Lakelands Rally: McKinstry has look of a champion yet again
Kenny McKinstry pulled off a ‘straight six’ on Saturday and rolled back the years to become Northern Ireland rally champion again.
He won the Fisher Engineering Lakeland Rally to make it six victories in a row in this season’s Hankook series, securing the title with three rounds to spare, and bridging a 22-year gap to the last time he was Northern Ireland champion.
McKinstry has won many championships in the intervening period, including the premier Irish Tarmac and British national titles, but the Banbridge veteran hadn’t intended turning the clock back to 1989.
“I did the first two rounds just for a bit of fun but I won both of them and sort of got sucked in,” he says. “Now I’m glad I did ...”
With five wins in a row, McKinstry and co-driver Kenny Hull sealed the deal in the Fermanagh forests, taking their S8 Subaru to an 11-second victory ahead of the production Mitsubishi Lancer of Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan with 2010 champions Stuart Biggerstaff and Anthony Nestor in third place in their Subaru.
The victory took McKinstry to 72 points and even if former champion George Robinson, missing yesterday while his Subaru is repaired after an Ulster Rally crash, won the final three rounds he would still be one point shy.
Brake trouble slowed McKinstry initially on Saturday and Kelly led by two seconds at the first service break in Belcoo. But with the brake problem sorted, McKinstry stepped up the pace, easing to the front and using all his experience in the driving rain to keep the hard-charging Kelly at bay over the remaining six stages.
Vivian Hamill took third place in his Toyota Corolla with Vincent McAree fifth and second behind Kelly in the production category in his Mitsubishi.
\[Steven Holland\]With production championship leader Neil McCance crashing out on the final stage, Kelly moves the top of the Group N table.
Results: 1 Kenny McKinstry/Kenny Hull (Subaru Impreza) 40 mins 30 secs; 2 Donagh Kelly/Kevin Flanagan (Mistubishi Lancer) + 11 secs; 3 Stuart Biggerstaff/Anthony Nestor (Subaru Impreza) + 29 secs; 4 Vivian Hamill/Paul Hamill (Toyota Corolla) + 1 min 12 secs; 5 Vincent McAree/JP McAree (Mitsubishi Lancer) + 1 min 14 secs; 6 Enda McNulty/Paul Sheridan (Subaru Impreza) + 1 min 16 secs.