Mark Donnelly wins Bushwhacker Rally... but it's Mark 2 this time
The name of Mark Donnelly headed the leaderboard at the end of the Bushwhacker Rally, the penultimate round of the Northern Ireland Championship, for a second year in a row. But Saturday's winner was a different Mark Donnelly.
Both have the same name and both hail from Omagh, but Saturday's winner was not the former Pirelli Star Driver who won in 2015. Instead it was his 24-year-old namesake, co-driven by Stephen O'Hanlon in their S2000 Ford Fiesta.
In a result which is sure to confuse anyone consulting the record books in years to come, Donnelly Mk II came from behind to score his first McGrady Insurance NI Championship victory after Adrian Hetherington had led the event from stage one.
But on the ninth and penultimate stage, Slievedoo, Hetherington dropped 20 seconds when his WRC Toyota Corolla collected a puncture, allowing Donnelly into the lead. The former Group N champion stayed ahead through the final stage to win by 12 seconds.
Niall McCullagh followed up his strong fifth on the previous round, the Lakeland Stages, by finishing third in just his second drive in a McKinstry Motorsport S14 Subaru. Mark Cairns, a former Bushwhacker winner, was fourth in his WRC Fiesta ahead of the Mitsubishis of Darren McKelvey and Pat O'Connell.
It was a disappointing day for multiple champions Kenny McKinstry and Derek McGarrity who finished seventh and 10th respectively, both suffering mechanical issues, but it was still enough for McGarrity to secure a record seventh NI title in his WRC Fiesta.
Meanwhile, Wayne Boyd got back on the podium again at Spa yesterday after a frustrating run of results in the European Le Mans sportscar series.
Boyd and team-mates Matt Bell and Mark Patterson finished third behind the sister United Autosports Ligier-Nissan of Alex Brundle, Mike Guasch and Christian England, winners of the LMP3 championship.