Carryduff’s Jonny Greer and co-driver Darragh Mullen secured victory at today’s Race & Rally Stages, round two of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship!
Held at County Down’s Bishopscourt Race Circuit and organised by Ballynahinch and District Motor Club, Greer dominated the six-stage event from start to finish. He was inch-perfect through the morning’s slippery conditions, quickly building up a sizeable advantage and catching his rivals on the hop.
In the space of two stages, he had amassed a lead of more than 20 seconds – a huge margin on the single venue event. From there, he managed his lead and with the sun shining, Greer powered home in his Citroen C3 to eventually win by 31.1 seconds and claim another maximum points haul in his bid for 2022 Championship spoils.
“It was a brilliant day,” Greer said. “The car was faultless and was really well suited to the event. We kept it clean and everything went to plan.”
In the battle for second overall, Derek McGarrity and Graham Henderson held an early second in their Skoda until a stage two overshoot cost them around 10 seconds. Aaron McLaughlin and Darren Curran also hit trouble with a puncture and a broken rim, while Darren Gass and Sam Hutchinson were already out of contention after they spun and stalled on stage one.
That left McGarrity and McLaughlin battling for the runner-up spot. McLaughlin quickly recovered from his puncture and moved into second after stage three. McGarrity tried hard to fight back but in the drying conditions, McLaughlin had the edge in his Fiesta WRC. He was really enjoying himself and an attempt to secure the fastest time on the final stage saw him come to within one-tenth of a second of rally winner Greer.
“He’s a machine!” McLaughlin said of the rally winner. “I was really hoping for a fastest stage time. I just wish we had started the day as good as we finished it!”
Derek McGarrity and Graham Henderson had to be content with third overall in their Skoda. Their stage two overshoot potentially cost them a position but they still secured an armful of points for their McGrady Insurance NI Championship campaign.
“It was a silly mistake on the second stage,” McGarrity said. “Then we had a small misfire on the last stage but it is what it is.”
Joe McGonigle and Ciaran Geaney clipped a bale and damaged the front wing of their Fiesta on stage two but they survived to tell the tale. Seventh after the test, they climbed back up the order to secure fourth overall ahead of Joe and Ashleen Hegarty, who were lucky to escape a high-speed spin on stage four.
“We were using new tyres and the car broke away from me at high speed,” Hegarty explained. “We went over a few trackside tyres and ended up on the grass.”
Darren Gass and Sam Hutchinson would have been in the mix too but they took a wrong route on stage five and were handed a stage maximum. Instead, Michael McGarrity and Damien Garvey were overjoyed to claim sixth overall in their Fiesta. They lost time when a boost pipe came adrift and also struggled with some braking issues during the closing miles but were full of smiles at the finish.
Also in a Fiesta, David Kelly and Dean O’Sullivan finished seventh ahead of Mark Massey and Alistair Wyllie. Massey was lucky to escape with some superficial bodywork damage after a stage five altercation with some trackside stage furniture so a top eight finish was a good result for the crew.
Emma McKinstry and Kenny Hull lost time with some intercom issues but finished ninth while Robert Erwin and Andrew Wilson completed the top 10 and secured the two-wheel-drive honours in the process.
In the two-wheel-drive category, a titanic battle developed between a number of crews. James and Heather Kennedy were quickest out of the blocks, closely followed by Andrew White and Paul Hughes. Then White lost ground with an overshoot, leaving Kennedy to fend off a challenge from Robert Erwin and Andrew Wilson.
As the track conditions improved, Erwin started to pile the pressure on the Kennedys who were suffering with a down-on-power engine. The chasing Toyota MR2 crew moved in front after the fifth test and another strong run over the final stage sealed the category win as well as 10th overall.
James and Heather Kennedy had to settle for second on this occasion as well as 11th overall, with Matthew McGaffin and Ryan Lowry coming home third in class.
Next Event & Rally Social Night
The McGrady Insurance NI Rally Championship now has a two-month break before the Maiden City Stages on 21 May. In the interim period, a Rally Social Night is being held at the Millbrook Lodge Hotel on Friday 25 March. The evening includes a rally show featuring competitor interviews, live music, the 2021 Championship awards presentation and other entertainment.
All rally fans are encouraged to attend. Tickets are free (or £10 with a meal) and are available from rallyscore.net. For more information, see nirallychampionship.com.
Results (Top 10)
1 Jonathan Greer/Darragh Mullen [Citroen C3 Rally 2] 41m02.3s
2 Aaron McLaughlin/Darren Curran [Ford Fiesta WRC] +31.1
3 Derek McGarrity/Graham Henderson [Skoda Fabia R5 Evo] +39.4s
4 Joseph McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney [Ford Fiesta Rally 2] +1m00.9s
5 Joe Hegarty/Ashleen Hegarty [Ford Fiesta R5] +1m49.0s
6 Michael McGarrity/Damien Garvey [Ford Fiesta R5 Plus] +1m56.7s
7 David Kelly/Dean O Sullivan [Ford Fiesta] +2m11.1s
8 Mark Massey/Alistair Wylie [Ford Fiesta] +2m16.8s
9 Emma McKinstry/Kenny Hull [Ford Fiesta R5] +2m16.9s
10 Robert Erwin/Andrew Wilson [Toyota MR2] +3m14.5s
Full results are available from rallyscore.net.
Words: JONATHAN MACDONALD / NI RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY
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