The absence of Derek McGarrity, reigning champion and current leader, has opened the door for a change at the top of the standings in the Hankook Northern Ireland rally series.
McGarrity skips tomorrow’s fifth round, the Newry-based Modern Tyre Services Mourne Rally, to head south for Sunday’s Circuit of Munster as he continues to focus his attention on chasing the Irish national title instead.
The Circuit of Ireland winner currently has a six point lead in the NI series but also expects to miss round six, the Dogleap Rally, which takes place on the same weekend as the Stonethrowers Rally in Tipperary.
McGarrity’s decision to concentrate on his southern quest provides fresh incentive for the chasing pack, led by young Dromara rookie Stuart Biggerstaff and Ballymena veteran George Robinson. They are second and third in the points table followed by production category front-runner Raymond Johnston.
However, the Mourne event sees the first appearance in this season’s series of Darren Gass, the former British championship Pirelli Star Driver award winner.
The Armagh driver has been out of action since splitting with the Ramsport team after the opening round of the British series in Wales but returns to head the Mourne entry list in a WRC Subaru run by the McKinstry team.
The rally starts from Carnbane industrial estate at 9am.
Top of the entry list: 1 Darren Gass (Subaru Impreza), 2 John McGlaughlin (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 3 George Robinson (Subaru Impreza), 4 Camillus Bradley (Ford Escort), 5 Raymond Johnston (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 6 Declan Boyle (Ford Escort).