Kenny McKinstry needed to win the Bushwhacker Rally to keep his Northern Ireland championship hopes alive.
And he succeeded, beating series leader Derek McGarrity by six seconds in the Tyrone forests. But tomorrow he must do it again when they resume battle on the Castlewellan-based Down Rally, penultimate round of the Hankook-sponsored championship.
The odds are stacked in McGarrity's favour, the former Circuit of Ireland winner from Mossley having won four times this season to build up a 19-point advantage.
But there are 30 points at stake over the final two rounds — and there is a twist to tomorrow's encounter with both drivers having to switch cars.
McGarrity, having sold the two Subarus he used earlier in the year as well as the Toyota Corolla he has driven most recently, tackles a championship round for the first time in a Ford Focus.
The S8 Subaru McKinstry has driven in all rounds so far was damaged while on hire duty on the Tour of Mull and he has had to switch to another of the Imprezas from his Banbridge stable, an S9.
Even though the Down forests of Rostrevor, Castlewellan, Drumkeeragh and Tollymore are much more McKinstry territory, he has the added pressure of knowing he must beat McGarrity or the title fight is over.
The fight for the Group N production category looks like going down to the wire with Neil McCance coming with a late run to challenge Donagh Kelly and Raymond Johnston.
Full details, including maps, of the F&M Contracts event are available on the Rathfriland Club’s website: www.downrally.com.
Top of the entry list: 1 Derek McGarrity (Ford Focus), 2 Kenny McKinstry (Subaru Impreza), 3 John Reid (Toyota Corolla), 4 Neil McCance (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 5 Donagh Kelly (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 6 Martin Cairns (Subaru Impreza), 7 Raymond Johnston (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 8 Damien Tourish (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 9 Enda McNulty (Subaru Impreza), 10 Raymond Mason (Mitsubishi Lancer N).
Having already won the British junior championship and the UK Citroen C2R2 Cup, Martin McCormack is chasing another lucrative award this weekend.
The Draperstown driver makes his second French appearance in a fortnight when he tackles the Antibes Rally on the Cote d’Azur with a €10,000 prize at stake.