Could Kenny McKinstry bridge a 22-year gap and become Northern Ireland rally champion again?
It is beginning to look that way after a fourth straight victory in this year’s series at the weekend. He came from behind to win the Tour of the Sperrins by a 17-second margin over Donagh Kelly and now holds a 13 point lead at the top of the standings.
Next up is his home round, the Mourne Rally on June 4.
Strangely, though, he never intended to get involved in the championship this year — indeed at the first round he offered his Subaru to Stuart Biggerstaff after the reigning champion’s car suffered engine failure on the second stage.
The rules, of course, wouldn’t allow it so McKinstry carried on and chalked up the first of four wins in a row.
Even now, though, he still won’t make any commitments about the championship, insisting the customers of his rally car hire business have to come first.
“If my car is needed for someone else then I’ll stand down,” he says, “that’s the nature of the business.
“But hopefully there will be a spare one for me ...”
McKinstry is one of three drivers to have won the NI title three times — Mervyn Hill and Kevin Lynch are the others — but it was back in the late 80s that he scored his hat-trick (1987, ’88 and ’89) before moving on to become Irish Tarmac and British national champion.
On the Sperrins rally the 57 year old was down in third place at one point after his Subaru jammed in third gear, but over the final stages he came charging through to take the victory.
Jonny Greer finished in third, the young Carryduff driver appearing on home ground for the first time in his S2000 Skoda Fabia in preparation for the next round of the British championship, the Scottish Jim Clark Rally, later this month.