ARMAGH man Darragh Gass, co-driven by his sister Kerrie, took his Impreza WRC to an impressive start-to-finish win at the Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally on Saturday.
Kenny McKinstry, also in an Impreza WRC, was Gass’s closest pursuer throughout the day, but had to accept second place this time.
McKinstry, often dubbed ‘King of the Park’ in reference to his 11 Lurgan Park wins, made no excuses at the finish and paid tribute to Gass’s pace.
For 23 year old Darren, this was his second Lurgan win. His co-driver Kerrie was co-driving on her very first rally.
Darren never put a wheel wrong throughout the day. He did admit to getting a bit too sideways at times over the gravel sections, but in overall terms he drove brilliantly and thoroughly deserved the lion’s share of the £2500 prize money.
As ever Craigavon Borough Council’s beautiful Lurgan Park was in pristine condition, and there were up to 10,000 spectators during the day to enjoy the sunshine and the action.
The battle for third place was a close run thing between Denis Biggerstaff and Garry Jennings.
Jennings had his Lancer’s nose in front for most of the day. Biggerstaff had rebuilt his Impreza’s engine for the rally. Mostly his son Stuart drives the car these days, but this time NI Rally Champion Stuart was co-driving.
Dennis made a cautious start and gradually built up speed during the day. He drew level on the penultimate stage, and then edged ahead by 0.1 sec on the final stage to take the final podium place. Consolation for Jennings was winning the GpN category.
Gilford man Mark Doyle had a very impressive run to fifth place, and that was despite his Toyota misfiring on the final stage as it ran low on fuel.
Derek McGeehan overcame some early turbocharger sensor hiccups with his Corolla WRC to finish sixth.
One of the highlights of the rally was the Mk2 Escort Challenge.
Wesley Patterson was the class of the field on the day. He won the Challenge and finished nineth overall. Lisburn man Patterson had been as high as 6sixh, but overheating tyres on one stage cost him a few seconds. Martin Teggart was second in the Mk2 Challenge.
Keith White, because of illness, was on his first rally outing for seven years. He had a very good run to finish best of the Mk1 Escorts.
Keith McIvor in his Porsche 911 had a clean run to finish best of the historics, ahead of Stephen Mawhinney in his immaculate ex-works Brookes Sunbeam Lotus.
Seven times Circuit of Ireland winner Jimmy McRae drove like a hero to bring the XS racing Firenza Can-am, a car not suited to the Lurgan Park twists and turns, into fourth in the historics.
Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally Top 10
1st (1) Darren Gass/Kerrie Gass (Impreza WRC) 15.06.3
2nd (2) Kenny McKinstry/Noel Orr (Impreza WRC) 15.24.7
3rd (6) Denis & Stuart Biggerstaff (Impreza WRC) 15.35.5
4th (5) Garry Jennings/Kerry McCarter (Lancer N) 15.35.6
5th (7) Mark Doyle/Bobby Campbell (Celica GT4) 15.45.5
6th (4) Derek McGeehan/Lawrie Smith (Corolla WRC) 15.50.1
7th (11) Emma McKinstry/Kenny Hull (Impreza WRC) 16.00.2
8th (12) Ray Brammer/Matt Whattam (Impreza WRC) 16.03.1
9th (35) Wesley Patterson/Martin McGarrity (Escort) 16.09.0
10th (9) John & Lesley McGaffin (Impreza WRC) 16.09.0
Class Winners:- CL1 Garry Jennings/Kerry McCarter (Lancer N): CL2 Martin Teggart/Ruari O’Dowd (Escort): CL3 Wesley Patterson/Martin McGarrity (Escort): CL4 Mark Doyle/Bobby Campbell (Celica GT4): CL5 Darren & Kerrie Gass (Impreza WRC): CL6 Keith McIvor/David Burns (Porsche 911)..