Dogleap Stages winner Desi Henry is hoping to extend his recent Northern Ireland Rally Championship success on this weekend’s Loughgall Stages Rally. The Hyundai driver reckons a win on Saturday is essential to build his NI title credentials.
A retirement on the championship opener at Bishopscourt put Henry on the back foot before his last gasp victory on round two earlier this month.
“We probably need a win this weekend to stay in any sort of contention for the championship,” admitted Henry. “We’ll be going out to win the thing and if it works out it works out, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
“For us it’s all or nothing because we didn’t finish Bishopscourt.”
Loughgall will be the 31-year-old’s fourth rally since the sport’s return earlier this year. Henry’s three events so far have been on airfield or circuit-based venues. While he was glad to rally anywhere he’s a happier man knowing closed-road rallying isn’t far away.
“Loughgall is probably our first event that resembles a closed road again. It’s the closest we’ve got in a year and a half.
“We’re looking forward to it and then hopefully we’ll have the Tour of the Sperrins as well. That will be our local event so that is the one we’re really looking forward to.
“It was good to see the single venues running after Covid to get things moving again but we’re at the stage now where we’re getting itchy feet because we’d like to get back to closed roads and onto the gravel.”
Four points currently separate NI Rally Championship’s top four drivers: Jonny Greer, Stephen Wright, Aaron McLoughlin, and Derek McGarrity. Henry lies down in ninth, 25 points behind Greer and it’s the Carryduff man who remains his biggest rival.
“I would say Jonny will be the man to beat but Stevie Wright is going very well too. You never know what Derek McGarrity could pull out of the bag as well.
“You just don’t know and that is the thing with rallying, you never know who is going to be the boy to beat.
“It’s very very hard to tell, especially on an event that nobody has been to and it is going to be an event you’ll have to be very tidy on and keep your nose clean.
“There is no room for error around the park.
“It is how people take to that environment, [whoever takes to it the best] will probably be the one to win.
“You can’t rule out the quick boys in the two-wheel-drive cars either.
“A lot of the two-wheel-drive boys might have more experience around Loughgall but in saying that I’d like to think nobody in a two-wheel-drive car could beat me.
“I suppose anything is possible.”
Six stages totalling 20 miles make up Saturday’s Loughgall Stages Rally. Crews will battle over the same piece of tarmac with the stage run in reverse through the second half of the day.
Photos courtesy of British Rally Championship and Kevin Glendinning