Hot McLaughlin tastes Turkey Run success to end year in style
Aaron McLaughlin dominated the last Ulster rally of the decade, the Maiden City Club's Turkey Run which was based in the former Shackleton military base at Ballykelly.
From Carndonagh just across the border in Donegal, McLaughlin and co-driver Darren Curran led from start to finish in their R5 Ford Fiesta to end up more than half a minute clear of the R5 Hyundai i20 of Alan Carmichael and Ivor Lamont, with Barry Morris and Declan Campbell a further 12 seconds back in third in their Darrian.
McLaughlin had already won the Dogleap Rally at Ballykelly earlier in the year and he used his experience of the slippery Shackleton course to set the fastest time on four of the five stages, completing a double success last achieved by former Northern Ireland champion Kevin Lynch back in 2003.
Three seconds up after the first stage, McLaughlin built steadily on his lead with three more fastest times to pull clear of Carmichael, who had to settle for the runner-up role for a second year in a row.
Morris struggled on the opening stage and was 22 seconds down in seventh place before he fought back with a run of quick times to climb to third ahead of the production class-winning Mitsubishi Evo of Niall Magee.
Alan McGeehan was another driver on the back foot after the first stage, the former Dogleap Rally winner dropping over 40 seconds and slipping to 29th in one of the McGeehan Motorsport team's WRC Minis. But he recovered strongly to finish in fifth, pipping the R5 Fiesta of Jason Mitchell by one second.
John Bonner came out on top in a tight Ford Escort battle, finishing ninth ahead of John Bradley and Ryan Loughran, the three of them covered by just three seconds. And Paul Reid was only another second back.
The other Christmas holiday rally, the Ulster Automobile Club's Targa event, was won by Robert Woodside and Steven Dowds in their Mazda MX5.