Mini helps draw big entry for Kirkistown
It is meant to be an early season warm-up for bigger events ahead, but Saturday’s non-championship New Year Stages Rally at Kirkistown is attracting greater than ever interest.
Not least, of course, because of the first scheduled appearance in Ireland of a WRC Mini Countryman which will be driven by owner Derek McGeehan ahead of its Irish Tarmac Championship debut in Galway next month.
The ex-Dani Sordo Mini arrived at McGeehan’s Draperstown base earlier this week and he will use Saturday’s event for an initial assessment before five-times Tarmac champion Eugene Donnelly takes the wheel on the Galway International.
The Kirkistown line-up will also feature another car new to Ireland, an S14 Subaru Impreza in which two-time champion Derek McGarrity is intending to start his Tarmac campaign on February 5.
Preparing for Galway, too, will be Lurgan Park Rally winner Darren Gass who will use the six sprint stages contained within the Kirkistown complex to shake down his S11 Subaru.
And heading up the New Year Stages start list will be reigning Northern Ireland champion Kenny McKinstry, the winner last January in his S9 Subaru.
Former NI champions Connor McCloskey and George Robinson as well as John McGaffin, James Kennedy and Kieron Graffin are among others who will be in action on the short, sharp event which begins at 9am.
l SEBASTIEN Loeb carried a lead of more than a minute into yesterday’s second leg of the Monte Carlo Rally after his big Ford rival Jari-Matti Latvala crashed out on the final stage of day one.
The Finn was over 30 seconds ahead of the Citroen of eight-timesworld champion Loeb after three stages but claimed he misheard a pacenote from co-driver Mikka Anttila and crashed off.