HAVING impressed during Omagh Motor Club’s Fivemiletown Rally in February before being forced to retire, Lithuanian Martynas Samsonas returned to Tyrone for a tilt at the McKelvey Asbestos & Construction Ltd Bushwhacker Rally on Saturday.
Behind the wheel of his now four-wheel-drive BMW, the Fivemiletown Rally main sponsor again showed his pace, leading the Bushwhacker for the first eight stages.
He held off Mountfield’s Patrick O’Brien and co-driver Stephen O’Hanlon, who was in inspired form behind the wheel of an R5 Ford Fiesta for the first time before having to retire on stage eight due to a blown turbo.
But the eastern European could do nothing about the hard-charging Henry, who won every stage on the second loop to overtake Samsonas on the time-sheets after stage nine before claiming a narrow eight second victory in the end, with Killyclogher’s Niall McCullagh, another recent R5 convert in an impressive third overall.
O’Brien, meanwhile, was gutted at having to withdraw on stage eight, but he was delighted with the battle up to that point on his debut in an R5 machine.
Behind the top three, there were plenty of local success stories, with Dromore’s Conor McCourt fourth, while Strabane’s Martin Cairns and his Donemana co-driver Peter Ward had a clean drive aboard their Fiesta WRC to seal sixth, while Omagh’s Marty McKenna clinched ninth overall in his similar machine.
In the two-wheel-drive battle, Donaghmore’s Adrian Hetherington pipped Fivemiletown’s Shane McGirr to the top prize.
Although disappointed at losing out on the top two-wheel-drive honours, McGirr had that blow softened when crowned class six winner ahead of Drew Stewart and Omagh’s Owen McMackin, who was third, with Donemana’s Bob Riddles fourth.
In the other class battles, Omagh’s Austin Snow sealed the class two bragging rights ahead of Donemana’s Paul Britton in second and Castlederg’s Robert McKelvey in third and Gary Cairns fourth.
Drumquin’s Dean Humphrey finished second in class three, behind Damien Conlin, while one of the drives of the day came from Dromore duo, Ruairi Maguire, who had Irish Forestry champion Cathan McCourt on the notes.
Not only did they win the class four honours in their Vauxhall Corsa, but they managed to finish in an outstanding 17th overall.
Meanwhile, Dungannon’s Stewart McClean claimed second in class four in his Vauxhall Nova.
There was another local success story in class five, with Dromore’s Hugh McQuaid taking the honours, while Aughnacloy’s Bryan Jardine was fourth, behind Marc Johnston and Adrian Grant.
FULL STORY IN TODAY’S ULSTER HERALD