McCourt leads challenge to conquer Bushwhacker Rally

Cathan McCourt and Liam Moynihan head an impressive list of crews aiming for victory on Saturday’s Bushwhacker Rally. Omagh Motor Club’s six-stage gravel rally has attracted over 100 entries offering the potential for some incredible battles over the 67 stage kilometres.

2019 Irish Forestry Champion, McCourt, will face immediate pressure from Lithuanian visitor, Martynas Samsonas, who narrowly missed out on the Bushwhacker win last time out in his BMW M3.

Garry Jennings, Patrick O’Brien, and Niall McCullagh complete Bushwhacker’s top five. None of the top five seeds have a Bushwhacker Rally win to their name but they all have the credentials to end that this Saturday.

Seeded sixth, Vivian Hamill is another man looking for his first win at the Bushwhacker. He finished second on the 2018 event and will benefit from more familiarity in his Ford Fiesta R5 this time around.

Two-time Bushwhacker winner, Derek McGarrity, is expected to bring his Fiesta WRC to the Tyrone stages. Martin Cairns, another double “Whacker” champ, will compete in his similar World Rally Car. Cairns has been a regular on the stages this year, finishing seventh on last weekend’s Galloway Hills Rally.

Jason Mitchell was another Irish visitor to Scotland’s west-coast rally, however, his top-five challenge ended with an accident on Galloway’s fourth stage. Mitchell had hoped to compete in both the Bushwhacker and Cork 20 Rally this weekend. His team will have its work cut out to repair the Rally2 Fiesta in time for the double-header.

2018 Billy Coleman Award winner James Wilson returns to do a home rally for the first time since coronavirus stopped his Irish Forestry attack 18 months ago. His British Rally Championship campaign has the Armagh driver up to speed on gravel ahead of the Bushwhacker.

World Rally Cars, R5s, and Mitsubishi Evos flood the entry list right up to the top two-wheel-drive crew seeded down in 31st.

If you thought the overall winner is hard to predict, try your hand at picking a two-wheel-drive winner.

David Crossen, Frank Kelly, Adrian Hethrington, John Gordon, and Michael Conlon will do battle in their Ford Escorts while Shane McGirr continues to break the mould in his Toyota Starlet.

Hethrington pipped McGirr to top two-wheel-drive two years ago by a mere three seconds. Who knows how slender the margin will be between the gravel rivals this time around.

Junior BRC protagonists David Kelly and Kyle White lead Bushwhacker’s front-wheel-drive line-up. Jason Dickson is another JBRC man heading to West Tyrone on Saturday. All three will be hoping to gain more gravel kilometres ahead of Yorkshire’s Trackrod Rally a week later.

The Bushwhacker Rally gets underway at 10:24 on Saturday morning’s opening stage.

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Photos by European Rally Championship, Barronpix, and Kevin Glendinning