Stanley Orr is hoping to cast away his Ulster jinx
For Killinchy driver Stanley Orr, the Todds Leap Ulster International should be his banker round of the British historic rally championship. But he will start the two-day event on Friday in Enniskillen with mixed feelings.
"The Ulster Rally has always been a bit of a jinx event for me," says Orr, who is currently third in the standings behind joint leaders, England's David Stokes and fellow Ulsterman Dessie Nutt.
"The biggest accident I ever had was on the Ulster, way back in the '80s in a Group 4 Escort. The car was totalled. The brakes failed and we sailed off in a big way, taking part of a bridge with us.
"Don't get me wrong I really like the rally, but it's never gone as well as I would like. Even last year we broke down on the fourth stage and it was a new one just fitted as a precaution before the start.
"But maybe this is the year to break that jinx, and really that's what we need to do."
Orr, who was one of Ulster's outstanding young drivers in the '80s before dropping out of the sport, has taken to historic rallying like a duck to water since his return. Now driving an Mk 1 Ford Escort, he has scored one outright victory and three second places in this year's British series.
Although he hadn't planned to contest the previous round, the Harry Flatters Rally over the highly specialised Epynt military ranges, it proved a worthwhile expense with Orr and co-driver Brian Cairns finishing third and taking a class victory by over three minutes.
But one of their big rivals for the overall title, Stokes, won outright in his more powerful BDA Escort and former champion Nutt picked up maximum points too in his Porsche. They are three points ahead of Orr in the category-based championship.
"We need to beat David," adds Orr. "We're on home ground and the weather could play into our hands but it won't be easy."
The historic cars form a major part of the rally and they will be included in the main international field this year with Orr starting at No.43 and Stokes one position in front.
The Ulster Rally has been hit by tragedy just days before it is due to take place. Hazel Boyd, wife of the chief organiser Lewis Boyd, died earlier this week.
In a statement, the rally committee said: "It was with great shock and sadness that we learned of the Boyd family's loss.
"While this tragedy has put sport into perspective, the event will go ahead as planned this weekend and any queries should be directed towards other members of the organising committee."