Aaron McLaughlin is swapping his Fiesta R5 for a WRC version. Picture: Philip Stewart

Irishman Aaron McLaughlin admits he will be “delighted” if he can successfully defend his Turkey Run Rally crown tomorrow.

McLaughlin won the event when it was last held in 2019; the changing rules around COVID meant last December’s event couldn’t go ahead.

With competitors being starved of action for the first six months of this season, many are keen to try and make up for lost time.

A capacity entry has been secured for the end of season event – which is promoted by Maiden City Motor Club – with McLaughlin one of six names that stand a real chance of bagging top spot.

Competition will come in the form of Desi Henry – a winner around the former RAF airbase back in August – as well as eight-time Northern Ireland Rally champion Derek McGarrity, and Cathan McCourt, who has focussed his efforts on the FIA European Rally Championship in 2021.

To maximise his chances, McLaughlin has parked up the Ford Fiesta R5 that carried him to victory in 2019 for a more powerful – and quicker – Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car he sourced from Barbados-based Jeffrey Panton.  

“If we win this time, we will have beaten some of the best cars and the best drivers in Ireland, definitely,” he said. “We will be in a World Rally Car this time, which is going to be totally different to the R5 we are so used to.

“I know it’s a much more aggressive, much more responsive car and that will benefit me if it is dry – but it will he hard work in the wet. It’s the risk you take I suppose.

“We are heading back to the Turkey Run Rally to win it,” he continued, “but as we found out at the Dog Leap back in the summer, the competition around Shackleton is getting stiffer all the time as the number of World Rally and R5 cars keeps on growing.”

Given the short, sharp nature of the five stages that make up tomorrow’s meeting, McLaughlin admits a strong start is going to be imperative. “I know that I need to be on it from the very first stage,” he said.

“There’s just not the time to settle in and get comfortable. I think the key difference is going to be the tyres. If we can choose wisely and can get them working in the cooler temperatures then we should be OK.”

Spectators will be allowed to attend the Turkey Run Rally, which is scheduled to get underway around 9.15am. Admission is £10 per car, with all monies raised going to support charities operating in the local area.

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