Trio will bring extra flavour to Tyrone Stages
Derek McGarrity and Kenny McKinstry, with 11 Northern Ireland rally titles between them, lead the line-up for Saturday's Tyrone Stages, round four of the 2017 McGrady Insurance series.
McGarrity, already a seven-time champion, will start from No.1 in his WRC Ford Fiesta, with McKinstry at No.2 in his S14 Subaru WRC. And the proximity of the Cookstown Club's all-tarmac event to the Ulster Rally has seen the entry list boosted by drivers like Marty McCormack, Desi Henry and Jonny Greer, who will use it as preparation for their home round of the British Championship next month.
Their R5 cars may be out-gunned in terms of power by the WRC machines of McGarrity, McKinstry and former Irish national champion Peadar Hurson too, but the gap has been narrowing in recent times and they will bring an extra, perhaps surprise element to the event.
Indeed, Greer has won both the Pacenotes Stages and the Glens of Antrim Rally in his R5 Citroen DS3 to sit just eight points behind leader McGarrity in the current standings. Alan Carmichael, who is just a point behind Greer, switches to an S14 Subaru instead of his regular WRC Mini, and Hurson is fourth ahead of McKinstry after the first three rounds.
The McGeehan Motorsport Mini will be driven by Philip Allen, son of the late NI champion Glenn, who showed he is capable of following in his father's footsteps by winning the May Day Rally at St Angelo on his debut drive in the WRC car.
The 100-strong line-up also includes Frank Wray in his WRC Subaru, with Adrian Hetherington leading the Ford Escort contingent ahead of Damien Toner and the rally sponsor Enda McNulty.
But for McCormack and Henry, Saturday is all about gaining valuable tarmac mileage ahead of the August 18-19 John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally. It is especially important for former British junior champion McCormack, who will be back on board his Skoda Fabia for the first time following his heavy accident in the Ypres Rally in Belgium.
Both are effectively out of the chase for the British title but they could be contenders for victory in a rally which brings the BRC series and the Irish Tarmac Championship together for the only time this season.
Saturday's event consists of nine stages, a loop of three completed three times totalling 45 miles, and is scheduled to start at 10.30am.