Markethill driver Darren Gass has said he is keeping his expectations firmly in check when he returns to the hotseat at the opening round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship this weekend.
Saturday’s meeting at Kirkistown will be the first time the 33-year-old former Irish Tarmac champion has featured competitively since he started the Renties Ypres Rally in Belgium back in June 2019.
At the County Down venue, Gass will face competition from former Northern Ireland winners Derek McGarrity (Skoda Fabia R5 Plus), Stephen Wright (Ford Fiesta R5) and Jonathan Greer (Citroen C3 Rally 2).
With the help of long-time sponsor Solo Petroleum, Gass has acquired the Citroen C3 Rally2 car Norwegian Mads Ostberg campaigned in the World Rally Championship’s WRC2 division last year.
“It has been a while since I have done anything and the whole deal with the car was pretty last-minute,” said Gass, who will be navigated by James McCarville. “I had a Skoda before but I didn’t enjoy great reliability with it. Maybe I should have given it more time but it’s one of those things.
“I did a little homework and I had considered going for a Polo R5 but Volkswagen Motorsport is no longer continuing with that car’s development so that’s why I decided to go with the Citroen.
“Citroen Racing has added quite a few bits to the C3 recently and they plan to keep working on it so that will help. I haven’t driven it yet so I have had to take their word that it is a competitive car.
“Personally, I don’t have any expectations at all ahead of my return,” added Gass. “I just need time to get comfortable in the new car, familiarise myself with it and try and set it up the way I like it.
“I imagine there is going to be a lot of interest shown towards the Citroen given its history and the fact Mads Ostberg drove it in WRC2 but, to me, it is just another car for me to go rallying in.
“The history of it, what it has achieved and where it has been rallied before I got my hands on it isn’t something that weighs on my mind. I just want to get comfortable in it as quickly as I can.”
Run by North Armagh Motor Club, Saturday’s Orchard Motorsport Kirkistown Stages Rally will be played out over six stages, with the easing of restrictions meaning spectators can attend.
Gates open before 9am and admission is £10 per person.