JUST after 10 o’clock this Saturday morning the Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally will roll into action.
Once again the Armagh Motor Club has attracted a high calibre invited entry, with World Rally Cars, four wheel drive machines and champion drivers dominating the top ten.
There will be lots of action throughout the fifty strong entry, including the exciting Mk2 Escort Challenge, plus a really interesting Historic entry contributing to the mix.
Former Intercontinental Rally Champion Kris Meeke, two times Tarmac Champion Derek McGarrity and Derek McGeehan will drive Mini WRC cars. It is quite remarkable to have three Mini WRC’s in the Park. McGeehan, who runs the model Meeke will drive, is taking delivery of a new right hand drive, latest evolution Mini WRC from Prodrive this week, just in time to debut the car in Lurgan Park.
The benchmark for all the drivers will be eleven times Lurgan Park winner Kenny McKinstry in his Subaru Impreza WRC. Kenny always maintains that to win in the high pressure of Lurgan Park. “You have to get the first of the eight stages just right, and then you have to get the next seven just right as well!” he said.
McKinstry’s Banbridge rally preparation business will also be looking after the Subarus of Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett,
Norfolk man Ray Brammer and Alan Carmichael. Darren Gass, who has won in the Park for the past two years, and was hoping to make it a hat-trick, will unfortunately not be competing. Darren’s Subaru sustained a cracked gearbox casing on the recent Donegal Rally, and a replacement is proving difficult to source.
Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings could be the dark horse of this year’s Lurgan Park. He has his partner Kerry co-driving and has had great success in Lurgan Park over the years in GpN cars. Donegal Rally winner Garry switches this time to a Subaru 555 which he bought earlier this year for a bit of fun on forestry rallies. The ‘bit of fun’ has translated into a string of wins for Garry in this older model Impreza, so watch this space on Saturday!
Another young driver who could feature strongly is Kinallen’s Stuart Biggerstaff. Former NI Champion Stuart has been entrusted with his father Denis’ famous Metro 6R4 for this special occasion.
A driver with loads of top Lurgan Park form is Mark Doyle, and he is very capable of a top placing in his fabulous Toyota Celica GT4.
In the GpN division former Irish Forestry Champion Pat O’Connell in his Lancer makes a welcome return to the Park. Opposition to Tipperary man Pat in GpN is likely to come from Paddy McVeigh in an Impreza N12b.
Top Escort drivers include James Kennedy, Martin Teggart, John Waring, Adrian Hetherington and Viv Hamill. Three drivers, John Marshall, Tom Morris and Hugh Murdoch, are making the trip from Scotland to compete in their Escorts.
Another driver making the trip from the land of the heather is rally legend Jimmy McRae. Seven times Circuit of Ireland winner McRae will drive a Wesley Patterson Escort in the new FIA ‘Appendix K’ Historic division. This recently introduced historic category has really upped the speeds of the historics, and McRae could surprise a few drivers in more modern machinery. Also competing in that section is Killarney man Todd Falvey in his Porsche 911.
In overall terms, Lurgan Park, which is supported by Craigavon Borough Council as well as Orchard Motorsport, is about more than motorsport and rally action. It provides the opportunity for a great family day out in the lovely environment of one of the most beautiful parks in Ireland. The natural amphitheatre of the park with the lake, the rolling topography and the social central paddock makes for a unique day out.
As sponsor Brian Stinson, from his Armagh based Orchard Motorsport business commented: “The Lurgan Park Rally is special. I jumped at the chance to become involved four years ago, and I haven’t regretted a moment of that involvement.”
Top Ten Entries
1 Kris Meeke/Gerry McVeigh (Mini WRC)
2 Kenny McKinstry/Lesley McGaffin (Subaru WRC)
3 Derek McGarrity/Kieron Graffin (Mini WRC)
4 Garry Jennings/Kerry McCarter (Impreza 555)
5 Kevin Barrett/Paul Barrett (Subaru WRC)
6 Derek McGeehan/Laurie Smith (mini WRC)
7 Stuart Biggerstaff/Danny O’Carroll (Metro 6R4)
8 Mark Doyle/Ruairi O’Dowd (Celica GT4)
9 Emma McKinstry/Kenny Hull (Subaru WRC)
10 Ray Brammer/Damien Fleming (Subaru WRC)
Schedule: Start ramp at 10.20 in the Park. First stage: 10.30: S2: 11.07: S3: 11.52: S4: 12.39: S5: 13.52: S6: 14.36: S7: 15.22: S8: 16.07. Champagne ramp finish in the park: 17.15.
Spectator entrance fee - £10 for adults, which includes a colour programme. Children free.