<strong>Kevin Lynch takes McGillen Bushwhacker Rally win!
</strong>Kevin Lynch certainly wasn’t beating about the bush last Saturday as he stormed through to take another victory at this year’s McGillen Bushwhacker Rally, round seven of the Pacenotes MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship.
The Dungiven rally pilot, who had Martin McNicholl calling the notes, brought his S9 specification Subaru Impreza WRC home more than one minute ahead of his nearest rivals, Cookstown’s Glenn Allen and Damien Connolly, with Enniskillen’s Raymond Johnston and Richard Bell third.
It was another start to finish victory for Lynch, who stormed into a five second lead of the Omagh Motor Club event on the opening stage. While Stephen Moore rolled his Ford Focus WRC out of the rally just a few miles into the first test, Lynch doubled his advantage on stage two. While others fell by the wayside, the Dungiven pilot stayed cool, calm and collected in the wet conditions to continue his two-year run of Northern Ireland Rally Championship success!
"We had a couple of wee hiccups here and there, a few slips and slides, but nothing major," Lynch said. "It’s another good result with the championship points that we were looking for. The pace is getting very fast out there, it has really moved on in the last five years or so. It’s like having our own world championship here!"
In second position, Glenn Allen and Damien Connolly brought their Toyota Corolla WRC home in second position. They had a good battle with the locals, Robbie McGurk and Shaun Lavery, but McGurk was out of practice and a couple of spins dropped him down the order. This left Allen comfortably in second ahead of Raymond Johnston, and he held on to claim the runner-up position.
"It wasn’t a bad day," Allen said, "On stage two the fire extinguisher came loose at my feet, I’ve no idea how it happened. Then we had a small problem with the gearbox and missed a couple of gears. I had to switch to manual shift but then we went into a shuck and got a puncture! I would say that’s effectively the championship over now so I’m not sure if we’ll go to Newcastle yet. I might rebuild the car in preparation for next year instead!"
With McGurk out of the running for a top three position, Raymond Johnston and Richard Bell were Allen’s closest rivals. Unfortunately Johnston had a slow start, dropping almost half a minute to Allen over the opening three stages. He tried hard to regain lost ground and fastest time on stage nine, plus a close call on another stage, were testament to how hard he was pushing.
"We came out onto a tarmac section and slithered into a ditch," Johnston’s navigator, Richard Bell recalled. "The car was almost on its side, I thought we were going to roll! Luckily, she pulled herself out of it but it was a worrying moment!"
Johnston’s efforts to overhaul Allen were futile but he claimed an excellent third overall ahead of Sean Devine and Damien Duffin, leaving Robbie McGurk and Shaun Lavery to take fifth.
The production category, also known as Group N, was well supported at the McGillen Bushwhacker Rally with more than 30 entries featuring a range of Mitsubishis and Subarus. And top of the list at the end of the opening stage was Strabane’s Terry McGonigle, with Paddy Robinson calling the notes. The crew were hoping for a successful return to action but unfortunately their advantage failed to last as a few miles into the second stage, their Evo 5’s engine expired, forcing the crew to the sidelines.
So it was event sponsor Brian McGillen, with David Doherty on the notes, who wasted no time in asserting their authority at the top. The crew grabbed the class lead in their Subaru and kept a close eye on their rear view mirror for the chasing pack. It seemed as though they had everything under control though, until a trip into a ditch spelt the end to their rally on stage seven.
McGillen’s ditch hugging allowed Vivian and Paul Hamill into the lead. Driving a four wheel drive car for the first time, the Hamills were raising a few eyebrows among the championship regulars. The crew are more familiar with the power of their rear wheel drive Escort but when the car developed a problem, the crew decided to hire a Lancer.
It proved to be a good move and when Brian McGillen retired, they were determined to score production category victory. Second placed Errol Clark and Martin McGarrity had other ideas though, as they tried to overhaul the Ballygawley men. Hamill eased off through the final two stages, almost too much, allowing Clarke to close the gap to just one second! It was almost a photo finish but Hamill had done enough to secure his maiden Group N victory!
Errol Clarke and Martin McGarrity came home in third position ahead of Raymond Mason and Peter Martin, while Eddie Quinn and Martin Hamill completed the top five. Stanley Ballantine’s eighth in class was enough to move him to the head of the Pacenotes N.I. Championship Group N tables.
<strong>Superdrive sponsored two wheel drive</strong>
After a huge accident at the Fisher Engineering Lakeland Stages Rally, Frank Kelly and Liam Brennan were lucky to make the start of the McGillen Bushwhacker. Their Mark 2 Escort was still in pieces just hours before the start but some late night work saw Kelly make it to the start line.
It was a worthwhile effort, as the Tyrone man went on to take top two wheel drive honours, comfortably ahead of second placed Adrian Hetherington and Terry Walkingshaw. It was a feat that Kelly had been trying to achieve at the Bushwhacker since the mid-90s, making the result all the more satisfying.
"I’ve been doing this rally for more than 10 years," Kelly said after the event, "and this is the first time that I’ve won two wheel drive! We were lucky to get here, we only finished the car in the early hours on Saturday morning. Then we had a gearbox problem and we had to nurse her through the final few stages. I was backing off in places I didn’t want to but at least we got here!"
Second place was decided on the final stage between Adrian Hetherington and Mark Barnett. Both men entered the test on equal times but it was Hetherington who was one second faster than Barnett, handing him the runner-up spot. Barnett was forced to settle for third while Paul and Peter Ward brought their Escort home in fourth ahead of Gary Price and Mark McCrea.
<strong>Round eight – McGrady Insurance Down Rally</strong>
The McGrady Insurance Down Rally takes competitors to Newcastle for the eighth round of the Pacenotes backed series. Held on Saturday 21 October, the event is based at the Newcastle Centre, Central Promenade, and will consist of nine gravel stages in the Newcastle, Rostrevor and Kilkeel region, with centralised service in Donard Park.
<strong> McGillen Bushwhacker Rally – top 10 results
</strong>1 Kevin Lynch/Martin McNicholl Subaru Impreza WRC 45m00s
2 Glenn Allen/Damien Connolly Toyota Corolla WRC 46m13s
3 Raymond Johnston/Richard Bell Subaru Impreza WRC 46m35s
4 Sean Devine/Damien Duffin Subaru Impreza WRC 46m52s
5 Robbie McGurk/Shaun Lavery Subaru Impreza WRC 47m53s
6 Vivian Hamill/Paul Hamill Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 48m45s
7 Errol Clarke/Martin McGarrity Subaru Impreza 48m46s
8 Peter McCullagh/Andrew Lehane Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 48m56s
9 Raymond Mason/Peter Martin Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 49m10s
10 Seamus Devine/Steven Casey Subaru Impreza 49m13s