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Hectic schedule takes toll on rally rivals

It isn’t so much a question of who will win Saturday’s Tour of the Sperrins Rally but who will start.

A hectic schedule of five rallies in four weeks, including two Tarmac internationals, is taking its toll on the cars if not the drivers ahead of the fourth round of the Hankook Northern Ireland championship event.

There are question marks over at least three of the leading contenders for the NI title including leader Kenny McKinstry, Circuit of Ireland winner Derek McGarrity and reigning champion Stuart Biggerstaff.

McKinstry has been top points scorer in the first three rounds but his Banbridge team is flat out re-building cars, engines and gearboxes after fielding close to a dozen cars for events in the past three weeks.

And in addition to the Sperrins rally, the McKinstry team are preparing cars for the Irish national championship round in Carlow on Sunday.

“I haven’t had time to even think about doing the Sperrins rally myself,” he said. “I just don’t know if I will be there.”

McGarrity, meanwhile, is still searching for a suitable car, his Circuit-winning S11 Subaru having previously been hired to former national champion Stephen Murphy for Carlow and his Mitsubishi Evo X already on its way to a South African buyer.

The gearbox of Biggerstaff’s Subaru is currently being rebuilt after it stuck in fifth gear during the Circuit. The problem is the fault was thought to have been caused by a software glitch which is proving harder to resolve.

But despite the doubts, over 100 crews will start the Bradley Motorsport-sponsored event from Maghera on Saturday morning, led by former champion George Robinson in his Subaru ahead of the Mitsubishis of the leading production contenders Neil McCance and Donagh Kelly.

Belfast Telegraph