Donnelly and O’Hanlon triumph in Killarney forestry rally

By Cian Donnellan

On a gloriously sunny afternoon in Castleisland, it was the Tyrone pair of Mark Donnelly & Stephen O’Hanlon who stood proudly at the front of their Ford Fiesta R5 receive a deserved stream of plaudits having shown incredible speed to claim victory on the opening round of the 2023 Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship.

Winning the Killarney Forest Rally by 10.9 seconds, the Northern pair had laid an early marker in his ambition to play a big part in the 2023 Championship battle, and a maximum score on the board is the perfect way to start.

Behind Donnelly & O’Hanlon, the runners up place were claimed by the remarkable Ryan Caldwell & Arthur Kierans. Making their 4wd debut in a Skoda Fabia R5, the youngster wasted no time in getting up to speed with the new setup, and immediately began appearing at the sharp end of the time sheets.

Rounding out the podium places were Stephen McCann & Tommy Hayes, the newly converted Gravel crew showed incredible pace throughout the day, including claiming an impressive stage win on Fornane 2, the fifth stage of the event.

In the 2wd Category, it proved to be a titanic battle between pair of Ford Escort MK2’s, with Mickey Conlon & Paul McPhillips spending the day duking it out with the newly built car of Hugh McQuaid & Declan Casey. Come the finish, it would be McQuade and Casey who would take the victory by 6.1 seconds.

Joining the MK2 men on the podium was Kyle McBride & Liam McIntyre in the Motorsport Ireland Academy liveried Ford Fiesta Rally4, the youngster was locked in a titanic battle for most of the day with Casey-Jay Coleman & Shane Buckley, before issues saw the pair drop back in the afternoon.

In the Junior 1000 series, it was all drama once more as the direction of the victory was decided on the last stage of the day which shows just how exciting this battle is set to be across the Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship. For Jack Kennedy & Colin O’Toole, a big push on the final stage saw the pair claim a 5.4 second win, and with it they became the inaugural winners of the Eoin McCarthy Cup.

The pressure on Kennedy and O’Toole was coming all day from Tommy Moffett & Domhnall Lennon, the pair actually led heading to the last test but they were unable to live with the pace of the Wexford pair. Ross Ryan and Peter Keohane rounded off the podium places with another impressive performance from the rising Cork star.

The Championship now moves onto the Moonraker Forest Rally on April 15th, with the Ballyvourney based event once more set to cement its place as one of the most enjoyable events on the Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship calendar.

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