Former Northern Ireland Rally champions Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC) and Derek McGarrity (Mini WRC) were the pacesetters in the Winter Rally in Kirkistown on Saturday with the former winning by a margin of 7.7 seconds. Jonny Greer debuted a Citroen DS3 R5 and took third spot. In cold conditions McGarrity took an early lead. McKinstry dominated the second stage but McGarrity punched in the best time on S.S. 3. However, McKinstry was quickest on the remaining three stages to claim the spoils. Last year’s event winner Kieron Graffin (Mitsubishi) retired with gearbox troubles on the third stage. Emma McKinstry (Subaru WRC) was fourth with Drew Stewart (Ford Escort) and Dominic McNeill (Mitsubishi) completing the top six.
The event also counted as the opening round of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Junior 1000 Rally Challenge series with Josh McErlean (Peugeot 107) taking the top points albeit a mere 5.3 seconds ahead of the similar car of Daniel Harper. Indeed, it was Harper that led after the opening stage but McErlean moved in front after the third stage. Harper lost time on the penultimate stage when he had to slow down to negotiate the stricken car of a fellow competitor.
Meanwhile, snow and ice made conditions difficult for the Cork 1000 Shakes Navigation Trial in north Cork where Cork crews took two of the top three places. Victory went to Bandon’s David Beamish (Subaru) and his Togher navigator Muireann Hayes, who incurred some 61 penalties over the 85-mile route. Ovens driver Owen Murphy (Subaru), who was navigated by Daire Hayes (Togher) were second on 103 penalties with former national champions Pakie Duffy/Evin Hughes (Subaru) relatively close behind in third. The event doubled as a round of the National and Munster Navigation Trial Championships.
Following the Freemount start the crews found a farmyard maze close to Rockchapel and incorporating Time Point 4 to Time Point 7 very intricate to negotiate. Colin Duffy/Sam Johnston (Subaru) slid off and out of the event not long after the start. Frozen snow brought further difficulty as the event traversed towards County Limerick. Later, the top two crews were forced to skip two Time Points so as not to exceed maximum lateness both also endured difficulties close to the finish near Freemount.
Elsewhere, in the double round of the Hewison Autotest series in Waterford there were wins for Wicklow’s Eamonn Byrne (Mini) and Tyrone’s Steven Ferguson. On Saturday’s tenth round Delgany driver Byrne was best in nine of the eleven tests to finish 4.3 seconds ahead of Ferguson with Daniel Byrne (Mini) taking third – 5.8 seconds behind and just a tenth of a second in front of David Thompson (Nova).
It was a much closer affair yesterday with both Ferguson and Byrne each winning six tests, the Portstewart ace turned the tables on Byrne and won by just 1.1 seconds. Meath’s Guy Foster (Mini Special) was third.
Aaron Newby (Subaru) won the Jack Frost Rally in Croft – he took the lead on the penultimate stage and finished 17 seconds in front of the Metro 6R4 of Chris Wise.
Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna, the reigning British Rally champion will begin his bid to win the Junior World Rally Championship that begins with Rallye Monte Carlo on Thursday. “It is really a dream come true to be heading to the opening round of the World Rally Championship. We’ve worked hard in the off-season to secure as much funding for this season as possible. We’re still a little bit short of our target but a good result in Monte Carlo will hopefully keep us on the front foot for the year ahead.” said McKenna, who will campaign a Citroen DS3 R3T that was acquired last month. He will be co-driven by Andrew Greenan. “Our strategy will be to take no risks and try to get points on the board early.” added McKenna.