They finished 41.7 seconds ahead of the Mitsubishi EvoVI of Patrick O’Brien/Stephen O’Brien, with the Subaru WRC of Shaun Sinclair/Stephen O’Halloran just 1.1 seconds further behind in third.
Top seed Derek McGarrity (Mini WRC) was a non-starter as Lisburn’s Philip Morrow (Mitsubishi EvoIX) eked out a lead of just eight-10ths of a second on the short opening stage, Beaghs (1.5 miles). Oran Donnelly in his rear wheel drive Mk 2 Ford Escort held second while McKinstry was down in fourth — 3.2 seconds off the lead.
Morrow slid off on the seven mile Slieveanorra stage where McKinstry was quickest to move into the lead — 11.7 seconds ahead of Donnelly, with Adrian Hetherington (Escort) a further 19.2 seconds adrift in third. Meanwhile, the Subaru WRC pair of Martin Cairns and Enda McNulty were both second stage casualties.
Quickest through the repeat of both stages McKinstry consolidated his lead and moved 41.6 seconds ahead of Shaun Sinclair (Subaru WRC), who slotted into second, with Hetherington third. Donnelly bowed on SS4.
Leader McKinstry could ease off on the closing two stages to claim the win as O’Brien punched in two fastest stage times to demote Sinclair, on his first outing on gravel in the S9 Subaru WRC, to third. Hetherington won the two-wheel drive category.
Meanwhile, Sebastien Loeb reclaimed the lead of the Dakar Rally on Saturday as his Peugeot team-mate Carlos Sainz won a stage split into two parts, as crews crossed the border from Bolivia to Argentina. Loeb led Sainz by over two minutes at the beginning of the neutral section with overnight rally leader Stephane Peterhansel, also in a Peugeot, in third.
The Monaghan Navigation Trial was won by local and club champion crew of Michael Tynan/Kieran Tynan (Subaru). In foggy conditions through the 75-mile event, they finished with 23 penalty points. Two other Monaghan crews, Martin Tynan/Fintan Clerkin (Subaru) and Damien Hagan/Damien Connolly (Subaru) completed the top three with 25 and 26 penalties respectively. All three crews collected 15 penalty points at TP17.
Yesterday, the Midland Autotest at Longford, the latest round of the Hewison Autotest Championship, was won by Castlederg’s Robin Lyons (Mini Saloon). He won four of the day’s 12 tests to finish 5.09 seconds ahead of the Mini Special of Steven Ferguson. Eamonn Byrne (Mini Saloon) was third.
Elsewhere, details of the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally (February 6/7) were announced. The event is the opening round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship. Pre-event scrutiny will be based at the Galway Racecourse in Ballybrit. Monaghan brothers Sam and Josh Moffett have acquired Ford Fiesta R5’s for their championship bid.
One of the most popular drivers on the rallying circuit, Donegal’s Declan Gallagher, will compete in the Garry Jennings-hired S8 Subaru WRC. Former national rally champion Aaron MacHale will campaign a Skoda Fabia S2000. The entry also includes Tim McNulty (Mini WRC), Declan Boyle and Roy White in Ford Fiesta WRCs, and former tarmac champion Garry Jennings (Subaru WRC).