Morrow gives up Forest title chase for Rally GB
Having put himself in a strong position to win the Irish forest rally championship, Phillip Morrow has effectively handed the title to rivals Mick O'Brien or Owen Murphy.
With his double points 'joker' to play in the final round, Saturday's Bushwhacker Rally in the forests of Tyrone, Morrow needed only to finish among the top three contenders in the Irish series to become champion for the first time.
But the former Mitsubishi UK team driver from Lisburn has opted not to start the Omagh-based rally. Instead he has entered Britain's round of the World championship, Wales Rally GB, and wants to preserve his freshly re-built Mitsubishi Evo9 for the November 14-17 event.
"The car took quite a pounding on some of the rallies and repairs have been costly," said Morrow. "I know it seems silly to let the championship go at this late stage but the aim was always to do Rally GB and I want to focus on that rather than risk damaging it again."
It means O'Brien and Murphy will be left to fight it out on a rally which sees the Irish and NI championships come together for the first time this season. Cork-born, London-based property developer O'Brien will start at No.2 in his WRC Ford Focus behind the Subaru of NI champion and current series leader Derek McGarrity with Murphy's Mitsubushi at three.
McGarrity is listed to drive an S10 Impreza he recently imported from Belgium but it won't be ready in time and he is switching to a McKinstry Motorsport S14.
Closest rival Derek McGeehan has also had to switch cars, his WRC Mini is under-going an engine re-build and he is expected to drive a Ford Escort instead. But If he fails to finish within two places of McGarrity the title will go to the Mossley driver for a record fourth time.
The 100-strong entry list also includes Donegal International winner Sam Moffett and his brother John, both in Mitsubishis, as well as the Subarus of Martin Cairns, James Gillen and Enda McNulty.
The McKelvey-sponsored event is based at the Silverbirch Hotel and starts at 9am.