YOU only have to take a quick glance at the top 30 seeds ahead of Saturday’s Omagh Motor Club McKelvey Asbestos Bushwhacker Rally to see that there is sure to be plenty of local interest at the business end of proceedings.
While the main area of interest for those outside Tyrone will be the battle at the top of the McGrady Insurance MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship as Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson aim to tie up the title, below the lead squable, which is sure to feature number one seeds, last year’s winners, Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan, there is a plethora of Tyrone talent.
Henry will lead the 122-strong field away from the Silverbirch Hotel start ramp at approximately 9.30am on Saturday. Following in his wheel tracks will be a host of crews vying for the rally spoils including newly crowned Valvoline Forestry Champion Josh Moffett.
Former NI Champion, Connor McCloskey, has entered in an Impreza WRC, while Donaghmore’s Adrian Hetherington (Corolla WRC), Andrew Purcell (Mitsubishi) and Dromore’s Cathan McCourt (Fiesta R5) complete the top eight crews with Derek McGarrity at nine in a Focus WRC ahead of Ballygawley’s Vivian Hamill’s Fiesta R5.
Outside the top 10, the local competitors feature strongly, with the likes of Strabane duo Martin Cairns and Niall Devine, Drumquin’s Alan Smyth, Patrick O’Brien and Conor McCourt looking more than capable of breaking into the top 10 by the end of a testing day.
Elsewhere, Castlederg is well represented by Robert McKelvey, who is up against his son Darren, while Gareth Sawyers and Donemana’s Paul Britton will be in action in a pair of Subaru Imprezas.
While the McKelvey family do battle on the stages, they aren’t the only clan facing off as Drumquin’s Humphrey’s of Dean and Travis, and their fellow townsmen, Ashley, Stephen, Ian and Jason Dickson do likewise.
The two-wheel drive battle is expected to be the most exciting of all with David Crossen going up against newly crowned British Historic champion, Clanabogan’s Paul Barrett, who will have to contend with his brother Ryan, Castlederg’s Andrew Bustard, Strabane’s Bob Riddles and Fivemiletown’s Shane McGirr, who is also competing in a Mk II Ford
The event is also the final round of the Valvoline Irish Forestry Championship with a full entry of over 100 cars anticipated. The event returns to its compact format of five stages completed twice, consisting of approximately 35 stage miles and is based in the traditional Lough Bradan, Carrickaholten and Killeter forests.
The start and finish will be held at the Silverbirch Hotel with central servicing held at Aghyaran GAA grounds outside Killeter.
Spectators are encouraged to use the three official viewing areas in total on the Lough Bradan and Killeter stages and no access on the Carrickaholten stage will be permitted. Also, access to the stage start and finish areas will be limited and the club is appealing to all spectators to obey instructions from the marshalls and event officials to assist in running a safe rally.
Further access information can be obtained in the rally programmes and these will be available a few days prior to the event at various outlets as listed on the club’s Facebook page. The rally gets underway around 9.30am. Crews will tackle 11 stages and the service area will be based at Aghyaran Community Centre in Castlederg.
The champagne spraying finish will take place at the Silverbirch Hotel around 5.25pm. Log on to www.nirallychampionship.com and fb.com/nirallying for more details including a full entry list.