While standing in the quagmire of Kirkistown Racing Circuit with wind blowing a gale and temperatures firmly in single figures, the distinct sound of launch control and anti-lag signalled the start of a new motorsport season on Saturday 27 January…
The Co. Down venue has played host to the New Year Stages Rally for as long as I can remember. In fact, it was the event that popped my navigating ‘cherry’ around a decade ago when I navigated John McGlaughlin to Group N victory in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9.
But enough reminiscing of the good old days!
This year’s rally attracted more than 50 entries, something that came as a surprise. Rallying has been struggling in recent years as the governing body ‘MSA UK’ has taken increased health and safety measures as a result of a couple of fatal accidents in the UK. This has resulted in added costs for all involved as well as increased restrictions on media personnel at events.
This year’s event had a few surprises such as Philip Allen in an R5 Ford Fiesta. Could this be an inkling to a BRC or ITC campaign from the relative newcomer? Philip’s late father had much success within the sport locally so I do hope Philip goes on to bigger and better things. His results to date show much promise.
Mark Massey is another name on the entry list that rings a bell for achieving some silverware in the past within the Group N category and despite being entered in the R5 class for Saturday’s event, he turned up with a heavy hitter in the form of a McKinstry Motorsport S14 Impreza World Rally Car.
Having read about a rather special Ford Fiesta running a Millington and all-wheel-drive setup in ‘Pacenotes Rally Mag’ recently, I was keen to see this machine in action with Alan Atcheson at the helm whilst Marty Toner in his Sunbeam always keeps the spectators entertained no matter where he competes.
Derek McGarrity was first off the line and he soon found out just how slippery this event was set to be. Not surprising though when you consider the weather we have been having lately, along with the fact the track doesn’t see much action over winter meaning no rubber is laid and the tar doesn’t get cleaned with use.
An exceptionally flamboyant McGarrity not only looked sharp through the first stage but took a commanding seven-second lead through the short test ahead of Massey with Allen in his new Fiesta hot on the Subaru’s heels.
Stage two was a bit tighter between the top three with McGarrity taking five seconds from Allen who managed to finish the stage two seconds ahead of Massey. The next two stages were to see McGarrity append 11 seconds to his lead whilst Paddy McVeigh, in an aging S12B Impreza, started to trouble Allen and Massey.
Heading into the final two stages, it was going to take a major fault in the car for McGarrity to hand over his win so all eyes were focussed on the battle for second and third. Massey took a stage win followed by Allen claiming a stage win. At the end, just one-second split the two drivers with Massey nabbing second overall.
Outside the podium was another trio battling hard in the guise of old-hand Kenny McKinstry, Paddy McVeigh and Kevin Barrett, all in Subaru Imprezas and all who finished the rally with a mere 30 seconds between them.
Trevor McConnell proved to be the hero of stage one in his Subaru Impreza with a driving style on the gravel sections akin to that of the late, great, Colin McRae whilst the Atcheson Fiesta was very impressive looking.
Jamie Grant in his Toyota Starlet was going very well as was Stephen Smith in his Honda Civic and it was poignant to see the former Neil McCance Evo 9 taking part with Darren McKelvey in the hot seat. Neil entered his final event at this circuit before his untimely death.
Top 5 Overall:
- Derek McGarrity | Paddy Robinson – 27:29.5
- Mark Massey | Nial Burns – 27:52.9
- Phillip Allen | Martin Connelly – 27:53.9
- Kenny McKinstry | Eathan McColgan – 28:14.7
- Paddy McVeigh | Gary McElhinney – 28:38.3
Class 2 – James Laverty | Paul Hughes – 29:03.1
Class 3 – Ronnie McConnell | Rachel McConnell – 33:22.8
Class 4 – Kyle White | Sean Topping – 29:23.7
Class 5 – Jamie Grant | Raymond Coulter – Raymond Coulter – 30:03.1
Class 6 – Barry Morris | Declan Campbell – 29:08.4
Class 8 – Alan Atcheson | Mickey Conlon – 29:03.4
Class 9 – Derek McGarrity | Paddy Robinson – 27:29.5
Class 10 – Phillip Allen | Martin Connelly – 27:53.9
Class 11 – Olivia Coulter | Jonathon Chambers – 34:32.3
Words and Photos: Graham Curry
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