Sileveanorra, that mighty forest in the hills of North Antrim, reverberated with the sound of rally cars once again, as crews took to the stages for the Carey Cleaning Machines Icebreaker Rally. The Mid-Antrim Motor Club event attracted a small, but high quality field to this early season opener. Philip Morrow headed the entry list, making a return to rallying in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, after an absence of just over a year.
The opening stage, Beaghs, was a relatively short and gentle introduction to the car killing havoc that would follow. Morrow’s lack of seat time appeared to be of little disadvantage as he blasted into an early lead. Oran Donnelly’s blistering pace saw his Ford Escort MKII hot on Morrow’s heels. The top two had caught the rest of the field napping, sitting nearly three seconds clear after the initial test. However, a much tougher task lay in wait.
The classic and infamous 7 mile Sileveanorra stage showed no mercy. Morrow, who had showed so much early promise fell victim to a deep ditch. On an open section, approaching a fast left, his car jumped out of third gear. The Lisburn driver made a fumbled attempt to grab another cog, out-braked himself and his Mitsubishi ended up off the road. Martin Carins, who had been well positioned in 10th, also succumbed to a Sileveanorra drain. No damage was done, but the car was stuck fast.
Morrow’s demise meant the evergreen McKinstry moved into the lead, at the end of the opening loop. The Banbridge driver had a significant cushion over the hard charging Donnelly, who still held second place. Once McKinstry hit the front, he never looked back. The multiple Northern Ireland champion was in a class of his own, winning three stages in a row to seal victory by a margin of over 40 seconds.
Unfortunately, Donnelly’s remarkable run ended with retirement on the second pass through Sileveanorra. It was a cruel blow for the local man, who had been holding off a range of cars which, in theory, would have been more suited to the tricky and challenging gravel roads. Shaun Sinclair’s Impreza WRC assumed second place in Donnelly’s absence, whilst the effervescent Adrian Hetherington grabbed the lead in two wheel drive category.
Whilst McKinstry controlled the event from the front, a sensational late charge over the closing leg saw Patrick O’Brien surge up the leader board in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evoultion VI. Shaun Sinclair now had a serious fight on his hands for the runner’s up spot. Less than two seconds separated the drivers and a final stage showdown would determine who would take the spoils. A sensational run saw O’Brien grab 2.8 seconds from Sinclair and take the place by just over a second.
Pictures courtesy of Graham Curry Photography. For more event coverage, please check out the gallery below.
Carey Cleaning Systems Icebreaker Rally
1. Kenny McKinstry / Kenny Hull – Subaru Impreza WRC
2. Patrick O’Brien / Stephen O’Brien – Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI
3. Shaun Sinclair / Stephen O’Hanlon – Subaru Impreza WRC