Lakeland wins sets Henry up for a late rally title challenge
It has been an eventful few weeks for Desi Henry and he found the perfect way to round them off by winning the Lakeland Stages Rally.
The Portglenone building contractor got married and delayed his honeymoon to contest the Ulster Rally only to be forced out with a mechanical issue. But back from a mediterranean cruise with his bride Gemma, Henry led virtually all the way to win the fifth round of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Championship in the Fermanagh forests.
He and co-driver Damien Connelly took their WRC Ford Fiesta to a 22-second victory over the similar car of last year's Lakeland's winner Sam Moffett with new Irish Forestry champion Cathan McCourt finishing third in his R5 Fiesta.
Henry has only appeared twice in this year's series, winning both times, and he could now become a contender after the current frontrunners failed to press home their advantage.
Leader Derek McGeehan was outside the top 10, Stephen Wright was best placed in eighth, although many of the drivers ahead of them are not championship registered, and reigning champion Derek McGarrity missed out completely, retiring his WRC Fiesta with rear suspension damage.
With three rounds remaining and bonus points available Henry might yet be a title challenger. "It's likely I'll do the rest of the championship," he admitted. "I'm going to the Bushwhacker Rally in a couple of weeks and we'll look at the points situation after that."
Having finished second to Moffett in Fermanagh a year ago, Henry grabbed the lead on the second of the six stages on Saturday and reeled off four more fastest times to edge clear. The battle was settled when an intercooler pipe came loose on Moffett's Fiesta on the penultimate stage.
McCourt was a further 30 seconds behind with Vivian Hamill holding off a late run by former Tarmac champion Donagh Kelly to stay fourth. Patrick O'Brien finished six in his Mitsubishi Evo.