Lurgan Rally: Fired-up Darren Gass wins in rival McKinstry's car
It wasn’t quite a case of the customer always comes first in the Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Rally with Darren Gass edging out Kenny McKinstry.
But even though he was denied a record 12th victory by little more than a second, McKinstry took time to smile and admit it was “almost as good as winning myself” as he saw 22-year-old Gass take a first park win in an S11 Subaru from the Banbridge team owner’s stable.
“It is always good to see talented young drivers come through and Darren drove a great rally,” said McKinstry. “It is never easy to win in Lurgan Park but it looks like he never put a foot wrong — and the best bit is he brought the car back as good as new!”
But it was a win tinged with controversy.
Gass took the lead after an incident on the fifth stage where he got the Subaru all out of shape coming into a slippery chicane just before the Windsor Avenue end hairpin and cut across the grass to get himself out of trouble.
Gass might well have been penalised “for shortening the course” but officials ruled it wasn’t a deliberate act and decided — controversially in the view of some — he hadn’t gained an advantage even though he set the fastest time.
The decision did not sit well with Derek McGarrity, who had led from the start until he stalled his S12 Subaru at a tight corner on the same stage and lost around three seconds.
Gass, having escaped unpunished, jumped into the lead and pumped in two more fastest times to build an advantage neither McKinstry nor McGarrity could close. Just three seconds covered the three of them at the finish.
Irish Tarmac champion Eugene Donnelly finished fourth in his Toyota Corolla with Garry Jennings fifth in another of the McKinstry Subarus while Wesley Patterson won the Ford Escort Mk2 Challenge with a sixth place finish overall.
Mark Massey won the Group N production category, finishing eighth in his Subaru after halfway leader Pat O’Connell hit a bridge in his Mitsubishi and dropped over three minutes.