Mac Ken win Sperrins Tour
The Manx Rally's loss is the Northern Ireland championship's gain this weekend as Kenny McKinstry forgoes his annual trip to the Isle of Man.
The Banbridge rally team boss is a record five-time Manx National winner but changes to the ferry schedule this year have forced him and a number of other Irish drivers to opt out.
It means he can focus on tomorrow's fourth round of the Hankook NI series, the KBB Doors Tour of the Sperrins.
It also means the championship is developing into a three-way Subaru battle between three former champions — McKinstry, Derek McGarrity and Denis Biggerstaff.
McGarrity won the first two rounds at Kirkistown and Bishopscourt to top the table but McKinstry narrowed the gap with his victory in the national section of the Circuit of Ireland while Biggerstaff has been a consistent top five finisher. It leaves McKinstry and Biggerstaff just five points behind McGarrity as they head into the tree-lined tarmac lanes of the Davagh forest complex near Cookstown tomorrow.
Two notable names missing from the action this time are Connor McCloskey and Seamus Leonard. McCloskey is the reigning NI champion but is taking a step back this year while Leonard lies fifth in the standings but his Subaru has been plagued with mechanical problems.
He has pulled out to concentrate on supporting his sons, Declan and Dara, who have made an impressive start to their first championship season and are class leaders in their Ford Fiesta.
Emma McKinstry has had her problems, too, including her Subaru catching fire at Kirkistown and then crashing out of the Circuit in sight of a top four finish. But she is back and part of a top 10 which includes leading production runners John McGlaughlin, Neil McCance and Mark Massey. All will be wary of Davagh specialist Camillus Bradley who leads the two-wheel-drive contingent in his Ford Escort.
Based at Walsh's Hotel, Maghera, with the service area at Meteor Electrical, Cookstown, the first stage of the rally is scheduled for Davagh around 10.15am.
Top of the entry list: 1 Derek McGarrity (Subaru Impreza); 2 Kenny McKinstry (Subaru Impreza); 3 Denis Biggerstaff (Subaru Impreza); 4 John McGlaughlin (Mitsubishi Lancer N); 5 Neil McCance (Mitsubishi Lancer N); 6 Kieron Graffin (Mitsubishi Lancer N); 7 Emma McKinstry (Subaru Impreza); 8 Ray Brammer (Subaru Impreza); 9 Mark Massey (Mitsubishi Lancer N); 10 Raymond Johnston (Mitsubishi Lancer N).