Sean Devine makes a winning comeback at Limavady’s Dogleap Rally!
Sean Devine made an excellent comeback to the Hankook MSA N.I. Stage Rally Championship on Saturday when he secured victory at round six of the series, the KPL Utility Services Dogleap Stages Rally!
Navigated by Tony McDaid, the crew immediately moved into the lead of the Limavady based event, closely followed by Kenny McKinstry and Noel Orr. While Devine was fastest over the opening three stages, creating an advantage of almost 12 seconds, McKinstry then upped his pace in response to the rally leader.
The following three stages saw McKinstry go fastest, swiping almost five seconds out of Devine’s advantage. It was all to no avail though, as the chasing Banbridge pilot was forced to incur a 30 second penalty before the start of stage seven.
"We had a small engine fire at the end of stage six" McKinstry explained. "It turned out that a small turbo pipe had burst so it was really difficult to change with the heat. As a result, we were three minutes late at the start of stage seven, which gave us a 30 second penalty. It’s a shame as the race was on!"
McKinstry’s troubles gave Devine the breathing space that he needed, and a clean drive over the remaining stages saw the Strabane man secure the 2009 KPL Utility Services Dogleap Rally spoils. McKinstry arrived home in second position, less than 31 seconds adrift and rueing that sixth stage problem.
Outside the battle between the top duo, the remainder of the top five was occupied by the Sunoco Fuels Group N men. The production category drivers enjoyed a fierce battle for the crown, and perhaps surprisingly, it was Johnny McKenna and Frank Conville who sealed the top spot, as well as third overall.
There is no question about McKenna’s speed, but he has had limited time in a rally car on gravel since the start of the season. Yet, despite being out of ‘match practice’, the Draperstown driver was able to take the challenge to the championship regulars, and beat them!
It was nip and tuck throughout the day but in the end, McKenna nabbed third overall and first in Group N by 6.7 seconds from Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan. Second for Kelly was more than enough to maintain his advantage in the Sunoco Fuels Group N championship standings, which he now leads by 10 points from Raymond Johnston.
Reigning Group N champions, Cathal and Eoighan Rogers, finished fifth overall ahead of the Impreza WRC belonging to Seamus Leonard and John McCaffery. Raymond Johnston and Rodney Hicks finished seventh in their Evo, while Seamus Donnelly and Damien Duffin completed the top eight.
In the Superdrive two-wheel-drive category, Trevor Moore and Ray Fitzpatrick took the early lead in their Mark 2 Escort, only to be forced into retirement after stage four. One stage later, James Kennedy and John Rowan were also forced out of the rally.
There were no such problems for Adrian Hetherington and Gary Nolan though, as they powered their Escort into ninth overall and at the top of the 2WD tree. Phillip Hunter and Michael Faloon were next in line, sealing 14th overall as well as the Montgomery Motorsport Historic category spoils. Drew Stewart and Steven Park completed the top three, one second ahead of Ian Millar and David McLean.
Round seven of the Hankook MSA N.I. Stage Rally Championship takes competitors to County Fermanagh on 12 September. The Fisher Engineering Lakeland Stages Rally will see the battle for championship spoils reignite between the championship contenders, and more information can be found online at Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship 2009.