A rally car in action at Oulton Park
Desi Henry is one of the top seeds for this month’s Turkey Run Rally

Northern Ireland’s traditional end-of-season rally – the Turkey Run – will return later this month following its enforced cancellation 12 months ago due to COVID lockdown restrictions at the time.

Taking place on December 29, Maiden City Motor Club has attracted a maximum 80-car entry for the single-venue event, which is being held within the confines of Ballykelly’s Shackleton complex.

The former RAF airbase has become home to the club’s Dog Leap and Turkey Run rallies in recent times, with Desi Henry the most recent driver to triumph around the venue back in early August.

He returns to the sprawling complex and goes into battle with Derek McGarrity who intends to take part in a ‘Plus’ version of Skoda’s Fabia R5, 2019 Turkey Run Rally winner Aaron McLaughlin, and Joseph McGonigle and Cathan McCourt who have entered in Rally2 versions of Ford’s Fiesta.

Other drivers who are sure to fancy their chances include Derek McGeehan at the wheel of a Mini John Cooper Works World Rally Car and Niall Henry – the brother of Desi – in another Fiesta R5.

Due to shorter daylight hours, the Turkey Run Rally will be played out over five instead of six tests, according to Clerk of the Course Declan McCay. “The response we received from the crews after the Dog Leap Rally was really very positive,” he said, “so everyone involved with the organising team quickly came to the conclusion that if it isn’t broken, why bother fixing it?

“98% of the route we used for the Dog Leap back in August has been carried across unchanged; there are a few tweaks here and there but nothing substantial. It is largely the same,” he added.

“With the changeable weather, the lower temperatures and the darker days, the Turkey Run Rally is arguably more demanding, and with such a strong line-up it promises to be a fitting end to 2021.

“We’ve a full entry and a reserve entry of sixteen cars – that’s never happened before. Normally, we would have 70-or-so cars on the entry and we would be more than happy about that, but the hunger to go rallying because of how things have been with COVID-19 this year, and last, is there.”

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