An impressive high-quality entry of more than 100 crews has been received for this Saturday’s Trailer Parts & Spares Lakeland Stages Rally, round five of the McGrady Insurance N.I. Rally Championship!
Based from the former Grosvenor Barracks site in Enniskillen, the stunning line-up of high-powered crews are set to commence battle over some of County Fermanagh’s finest forestry stages in what is the first gravel event of the season for the N.I. Championship contenders.
Organised by Enniskillen Motor Club, the event is also a counting round of the Valvoline Irish Forestry series and such is the quality of entry that the N.I Championship leaders, Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson, are seeded at number four in a Ford Focus WRC.
“It’s a different car to the one we used at the Down Rally but it’s the same specification,” McGarrity explained. “It’s an ex-works 2007 Focus that was originally used by Toni Gardemeister.”
A strong result on the event could potentially see McGarrity secure an eighth McGrady Insurance N.I. Rally Championship title with two rounds to spare.
“I’m looking forward to the event,” he added. “It’ll be my first gravel rally in a year and there’s a fantastic entry!”
That fantastic entry includes last year’s Lakeland Stages Rally winners, Josh Moffett and Stephen Thornton. They start at number one ahead of New York based Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan.
Despite residing in America, McKenna has been keeping match fit and recently won Scotland’s Granite City Rally before jetting back across the Atlantic. He’s due to catch another transatlantic flight this week ahead of the Lakeland Stages where he hopes to take another step towards the Irish Forestry title.
However, not only will Josh Moffett be planning to stop him in his tracks but so will number three seeds Andrew Purcell and Mark Wiley. All three crews are in Ford Fiestas and are embroiled in a battle for the Irish Forestry Championship spoils.
In fact, in terms of the McGrady Insurance N.I. Championship crews, you have to look down the entry list to number 14 to find Derek McGarrity’s main rivals, Alan Carmichael and Ivor Lamont. They currently hold second in the series standings in their Mini WRC.
Retirement at round two followed by Carmichael opting to miss round three really put their challenge on the back foot. However, there’s still a mathematical chance for the crew to mount a comeback in the latter half of the season but the Lakeland could prove to be a key event.
Other notable entries include Adrian Hetherington (Corolla WRC), Cathan McCourt (Ford Fiesta), Stephen McCann (Ford Fiesta), Patrick O’Brien (Mitsubishi Lancer) and former N.I. Champion, Kenny McKinstry, who submitted a late entry in his Subaru Impreza WRC.
The rally could also prove to be pivotal in the tussle for the N.I. Championship two-wheel drive spoils. James Kennedy, Barry Morris and Oran Donnelly will be among the main contenders as they rub shoulders with the Irish Forestry regulars. And for the N.I. Championship Junior crews, the winner of a free entry to the World Rally Championship’s Wales Rally GB (4-7 October) will be decided this weekend.
The first crew will leave the start ramp at the former Grosvenor Barracks site in Enniskillen shortly after 10.30am on Saturday. A total of six stages are on the agenda with competitors tackling three tests before returning to service from approximately 12.40pm.
Another three stages will be completed in the afternoon and the leading crews will return to the rally base shortly before 4pm. Log on to www.nirallychampionship.com or fb.com/nirallying for updates throughout the event.
Lakeland Stages Rally 2018 (Top 20 Entries)
1 Josh Moffett/Stephen Thornton (Ford Fiesta R5)
2 Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan (Ford Fiesta R5)
3 Andrew Purcell/Mark Wiley (Ford Fiesta R5)
4 Derek McGarrity/Paddy Robinson (Ford Focus WRC)
5 Adrian Hetherington/Gary Nolan (Toyota Corolla WRC)
6 Cathan McCourt/Barry McNulty (Ford Fiesta R5)
7 Stephen McCann/Kaine Treanor (Ford Fiesta R5)
8 Patrick O’Brien/Stephen O’Brien (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo)
9 Vivian Hamill/Andrew Grennan (Ford Fiesta R5)
10 Alan Smyth/Mac Kierans (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X)
11 Martin Cairns/Peter Ward (Ford Fiesta WRC)
12 Niall Henry/Damien Duffin (Citroen DS3 R5)
14 Alan Carmichael/Ivor Lamont (Mini WRC)
15 Matthew Cathcart/Humphrey Plunkett (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8)
16 Pauric Sheridan/Sean Brunton (Ford Fiesta)
17 Conor McCourt/Caolan McKenna (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9)
18 Niall Devine/Crawford Henderson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo)
19 Marty McKenna/Aaron Johnston (Ford Fiesta WRC)
20 Michael Carbin/Conor Mohan (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4)
(Rally HQ / service venue / start & finish venue: Grosvenor Barracks, Coleshill Road, Enniskillen)