Desi Henry will defend his Tour of the Sperrins Rally win this Saturday, seeded number one but with several challengers behind. The 2018 event winner starts ahead of his Northern Ireland Rally Championship rival, Jonny Greer.
The six-stage closed-road rally will decide the NI Rally Championship with the seven potential champions all set to tackle the Tour of the Sperrins.
In-form Callum Devine will shake things up in his Rally2 Ford Fiesta. The Claudy driver is looking for his third win on the trot and should feel at home on the Sperrins stages.
Despite finishing first and second on the NI Rally Championship’s previous two rounds, Henry is the least likely to take home the title on Saturday. His non-finish on the Bishopscourt Stages leaves him 27 points behind championship leader Greer.
The cancellation of the Tyrone Stages Rally means there will be no dropped scores in the 2021 Northern Ireland Rally Championship. In effect, Henry would need to win the Tour of the Sperrins and hope the remaining title protagonists run into trouble on Saturday.
As a result, Stephen Wright, Derek McGarrity, and Aaron McLaughlin are Greer’s main challengers. They are five, 11, and 16 points behind the Citroen C3 driver respectively.
With limited points differences awarded in the NI Rally Championship, Greer only has to finish fifth or higher to seal his second NI title.
You can work out the various permutations using the points system below.
NI Rally standings after Round 3 of 4:
Greer – 86 pts; Wright – 81; McGarrity – 75; McLaughlin – 70; Morris – 68; Hurson – 66; Henry – 59.
Points per rally:
1st – 28 pts; 2nd – 26; 3rd – 25; 4th – 24; 5th – 23… 27th – 1 point.
Garry Jennings and Philip Allen will provide extra pace at Sperrins’ front-end. Jennings showed great pace on the Donegal Harvest Rally. A low-speed encounter with a hedge cost him minutes and ruined his hopes of a strong result. He’ll be hoping to make amends this weekend.
Peadar Hurson is a dark horse in his Ford Fiesta WRC. Sperrins will be his first closed-road rally since running in the top three on 2020’s Mayo Stages Rally.
Darrian T90 driver Barry Morris is in a prime position to take NI Rally Championship’s two-wheel-drive title on Saturday. He leads the category by 10 points ahead of John Bradley.
David Bogie, Marty McCormack, Camillus Bradley, and Jason Black will join in on the race to finish as Sperrins’ quickest rear-wheel-drive pilot.
100 crews will take on Northern Ireland’s first closed-road rally since 2019. We know the standard of stages in the area are as good as they get so with such a great level of competition on display, it is another one not to miss.
Photos by Adam Hall and Mark McCullagh