Manx Rally loss leaves Cathcart sweating
Richard Cathcart's battle to become the second successive Ulster driver to win the UK Mitsubishi Evo Challenge looks like going right down to the wire.
Phillip Morrow was the runaway winner of the lucrative Challenge series last year, taking the prize of an all-expenses paid drive in the British championship with the works team with a round to spare. But Cathcart, from Enniskillen, and David Bogie are separated by just a point after the young Scot won round five of the seven-event series, the Swansea Bay Rally, at the weekend.
Cathcart led initially in the Welsh forests but dropped back to third behind another Irish driver, Keith Cronin, and Bogie with Danny Barry, who had shared the Challenge lead with Cathcart starting the Swansea event.
But then Cronin and Barry both crashed on the same corner of stage four, leaving Cathcart and Bogie to fight out the finish. And it was Bogie who held on for the victory, beating Cathcart by just three seconds.
But now the series moves to Cathcart's home ground for round six, the Toddsleap,com Ulster International on August 22/23 before finishing back in Wales for the Bulldog Rally in October.
Meanwhile, no-one was happier with Mark Higgins' unexpected victory on the Rally Isle of Man than co-driver Rory Kennedy.
The Letterkenny man, the most successful co-driver in the history of the Irish Tarmac championship, has been trying to win the Manx event for almost two decades, notably with the late Bertie Fisher. He and Fisher finished first in 1990 in a BMW M3 but were subsequently relegated to second place following a protest by Russell Brookes.
But on Saturday, Kennedy finally completed his full set of Tarmac championship victories when he and triple British champion Higgins pulled off a surprise win in their three-year-old production Subaru N11, finishing 11 seconds ahead of the powerful S12B WRC Subaru of Eamonn Boland.
"Of all the times I've competed on the Manx Rally this was the one I probably least expected to win, not in a production car," said Kennedy. "Our primary aim was to beat Guy Wilks and get our British championship challenge back on track.
"But to win the rally outright against Boland's S12B Subaru was a fantastic bonus."
Boland maintained his priority was to consolidate his Tarmac championship lead, not win the rally. But the irony is, if he had won the rally he would already be champion whereas he has opened the door slightly to Higgins who officially abandoned his Irish challenge months ago.
Boland has 75 points (nett 67) to Higgins' 40 and there are just over 37 available over the final two rounds including the Ulster International.