Time to crunch the numbers in four-way battle for rally crown
Crews in contention for the Northern Ireland Rally Championship could add a calculator to their check list of equipment heading into Saturday's penultimate round, the Tyrone Stages.
Four drivers are still within touching distance of the McGrady Insurance title and it will surely come down to the season finale in the Glens of Antrim forests next month. But first it is the scenic tarmac roads close to Benone strand on the Causeway coast when the critical numbers will be crunched by Derek McGeehan, Stephen Wright, Derek McGarrity and Desi Henry.
McGeehan has led the series in his WRC Mini since the Bishopscourt Stages in March thanks to a string of solid results but no wins and is the only driver among the main contenders to have scored on every round so, when the scoring rules come into effect - drivers counting their best six results from all eight rallies - the picture changes.
Wright is 21 points adrift but has only scored five times, including two wins in his R5 Ford Fiesta, while reigning champion McGarrity has been dogged by mechanical issues - he switches to a R5 Skoda Fabia on Saturday - and has just four counting scores.
They can add the bulk of the 45 points available over the remaining two rounds.
So, too, can Henry who has emerged as the dark horse after joining the series late in the day.
He has no margin for error but, given his current form, the Portglenone driver will be favourite on Saturday in his WRC Fiesta and, if he can continue the sequence, it will set up an intriguing finish in the forests on November 9. Henry, remember, is a former Irish forestry champion.
The Benone line-up will see Irish Tarmac Junior champion William Creighton, who finished second last year on his R5 debut, make the switch again from his R2 Peugeot to an R5 Fiesta.
Backed by MJE Wheel Repair, the Cookstown Club's entry list also includes three-time NI champion Kenny McKinstry in his R5 Fiesta as well as Drew Stewart and James Kennedy, who are locked in a battle for the two-wheel-drive championship.
The rally, which has been added to the UK Asphalt Championship next season, starts from Benone Tourist Centre at 10am.