Banbridge man Kenny McKinstry, co driven this time by Manx National Rally Clerk of the Course John Skinner scored a start to finish victory on last weekend’s high profile Orchard Motorsport backed Lurgan Park Rally. McKinstry was driving one of his Subarus and led from start to finish, but that didn’t mean the rally was far from boring, far from it.
Four t imes Tarmac Champion Eugene Donnelly drove hard in his Skoda Fabia WRC to take 2nd place while Derek McGarrity and Darren Gass, both in Impreza WRC’s, had a massive battle for 3rd with McGarrity edging it on the last stage by 0.2 of a second.
Eleven times now Kenny McKinstry has won Lurgan Park, a feat which will probably never be repeated. Kenny knows that every stage counts on this intense rally and he was 3s faster than Donnelly over the opening stage, with McGarrity almost 2s behind the Skoda. Donnelly knew after that opening test that he was going to have a real battle if he was to win the rally for the first time.
Stage 2 brought little change in the status quo. Yes, Donnelly was a couple of seconds quicker but so was McKinstry. By the half way halt McKinstry had a 5.5s advantage and he reckoned that if he kept his nose clean through the afternoon stages victory was his. So it proved. The early damp conditions changed into a warm balmy afternoon and the thousands of spectators were treated to a superb driving display by many of the drivers. Darren Gass really got to grips with his hired McKinstry Subaru through the afternoon and got ahead of McGarrity on stage 7.
However, young Darren’s 0.2s advantage was changed into a 0.2s deficit on the final stage. Darren’s Subaru seemed to run low on fuel on the final straight and chugged a little which probably made the difference between 3rd and 4th place.
Glenn Allen in his Corolla WRC had no real problems during the day and had a solid run to 5th, while Mark Doyle nursed his Celica’s clutch from the first stage to the last and did well to take 6th.
Raymond Johnston led GpN for much of the day, but John McGlaughlin with RMS snapper Graham Curry on the notes in his similar Lancer put on a huge charge over the final stages to just take the GpN win from Johnston. In the battle of the Mk2 Escorts Wesley Patterson put on a terrific show and was right into the top ten from the word go, but a broken track control arm in stage 6 put paid to the Lisburn man’s chances.
Viv Hamill and Camillus Bradley then had a great race over the final two stages for the Mk2 Escort honours, with Camillus just taking the honours by 1 second. This was all the more remarkable as Bradley had lost a bit of time on the opening stage when his Escort broke a brake pipe.