THE 2011 Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship continued with the Modern Tyre Service Mourne Rally on Saturday 4th June.
Current Northern Ireland Rally Championship leader Kenny McKinstry led the field away from the Modern Tyres HQ in Newry followed by his nearest rival on the NI Championship points table, George Robinson, at number two with front running Group N contender Neil McCance at three and the reigning NI Rally Champion Stuart Biggerstaff at four.
The first test took the crews over Camlough Mountain with McKinstry setting the fastest time by 2 seconds from George Robinson. On stage two it was Robinson and McCance who shared the fastest time, helped somewhat by a spin by McKinstry at one of the hairpins, and another top two time on stage three ensured Robinson arrived back at the first service halt with a 5 second lead from Kenny McKinstry, with Neil McCance just 1 second behind in third. Stuart Biggerstaff slotted into fourth, 8 seconds adrift of McCance after struggling with a slipping clutch and tyre wear issues in his Impreza.
After service the crews made their second pass over the mornings first loop with McKinstry and Robinson both stopping the clocks on 2.20 on stage four. Stage five saw Robinson fastest again, adding another 1 second to his lead but on stage six McKinstry retaliated, taking fastest time by 8 seconds to finish the second loop with 3 seconds in hand over Robinson.
The battle continued between the two again on the third loop, with Kenny beating George by 2 seconds on stage seven, George again took 1 second back on stage eight and then lost 2 seconds to McKinstry on stage nine. Neil McCance dropped down the order on the third loop; puncturing a left hand front tyre in the middle of stage eight and allowing top 2wd contenders, Drew Stewart and Michael Conlon past into third and fourth overall, just 1 second separating the battling Escort MkII pair.
Just four stages lay between the crews and the finish line and over the remaining tests McKinstry slowly stretching out his lead to 18 seconds until the final stage when Robinson hit electrical trouble, losing over 30 seconds and only just making it to the finish with his second place intact.
Third place went to Drew Stewart who finished top 2wd ahead of the recovering Group N Lancer Evo 9 of Neil McCance in fourth. Michael Conlon finished in fifth and 2nd 2wd, with reigning NI Champion Stuart Biggerstaff in sixth after his earlier slipping clutch and a puncture.
In the Montgomery Motorsport Historic category, Andy Johnson and Jim McSherry emerged victorious in their Vauxhall Chevette ahead of the Porsche 911 of Dessie McCartney and Maurice Jellie while Declan Leonard survived the class 1 carnage to win the Fiesta Sporting Trophy Ireland section.
With the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Championship now at the halfway point in the season, Kenny McKinstry sits on top of the points table with five wins ahead of George Robinson. Top Group N contenders Donagh Kelly and Neil McCance lie in third and fourth respectively as the series now heads for the gravel half of the year.
The Hankook Northern Ireland Rally series will visit Castlewellan in October when Rathfriland Motor Club will host the Down Rally.
Mourne Rally Top 6 finishers:
- Kenny McKinstry/Harvey Bell – Subaru Impreza WRC – 45:47.0
- George Robinson/Tommy Speers – Subaru Impreza WRC – 46:31.0
- Drew Stewart/Steven Park – Ford Escort MkII – 46:51.0
- Neil McCance/Anthony O’Connaill – Mitsubishi Evo 9 – 46:57.0
- Michael Conlon/Aidan Boyle – Ford Escort MkII – 47:02.0
- Stuart Biggerstaff/Karl Atkinson – Subaru Impreza WRC – 47:14.0
Provisional Championship Points after Round 5:
Kenny McKinstry 60 points
George Robinson 41 points
Donagh Kelly (GpN) 26 points
Neil McCance (GpN) 24 points (up 4 places)
Derek McGarrity 22 points (down 2 places)
Stuart Biggerstaff 22 points (up 2 places)
Sunoco MSA NI Group N Championship Leader:
Neil McCance (new leader)
Hankook MSA NI 2wd Championship Leaders:
= Fintan McGrady
= Drew Stewart
Superdrive MSA NI Junior Championship Leader:
Hankook MSA NI Ladies Championship Leader:
Montgomery Motorsport Historic Championship Leader:
The next round of the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship will be the Dogleap Rally on Saturday 6th August.