The tussle for the McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship crown resumes this Saturday (19 October) at the Benone based Tyrone Stages Rally!
In what must be one of the closest-fought N.I. Championship battles for years, all of the main championship contenders have entered the Cookstown Motor Club event with Draperstown’s Derek McGeehan, Monaghan’s Stephen Wright, Glengormley’s Derek McGarrity and Portglenone’s Desi Henry ready to lock horns at what is the penultimate round of the series!
The MJE Wheel Repair backed rally could be pivotal in the outcome of the title race. Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC) has led the championship since March’s Bishopscourt Stages thanks to a string of solid results but that could all change on Saturday…
McGeehan is the only driver among the main contenders to have scored on every round but when championship regulations come into effect, which state that competitors can only count their best six scores from all eight rallies, the battle will become even tighter.
As it stands, McGeehan tops the championship tables by 21 points from Stephen Wright (Fiesta R5) who has won two rallies this year. However, Wright has only scored on five events so far, as opposed to McGeehan’s six, so another strong result in Benone could potentially see Wright move to the top of the tables.
Reigning champion Derek McGarrity, who plans to switch to a Skoda Fabia R5 this weekend, is also in the mix but another non-finish would permanently scupper his 2019 title aspirations. He retired his Impreza WRC with mechanical trouble while leading the opening round at Kirkistown and another retirement at the September’s Lakeland Stages really thwarted his hopes.
Meanwhile, Desi Henry (Fiesta WRC) is probably the outsider among the quartet. He joined the series late in the year and although he won all three rallies that he has contested to date, he could struggle to gather enough points if his rivals continue to score strongly at either of the final two events.
It’s not all about the big guns! There will be plenty of action throughout the classes with a fantastic array of four-wheel-drive and two-wheel-drive machinery…
Antrim’s Drew Stewart and James Kennedy, who is also from Antrim, will reignite their battle for the 2WD category crown as the Escort MkII drivers ready themselves to go head-to-head once again. And in the Group N title chase, Beragh’s Adam Vance (Civic Type R) could make tracks to the top of the standings as his main rival, Balycastle’s Colm McFall, hasn’t entered the rally.
Moira’s Kyle White is another driver who has opted not to enter the event but he’s the first champion of the year after he put the class four title beyond reach of his rivals at round six’s Bushwhacker Rally. Meanwhile, in the Historic category, Saintfield’s Drew Wylie and Armoy’s John Adams will lock horns once again with their pristine historic specification Escorts.
Saturday’s rally will be based in the Benone Tourist Complex. Competitors will tackle a total of 14 tarmac stages with the first stage due to start shortly after 10.20am. The champagne finish will take place around 5.40pm. For more information, visit nirallychampionship.com. Results will be available from rallyscore.net and mid-event reports will be posted online throughout the day at fb.com/nirallying.