Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Emma McKinstry


Kenny and Emma McKinstry

Emma McKinstry is a second-generation Northern Irish driver, a daughter of Kenny McKinstry. She is the only female McKinstry to compete seriously in motorsport, although her sister, Susan, has navigated for their father.

Her usual car is a Subaru Impreza, and her favoured surface seems to be Tarmac. She has driven in a variety of Irish and UK events, including the WRC Rally Ireland.

Her earliest rallying experience was co-driving for her father in the 2002 Lurgan Park Rally. The car was a Subaru Impreza WRC, and they were second overall.

Before the Impreza, the first car she drove herself in competition was a Peugeot 106. She used this car in both stage rallies and club hillclimbs. Her first major event, the International Ulster Rally, ended in retirement, but she was not put off, and returned the following year, to finish 24th, and third in class. She also finished the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally, in 58th place.

For 2005, she had a new car, a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI. She handled the hike in power well, and captured her first top-twenty finish, an eighteenth place in the Kirkistown Eurocables Stages. Later in the season, she was 20th in the Galloway Hills event, and in between, she drove in her first Rally of Ireland. She acquitted herself well against an international field of drivers, and was 24th overall, out of 43 entries.

2006 was Emma’s busiest rallying year yet. Encouraged by her Rally of Ireland finish, and with some god sponsors behind her, she entered the British National Championship, and crossed over to mainland Britain for the first time. In Scotland in March, she was fourteenth in the Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally, and fifteenth in the Ulster International Rally. Her usual car this year was the Mitsubishi, but the Ulster rally was her first outing in a Subaru Impreza, meaning that she joined a very elite group of female drivers who have rallied WRC cars in anger. Back in the Lancer, she was eleventh in the Park Systems National Stages, and tenth in the Moonraker Forestry Rally, another visit to the Republic of Ireland, a first top ten, and proof that she could cut in on gravel as well as tarmac. She had started the year with her second Rally of Ireland, and was 21st overall, in the Lancer.

She adopted the Impreza, run by McKinstry Motorsport, full-time in 2007. Her competition programme took in rallies in both parts of Ireland. She achieved three top-ten finishes, all on gravel this year: ninth in the Limerick Forestry Rally, sixth in the Cork Forestry Rally, and sixth in the Killarney Forestry Rally. She was just outside the top ten in the Lurgan Park Rally, in eleventh. Her third Rally of Ireland, running this year as a World Championship round, gave her a 35th place.

Gravel was her preferred surface in 2008, and the top ten finishes continued. She was sixth in the Limerick Forestry Rally. Sadly, mechanical problems put her out of the Ulster Rally. The Impreza, in the hands of works Subaru WRC drivers, has always been more of a gravel car.

2009 was mainly spent on tarmac again. Her best result was sixth again, achieved at both Kirkistown and Bishopscourt. This year, she was Northern Ireland’s top female driver.

It was a much quieter year for Emma in 2010, with not much in the way of modern stage rallying. She did get out in historic competition, however, driving a Sunbeam Avenger. This was her first experience of driving a historic rally car, although she had navigated for her father in a MkII Escort previously. She entered the Circuit of Ireland, an event she had previously taken part in in modern machinery.

In 2011, she won the McKinstry Motorsport Rally Time Trial, driving an Impreza. This was her first outright win. Her season in the Northern Irish championship had several other highlights, including a fourth place in the Kirkistown Stages, seventh in the New Year and Lurgan Park rallies, and eighth in the Bishopscourt Stages.

In 2012, she was ninth in the McKinstry Time Trial, in an Impreza. This was another rather quiet season, with a ninth spot in the Hankook Down Rally as a highlight.

She was quite successful in 2013, with a fourth, fifth and ninth overall in Irish rallies. The ninth place came in the Ulster Rally, her highest finish in this particular event. For the Turkey Run Tarmac Stages, she stepped away from the Impreza, and drove a Proton Compact instead, but did not finish.

Her best 2014 finish was fourth, in the Winter Stages Rally. She was also sixth in the McGrady Insurance Bishopscourt Stages, and seventh in the Lurgan Park Rally, all in the Impreza. This was enough for tenth place in the Northern Irish championship, and another Northern Ireland Ladies’ award.

Emma continued to rally in 2015, although she was not officially contesting any championships. Her best result was fourth, in the New Year Stages Rally, a regular part of her rallying calendar. She was also seventh in the Kirkistown Stages Rally.

She rallied two different Imprezas in 2016. Starting with her previous '01 model, she was fifth in the Pacenotes Rally Magazine Stages Rally, the first round of the Northern Irish championship. In the summer, she rallied her father's '08 Impreza WRC, and was immediately third in the Tyrone Stages, another asphalt rally. She also won her class. In October, she had another outing in the '08 car, and was thirteenth in the Down Rally. 

(Image copyright William Neill)

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