McKinstry bids for seven in a row at the Bushwhacker
Kenny McKinstry could be sitting back, enjoying a weekend off with the Hankook Northern Ireland Rally championship already secured with three rounds to spare.
But ‘enjoyment’ for McKinstry is being at the wheel of a WRC Subaru Impreza, charging down a forest track, and on Saturday he will head up the starting list for the McKelvey Bushwhacker Rally as he bids for a seventh straight win in this year’s NI series.
“The championship might be won but there are more rallies to do and I’d be there anyway,” said the veteran champion whose Banbridge team will also be looking after the Subaru of English visitor Ray Brammer.
“I’ve won six so far and I’d like to make it seven ...”
He will, however, have to contend with three past champions, Connor McCloskey, Stuart Biggerstaff and a returning Derek McGarrity who will be back for one of his favourite rounds of the championship — not in one of his familiar S11 or S12 Subarus but an older S7.
The line-up also includes the driver who has given McKinstry the most trouble this season, Donagh Kelly, who challenged him all the way in his Mitsubishi Lancer in the past two rounds.
The rally, which starts from Omagh at 9.30am and includes 11 stages in the Tyrone forests, also features the penultimate round of the Irish forestry champion and brings the leading contenders Liam Ryan, Owen Murphy and Vincent McAree up north for the first time this season.
Young Cork driver Murphy has won three times this year in his Mitsubishi and if he finishes ahead of Ryan he will take the title for the first time.
Meanwhile, British titles are the goal for Marty McCormack and Jonny Greer in the penultimate round of the BRC series in Yorkshire this weekend.
McCormack is on a high after becoming the first driver in a decade to take maximum championship points in a two-wheel-drive car with his stunning performance at the Ulster Rally.
His French-run Citroen DS3 will not be so well suited to the gravel stages of the Trackrod International but his target is the F2 title in which he holds an 18 point lead over Estonian Siim Plangi and Finn Mikko Pajunen.
Greer, however, has a 17-point deficit to make up as he pits his S2000 Skoda Fabia against the Mitsubishi of overall championship leader David Bogie.