McKinstry heads Down Rally entry
Kenny McKinstry, guided by Bangor’s Noel Orr, heads the entry list for the 2010 Down Rally as more than 50 competitors from all over Ireland make their way to the start ramp in Lower Square, Castlewellan on Saturday 23rd October.
McKinstry returns to the Down Rally after his maiden victory in 2009, fending off the challenge of multiple Circuit of Ireland winner Derek McGarrity to win the event by over 50 seconds after 8 stages.
Seeded at number 2 are the reigning Hankook NI Rally Champions, Derek McGarrity and James McKee in a DMG prepared Subaru Impreza WRC.
McGarrity, who used a Ford Focus on the 2009 event, comes to Castlewellan determined to win the event after having to settle for second last year behind the McKinstry Subaru.
Numbers three and four sees the leading contenders from the Petro Systems Irish National Forest Series which makes its first appearance on a Northern Ireland event for the first time in the Championships twenty year history.
Number three seed Pat O’Connell, from Co Tipperary, is poised to get his hands on the National Crown on Saturday evening, although John Reid, starting at number four has a mathematical chance of snatching the title should something prevent O’Connell from starting the event. Both crews will be hoping to end the season on a high after a close fought 2010 campaign.
Colin Britton and Arthur Kierans start the event at number five. Britton has made appearances in both the NI and the Southern Forest Championships this year, finishing 4th overall on the Donegal Forest Rally and he was lying as high a 2nd overall in the recent Bushwhacker Rally before being forced to retire with mechanical issues.
Number six sees the Hankook Northern Ireland Championship leader Stuart Biggerstaff make his first appearance on the County Down event. 22 year old Biggerstaff, in only his first season in the sport finds himself with a 7 point lead in the championship with one round left to go after the Down Rally.
Starting at number seven is 2008 NI Rally Champion, Connor McCloskey. McCloskey, assisted by Francis Regan, won the 2008 Down Rally on their way to becoming the youngest ever NI Champions. They start at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer after a difficult return to competition on the Bushwhacker Rally in September.
Mark Donnelly will start the event with number eight on the door of his Mitsubishi Lancer. Trailing Biggerstaff by 7 points in the Hankook series, Donnelly holds a slight advantage over his rival as he competed on the event last year in a Fiesta ST and he will be anxious to resume the battle which saw the two young chargers finish the last round in Omagh on identical times after 40 miles of flat out driving.
Highest placed two wheel drive competitor is Frank Kelly at number nine in his rapid Ford Escort RS. His sideways driving style always entertains the spectators and his speed will see him finish well in the overall leader board come Saturday evening.
Rounding out the top ten is Cyril Doherty in a Subaru Impreza Group N. Cyril has racked up some fine results during the year to see him lying in a comfortable 3rd place overall in the Hankook NI Series.
Other notable inclusions in the entry list include Raymond Mason and Mark Barnett, seeded just outside the top ten, and some unfamiliar names to the Northern Ireland Rally scene who will be engrossed in their own private battles during the day. Jeromy Drislane, Vincent McAree, Patsy Keenan, who makes the trip from Atlanta in the USA for the event, Christy Carey, Mark Murphy, Gerard Lucey to name a few make the journey north to sample the Down Rally stages for the first time.
Local interest includes Banbridge’s John and Gavin Devlin in their Talbot Sunbeam, Ballykinlar’s Sean Warnock, Christian Cochrane from Downpatrick and Niall Branniff and Barry Savage from Ballynahinch.
The 2010 event will follow a similar format to last year, with the start in Lower Square in Castlewellan at 9 am with 4 stages planned in the morning and 4 further stages in the afternoon before the champagne finish back at the Lower Square around 4.45pm. The cars will return after every two stages for service in Castlewellan Forest Park.
The organisers have also produced a free Spectator Information Guide which is available from the Kings Inn, Lower Square, Castlewellan from Friday 22nd October.
Followers can also download a Spectator Guide from the event website at www.downrally.com which will give them all the information they need to get to, and safely watch the action.
The event will also enjoy regular radio updates, just after the hourly news on Downtown and CoolFm Radio, courtesy of Carsport Magazine and the event will be filmed for a one hour show on Motors TV later in the year.
Followers can also keep up to speed with the live results at www.rallyscore.net
Anyone wishing to marshal on the event should contact the Chief Marshal on 07834315859. The organisers will provide a hot meal and a gift to those who assist with the safe running of the event.
Top Ten starters:
1. Kenny McKinstry/Noel Orr – Subaru Impreza WRC
2. Derek McGarrity/James McKee – Subaru Impreza WRC
3. Pat O’Connell/Mark Wiley – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9
4. John Reid/Enda Shiels – Toyota Corolla WRC
5. Colin Britton/Arthur Kierans – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9
6. Stuart Biggerstaff/Anthony Nestor – Subaru Impreza WRC
7. Connor McCloskey/Francis Regan – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9
8. Mark Donnelly/Sean Ferris – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9
9. Frank Kelly/Mick McCullagh – Ford Escort RS
10. Cyril Doherty/tbc – Subaru Impreza N12