As the curtain falls on the already decided Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship in tomorrow’s McKelvey Asbestos Bushwhacker Rally in Omagh, the outcome of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship could also draw to a close should series leader Derek McGarrity (Ford Focus WRC) secure a top four finish.
Top seed, Derry’s Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia R5) is one of two drivers that can prevent McGarrity winning his eighth title and while there is no doubt that Henry could win the Bushwhacker for a second year in a row, he may not be able to stop McGarrity from acquiring the necessary points to get across the line.
Henry’s battle with second seed and newly crowned Valvoline champion Monaghan’s Josh Moffett will be interesting. In the last round in Enniskillen, Moffett won by a second (after he was penalised 40 seconds for a late arrival at a control), while he was originally excluded and later reinstated as rally winner the whole episode left a sour taste. Moffett’s Fiesta has the R5+ kit and is much more powerful than Henry’s car.
New York based Monaghan driver Barry McKenna is another Ford Fiesta R5+ competitor and showed a fine turn of speed all season only to crash out on the first stage of the Lakelands in Enniskillen.
The cracking entry of over 130 crews also features former NI champion Connor McCloskey (Subaru WRC), former Scottish champion Jock Armstrong in a Group N Subaru and Adrian Hetherington (Toyota Corolla WRC). Although seeded at seven, Waterford’s Andrew Purcell will not be competing.
Cathan McCourt (Ford Fiesta R5), Derek McGarrity, Vivian Hamill (Ford Fiesta R5+) and Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC) complete the top ten starters.
Others on the list are Alan Carmichael (Mini WRC) - the only other driver that could win the NI series, Martin Cairns (Ford Fiesta WRC), Mitsubishi aces Alan Smyth and Patrick O’Brien and Stephen McCann (Ford Fiesta R5).
Down’s David Crossen (Ford Escort) heads the two-wheel drive category where a strong opposition features the similar Escorts of Paul Barrett, Ryan Barrett and Shane McGirr. Based at the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh, the first car away for the day’s eleven stages is at 9.30am.
Meanwhile, Matt Griffin returns to one of his favourite tracks - Spa Francorchamps - for Sunday’s penultimate round of the European Le Mans Series. The Cork racing ace has raced on this circuit more in nine of its 24 Hour races. Sunday’s event with the Spirit of Race outfit is of a four-hour duration with Griffin, the gold plated driver only eligible to have a maximum seventy minutes behind the wheel of the Ferrari F488GTE. Team mate Duncan Cameron, the bronze driver must complete two hours while Aaron Scott drives the remaining time.
The trio are currently fourth in the LMGTE category but are only a handful of points off second place. Griffin delights in driving at Spa where he takes Blanchimont corner at a minimum speed of 240kph.
That is what makes Spa so great, it’s always a challenge.” However, he acknowledged that the Porsche marque particularly that of Proton Competition would very difficult to beat and have shown great consistency all season.
Elsewhere, the Motorsport Commission, the top committee within Motorsport Ireland are due to meet on Tuesday next where it is anticipated that the much-discussed Class 20 will be on the agenda. There are calls for cars that are currently homologated to be banned from entering this class where additional kits allow for much more power. The popular opinion is that Class 20 should not allow such cars at it was originally introduced for cars that were actually out of homologation. A recent meeting of the Competitions Advisory Committee (CAC) heard that homologated cars should be banned from Class 20.