunter (Ford Escort) 02:29:41
5 Declan McNaughton/Bob Kelly (Ford Escort) 02:31:08

1 Frank Cunningham/Elaine Cunningham (Mini Cooper S) 01:21:55
2 Adrian Kermode/John Coleman (Porsche 911) 01:22:55
3 Mervyn Johnston/Richard Hyland (Austin Cooper) 01:23:13
4 Alan Lemon/Jeremy Tomalin (Wolseley Hornet) 01:23:17
5 Mike Doody/Keith Moriarity (Morris Mini) 01:23:25

Stage Winners:
1 Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Toyota Corolla WRC)
2 Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Toyota Corolla WRC)
3 Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Toyota Corolla WRC)
4 Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)
5 Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Toyota Corolla WRC)
6 Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Toyota Corolla WRC)
 & Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)

7 Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)
8 Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Toyota Corolla WRC)
9 Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Toyota Corolla WRC)
10 Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Toyota Corolla WRC)
11 Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)
12 Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)
13 Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)
14 Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)

15 Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)
16 Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Toyota Corolla WRC)
17 Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)
18 Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)
18 Kevin Lynch/Francis Regan (Subaru Impreza WRC)
19 Andrew Nesbitt/J.O'Brien (Subaru Impreza WRC)

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