Bushwhacker Rally Report

25 September 2010

Martin Cairns and Andrew Purcell secured victory at the McKelvey Bushwhacker Rally, round eight of the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship.


Cairns pounced on the number one slot after stage four when he displaced Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan from the top of the podium. Then the Strabane driver set about extending his advantage, eventually sealing the victory by eight seconds from James Gillen and Jason Harron.


Second placed Gillen had held the joint event lead after stage one with Colin Britton and Arthur Kierans, but one stage later there was another new name on top, as Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan took the advantage.


Stage three saw 15 crews either beat or equal the bogey time, so Kelly maintained his one second lead over Martin Cairns and Andrew Purcell. However, stage four told a different story, as Cairns set fastest time to move into a two second lead.


Despite some strong competition, it was a lead that Cairns would never relinquish. Navigated by Andrew Purcell, he went on to secure the McKelvey Bushwhacker Rally spoils by eight seconds in his Subaru Impreza WRC.


Donagh Kelly and James Gillen enjoyed a tough battle for second position, with Gillen moving into joint second position with Kelly after the fifth stage.


Gillen made the slot his own over the following stages, eventually finishing nine seconds ahead of Kelly, who claimed third and was the leading competitor among the Sunoco Fuels Group N crews.


None of the leading three crews were registered for Hankook N.I. Championship points. Instead, the tussle for fourth overall was also a battle for maximum championship points - and it could not have been any closer at the finish!


It was a battle between the young guns as series contenders Mark Donnelly and Stuart Biggerstaff went head to head over the forest stages. Biggerstaff had his customary slow start as he bedded himself in, but he was soon on the pace and playing catch-up to Donnelly.  10 seconds adrift of his rival after stage three, Biggerstaff and navigator Anthony Nestor mounted a huge comeback charge in their Subaru Impreza WRC. After stage seven, they were in fifth overall, just two seconds behind Donnelly.


With a number of crews beating the bogey times on stages eight and nine, battle between the two pilots resumed on stage 10. Biggerstaff was one second faster on the penultimate test, and repeated that feat on the final stage to claim joint fourth position with Donnelly.


However, it was Biggerstaff who lost out on the tie-break, as Donnelly claimed fourth overall - as well as maximum points - courtesy of his faster time over stage one. Despite his faster times over the closing stages, Biggerstaff had to settle for fifth and second placed championship points.


In the two-wheel-drive category, Vivian and Paul Hamill claimed the top spot aboard their Mark 2 Escort. They also claimed seventh overall in the process, while Frank Kelly and Liam Brennan pipped Adrian Hetherington and Gary Nolan to second among the two-wheel-drive competitors.


The Montgomery Motorsport Historic category saw Andy Johnston and Jim McSherry claimed the spoils in their Chevette HSR. They finished 38 seconds ahead of Tommy O'Connell and Sean Magee.


The Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship is now heading towards its closing chapters. The F&M Contracts Down Rally, which takes place on 23 October, marks the penultimate round of the series.  Now a two-horse race between Stuart Biggerstaff and Mark Donnelly, the event could be pivotal in the battle for the 2010 title.


Jonathan MacDonald

Posted by PMcCollum on 27/9/2010; Last updated by PMcCollum on 27/9/2010