Wednesday 21 February 2018

Moffett and O'Reilly reign in Donegal

Monaghan pair Sam Moffett and James O'Reilly were the delighted winners of the Donegal International Rally over the weekend, bringing their Subaru Impreza WRC home to a 90-second victory over the Ford Focus of Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan after three days, with many of the stages made very slippery by wet conditions.

For the first two days, it looked as though last year's winners Garry Jennings and Neil Doherty would score a repeat victory, but they incurred a costly three-minute road penalty for checking out of a service area too early, dropping them to fifth place for yesterday's restart.

The disappointed pair managed to recover to third position by the finish, which leaves them still leading the Tarmac Championship.

For Moffett and O'Reilly, it was a dream come true on only their second rally in this car. On their debut in a World Rally Car two months ago, they won a round of the Dunlop National Championship, but to add their first International win was more than they could have hoped for.

Three-time British Rally champion Keith Cronin from Ballylickey in West Cork took the runner-up position in the WRC3 category in the Italian round of the World Rally Championship in Sardinia, despite losing almost five minutes with a puncture on Friday's opening stage.

A string of fastest times brought him back into contention and he overcame further power steering problems to claim a fine result.

Meanwhile, Allan McNish completed a hat-trick of Le Mans 24 Hours victories yesterday, steering the Audi No 2 to victory alongside Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval in a hard-fought race, which ended up with British drivers on every step of the podium. However, celebrations were muted as the sport continued to come to terms with the death of Danish driver Allan Simonsen on Saturday.

An investigation into what caused Simonsen's Aston Martin to leave the track after just 10 minutes at Tertre Rouge is under way and there was no doubt that the first driver fatality at this event since 1997 was uppermost in everyone's minds at the chequered flag yesterday.

A tearful Kristensen, who extended his record to nine victories in the event, dedicated the win to his friend. "We lost somebody who shared the same dream, a humble and nice guy," he said.

"My father died in March and he said I would win Le Mans this year. I hope I can win another one and dedicate it to my dad because this year is for Allan Simonsen."

McNish said he was delighted to have won again after so many near misses. "Three wins somehow sounds much better than two," said the 43-year-old Scot.

Former Formula One driver Anthony Davidson, who had his own horror crash last year when he careered off at the end of the 200mph Mulsanne Straight and broke his back, claimed second place in the Toyota No 8 alongside Sebastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin.

Irish Independent

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