Taking the lead on the second stage, the Antrim/Monaghan duo of Desi Henry and Damien Connolly (Ford Fiesta WRC) went on to win the Enniskillen based Lakeland Rally that counted as rounds of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship and the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally series.
They finished 22 seconds in front of the Ford Fiesta R5 of Monaghan’s Sam Moffett and his Cavan co-driver James Fulton. Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt (Ford Fiesta R5) and Fermanagh’s Barry McNulty, who had already clinched the Valvoline series, were 11 seconds behind in third.
Moffett led through the opening stage, Belmore where he was two seconds quicker than both Henry and McCourt, who tied for second. Henry then went on post fastest times on all the remaining five stages albeit equal first on S.S. 5 with McCourt.
Midway through the event, he led Moffett by four seconds as the leading duo went clear of the field with Vivian Hamill in third some 13 seconds further adrift and three seconds ahead of McCourt.
Henry added two more seconds on S.S. 4 but the event was decided on the penultimate stage (Ballintempo 2) when an intercooler pipe came adrift from Moffett’s Fiesta following a heavy landing. Although he was able to reattach the pipe after the stage finish, the time deficit was too much to recover given that the final stage was only 3.35 miles in length and he had to settle for second.
McCourt picked up his pace on the repeat loop to finish third as Hamill’s Fiesta stopped on the stage and he lost time before it fired back into action.
Donegal’s Donagh Kelly netted fifth after he struggled on the opening loop with an errant handling Skoda Fabia R5, having sorted the problem, he moved up three places on the repeat loop. Henry’s win was his second of the NI campaign and he still has a chance of winning the series.
Monaghan’s Stephen Wright (Ford Fiesta R5) on his first gravel event in seven years, took second-placed points to move into second in the series behind Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC), who was 12th overall after losing time with a puncture on S.S. 3. Derek McGarrity retired during the final loop when his Fiesta WRC broke a rear suspension arm.
Elsewhere, another former N.I. champion Kenny McKinstry (Ford Fiesta R5) had a troubled opening loop when a turbo pipe came adrift. Carlow’s David Condell (Ford Escort) won the two-wheel drive, despite a stall second stage he still finished 28 seconds ahead of the Escort of Down’s John Gordon with another Down driver Ruairi Maguire (Vauxhall Corsa) and his Cork co-driver Grace O’Brien 14 seconds further behind third in the category.
Meanwhile James Stafford (Darrian T90) took a comfortable victory in the Wexford Volkswagen Rally finishing almost two minutes ahead of the Ford Fiesta R5 of Stephen McCann with Wesley Patterson (Ford Escort) some 40 seconds adrift in third.