Back in February when Stuart Biggerstaff made his debut in the Hankook Northern Ireland rally championship it was just a toe-in-the-water exercise.
With just two minor events behind him he didn’t have high expectations. And he would have laughed at the idea he might emulate his father Denis and become Northern Ireland champion.
But now eight months later the 22-year-old mechanic from Kinallen, Co Down, leads the series going into Saturday’s penultimate round, the F&M Contracts Down Rally.
“It is really hard to believe,” he says while admitting the fight is far from over.
He adds: “Never in a million years did I imagine I would be leading.”
On paper Biggerstaff leads an even younger driver, 18-year-old Mark Donnelly, by 12 points but in reality it is much closer with just the best seven scores from the 10-event championship to count.
Even though he jumped straight in at the deep end driving the ‘family’ Subaru WRC S9, Stuart has shown remarkable consistency for a rookie, scoring on all eight rounds so far.
But it means from his current total of 71 points, he has to drop his worst score to date — five points from the Circuit of Ireland National — leaving him on 66 and just seven ahead of Tyrone student Donnelly whose 59 points in his production Mitsubishi have been accumulated from only six events.
Biggerstaff can only increase his total by nine, giving him a possible maximum of 80 points, whereas there are 20 points available to Donnelly — taking him to a potential 79!
Saturday’s event begins from Castlewellan at 9am with last year’s winner Kenny McKinstry heading the entry list ahead of out-going NI champion Derek McGarrity.
Top of the entry list: 1 Kenny McKinstry (Subaru Impreza), 2 Derek McGarrity (Subaru Impreza), 3 Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 4 John Reid (Toyota Corolla), 5 Colin Britton (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 6 Stuart Biggerstaff (Subaru Impreza), 7 Connor McCloskey (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 8 Mark Donnelly (Mitsubishi Lancer N), 9 Frank Kelly (Ford Escort), 10 Cyril Doherty (Subaru Impreza N).