Two Past Winners Ready For Down Rally

Two past winners are included in the provisional entry list for the tarmac 2012 Hankook Down Rally which kicks off from Lower Square in Castlewellan on Saturday morning.

Donegal driver Donagh Kelly returns to Castlewellan after his maiden Down Rally victory in 2011. The Mitsubishi Lancer driver had initially played second fiddle to Kenny McKinstry last year but leapt into the lead on the final stage when the Banbridge driver slid off briefly on the final slippery stage in Castlewellan Forest Park.

For the 2012 event, Kelly has swapped the 2011 winning Mitsubishi for the more powerful Subaru Impreza WRC and after finishing a fine fourth overall on the recent Donegal International Rally, has shown that he has quickly settled in to his new super car.

The man who finished one place ahead of Kelly in Donegal, Derek McGarrity, also returns to Castlewellan in another Subaru Impreza WRC. McGarrity last competed on the County Down event in 2009 where he finished runner up in a Ford Focus. The Glengormley driver has had many wins during the years with Subaru and can be expected to be among the pace setters for overall victory.

Banbridge man Kenny McKinstry, winner of the 2011 Northern Ireland Rally Championship, makes his fourth start in Castlewellan and with back to back wins in 2009 and 2010 and the runner-up spot last year he will be expected to challenge for victory on his local event. Joining him this time will be daughter Emma. The Banbridge lass, having recovered from a recent foot injury, will pilot another Subaru Impreza from the McKinstry stable.

Also included in the entry list is one of the new generation rally cars; the Mini WRC, driven by Maghera engineer Derek McGeehan. Many eyes will be watching to see how the Mini will cope with the challenging stages in South Down.

The two wheel drive race also provides plenty of interest, with Drew Stewart, Declan McNaughton, John Waring, Fintan McGrady, Vivian Hamill and David Armstrong all vying for top honours.

Some of the local interest this year includes Niall Braniff, John Devlin, Paul Killen, Barry Savage, Paddy Milligan and Dermot Murray, many of whom will be battling for the inaugural Bernie McMullan Perpetual Trophy.

The 2012 Hankook Down Rally starts from King Inn, Lower Square, Castlewellan at just before 9am on Saturday morning, with around 60 crews heading the short distance to the first test around Tullyree and then on to Katesbridge before returning to St. Malachy’s High School for service. The drivers will repeat these two stages again before tackling two further tests in the afternoon around Cabra and the famous Hamilton’s Folly stage to finish the day off. The winners are expected back at King’s Inn just before 6pm.

The organisers have again produced a free Spectator Information Guide which will be available from the Kings Inn, Lower Square, the Fresh Food Centre and from the Castlewellan Regeneration Centre from Friday 6th July.

Supporters can also keep up to date by logging on for live results and Patterson’s Rally Bulletin’s from the event website, www.rathfrilandmotorclub.com.

The event will also enjoy regular radio updates, just after the hourly news on Downtown and CoolFm Radio, courtesy of Carsport Magazine and fans can also keep up to speed with the live results at www.rallyscore.net.

Go Motorsport

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