McCloskey has new Focus for Kirkistown
Connor McCloskey is back to begin the defence of his Northern Ireland rally title in the Eurocables Stages at Kirkistown on Saturday.
And he’s back in the Ford Focus in which it all began at the same venue a year ago.
“I’m back where I started,” says the Kilrea driver.
One his way to becoming the youngest winner of the NI title in 2007, McCloskey swapped Focus for Subaru, then a different Focus
and finally back to the Subaru again.
Initially he had not planned to challenge for the title again, switching his attention to cross-channel rallies instead, but like many drivers he has had to draw in his horns in the face of the current difficult economic situation.
“I’m going to do the first few rounds of the NI championship and see how it goes,” he says.
“I don’t have any definite plans — I’ll just take it one rally at a time.”
He heads the line-up for the opening round of the series, the North Armagh Club’s Eurocables event at the Kirkistown race circuit, where, despite the credit crunch, there is a capacity entry list of 120 cars — and an impressive one at that.
Three former champions, Kenny McKinstry, Denis Biggerstaff and Derek McGarrity, line up behind him with Seamus Leonard, tackling the series for the first time, at No.5 — all of them in Subarus.
The notable absentees are Sean Devine, who battled with McCloskey to the final stage of the final round last season and former champion Glenn Allen.
Devine is forgoing the first round to contest the Sunseeker Rally in England and Allen is taking time out.
Top of the entry list: 1 Connor McCloskey (Ford Focus); 2 Kenny McKinstry (Subaru Impreza); 3 Denis Biggerstaff (Subaru Impreza); 4 Derek McGarrity (Subaru Impreza); 5 Seamus Leonard (Subaru Impreza); 6 Cathal Arthurs (Subaru Impreza); 7 Alan Carmichael (Subaru Impreza); 8 Mark Doyle (Toyota Celica); 9 George Robinson (Subaru Impreza); 10 Ray Brammer (Subaru Impreza); 11 Emma McKinstry (Subaru Impreza); 12 Robert Woodside (Subaru Impreza); 13 John McGaffin (Subaru Impreza); 14 John McGlaughlin (Mitsubishi Lancer N); 15 Neil McCance (Mitsubishi Lancer N); 16 Cathal Rogers (Mitsubishi Lancer N).