Glengormley’s Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson have won the MJE Wheel Repair Specialists Tyrone Stages Rally, round seven of the McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship!
Driving their Skoda Fabia R5, the former champions bolstered their 2019 title bid with victory at the Cookstown Motor Club event by just two seconds from Monaghan’s Stephen Wright and Liam Moynihan.
There was plenty of drama throughout all 14 stages in what was a crucial point in the N.I. Rally Championship series. Five drivers entered the event with a chance of lifting the overall spoils at the end of the season but at the conclusion of the Tyrone Stages, those five have become three.
First to succumb were Banbridge’s Kenny McKinstry and Niall Burns. Their Fiesta R5 broke a steering rack, sending them off the road and into retirement on stage four.
Then Draperstown’s Derek and Mark McGeehan joined them at the sidelines when their Mini WRC developed some engine problems after the sixth stage. However, their championship hopes are still very much alive.
Amidst all the drama, Portglenone’s Desi Henry and Conor Mohan led the event in their Fiesta WRC. They were equal fastest on the opening stage with both Derek McGarrity and Stephen Wright before powering in front.
However, Henry seemed determined to make life difficult for himself and kept losing precious seconds with spins and overshoots. Eventually, it came to bite him hard and another spin on stage 10 saw him drop to fourth overall – a position that he was never destined to recover from.
That left Derek McGarrity and Stephen Wright battling for the lead as well as some vital championship points. Initially, it looked as though McGarrity was out of the hunt as he was on the receiving end of a penalty but that penalty was later scrapped, throwing him into the rally lead.
At that point, just a handful of seconds separated him and title rival Wright. Then Wright’s challenge suffered a blow when he came across a gate that had fallen down in the middle of the road. With a marshal waving a yellow flag, he slowed down before driving over the top of it, losing precious seconds that would later become vital in his bid for victory.
The final loop of stages saw him go on a massive attack but it wasn’t enough to snatch the rally win from McGarrity’s Fabia R5. In the end, it was McGarrity who secured the win by just two seconds from Wright!
“We’ve had a difficult year so it’s good to get the result,” McGarrity said. “Now I’m looking forward to the final round.”
Wright and navigator Moynihan were left rueing that incident with a gate. They raised the issue with the organisers but it was deemed that the results should stand as they are, leaving them in second overall.
Nonetheless, the result has done wonders for their Championship campaign and they now head the series standings going into November’s final round where their main rivals will be Derek McGarrity and Derek McGeehan.
Coming home in third overall, it was the second year in a row that Moira’s William Creighton and Liam Regan claimed a podium position at the event. The 21-year-old driver used the opening stages to settle into his Fiesta and once he got the hang of it, he was really on the pace towards the latter half of the rally, even managing to set some fastest stage times.
With Desi Henry and Conor Mohan in fourth with a decidedly second-hand looking front bumper and headlights, they also lost their outside hope of a 2019 N.I. Championship title. However, they managed to finish ahead of Castlederg’s Gareth Sayers and Gareth Gilchrist who sealed fifth despite some worrying overheating issues with their Fiesta.
Strabane’s Martin Cairns and Peter Ward had a couple of spins and overshoots but survived to tell the tale and completed the top six.
The two-wheel-drive category witnessed a day-long tit-for-tat battle between Antrim’s James and Heather Kennedy as well as Banbridge’s John Devlin and John McCarthy. However, it was Tyrone’s Barry Morris and Declan Campbell who sneaked in front of both drivers at the last gasp!
Morris lost time with a couple of spins during the day, leaving him languishing behind his rivals. But he managed to get his act together in the afternoon and an incredible drive over the final stage saw him jump ahead of both Kennedy and Devlin to take the category victory.
Until that point, it looked as though Kennedy was going to take the win after he created a cushion of eight seconds over Devlin with just the final two stages remaining. Then an engine problem on the start line of stage 13, which lasted until the end of the event, saw him lose copious amounts of time and he dropped behind both Devlin and Morris.
At that point, Devlin thought he was on course for victory, only got Morris to jump in front with some stunning times in his Darrian over the drying final stages.
In the end, Morris and navigator Declan Campbell won the category and finished seventh overall ahead of Devlin in eighth and Kennedy in ninth.
Championship sponsor, Belfast’s Fintan McGrady, completed the top 10 with Stephen Jess calling the notes. They were lucky to reach service after their propshaft broke during the afternoon and by pure chance they had a spare with them that let them arrive home with a top 10 position.
Stephen Wright, Derek McGeehan and Derek McGarrity all head to the final round with a chance of sealing the 2019 McGrady Insurance N.I. Rally Championship title. Hosted by Mid Antrim Motor Club, the Glens of Antrim Rally takes place on 9 November. For more information, visit www.nirallychampionship.com or www.facebook.com/nirallying.
Results (Top 10)
(Full results available from www.rallyscore.net.)
1 Derek McGarrity/Paddy Robinson (Fabia R5) 47m12s
2 Stephen Wright/Liam Moynihan (Fiesta R5) +2s
3 William Creighton/Liam Regan (Fiesta) +12s
4 Desi Henry/Conor Mohan (Fiesta WRC) +17s
5 Gareth Sayers/Gareth Gilchrist (Fiesta R5) ++55s
6 Martin Cairns/Peter Ward (Fiesta WRC) ++2m16s
7 Barry Morris/Declan Campbell (Darrian) +2m33s
8 John Devlin/John McCarthy (Escort MkII) +2m39s
9 James Kennedy/Heather Kennedy (Escort MkII) +2m47s
10 Fintan McGrady/Stephen Jess (Escort MkII) +3m41s