SEVEN-TIME Northern Ireland Rally champion Derek McGarrity with co-driver Nigel Magee in their Ford Fiesta WRC took a superb 24 second victory in the McGrady Insurance Stages Rally at Bishopscourt on Saturday.
The Glengormley driver, debuting a new striking blue Fiesta WRC, led from the first slippery stage and as conditions dried out for the two final anti-clockwise stage he always looked in control, taking five of the six fastest stage times.
Derek McGeehan’s second place with the Mini WRC looked much less certain as had a titanic tussle with Stuart Biggerstaff in the S9 Impreza WRC.
It was McGeehan who took charge over the opening two tests, but the new lay-out on stage three, and Stuart re-acclimatising to his Subaru, the Kinallen driver took over second place briefly with a superb fastest time. However, Derek replied on stage four taking back the place and the 1600 Mini held off the older two-litre Subaru by just 3.8 seconds.
Kenny McKinstry had his nephew Jack on his first rally in the co-driver’s seat. This time the Banbridge engineer had a more modern right hand drive S14 Impreza WRC and he made a solid start in fifth before snatching fourth from Peader Hurson on stage four — a position Kenny was to maintain.
Fifth at the finish was Alan Carmichael in the Mini WRC.
He was an excellent third on stage one, but stage two provided the dramas, ping him to ninth before charging back to fifth, just six seconds ahead of Peader Hurson in sixth.
Taking seventh on the final stage was Saintfield’s Mark Massey in a new Group A Subaru, just 2.8 seconds in front of Dromore’s Kyle Orr, who was also debuting a new machine the unique Fiesta 4X4 Proto.
Ninth and first in Group N was Phillip Morrow, the Lancer dropping down from eighth as conditions dried up and favoured the more powerful cars. Group N winner on round one, Philip Allen had his Evo 10 in his dad’s old colours, but he was forced out after stage four, but not before setting a fastest Group N time on the third test.
Finishing second and third in Group N were the Evos of Geoff McMahon and Clive Kilpatrick, separated by just four seconds.
Two-wheel drive winner in a fine tenth overall was James Kennedy with wife Heather alongside in their 2.0 MK2 Escort. The Antrim pair climbed from 15th to tenth during the day.
Kyle White finished second in the same category in his Peugeot 208 R2, despite an early misfire, and the novel Toyota MR2 of Robert Erwin was a close third.
One of the hard luck stories of the rally belonged to James Leckey jnr who rolled his modified Peugeot 106 out of the event on the final corner whilst challenging Kyle White for second and the 1600 class.
Another hard luck story was Colin Price’s retirement from the class three lead on the final stage with a broken drive-shaft on the Vauxhall Corsa.
Niall Henry with his Evo 10 made up for his first round retirement with an 11th place overall finish, whilst championship sponsor Fintan McGrady was delighted with fourteenth and a class seven victory.
Round three of the McGrady Insurance series will be an exciting new closed road event held by the Mid Antrim Motor Club on May 6.
The fourth round of the 2017 McGrady Insurance ANICC Junior 1000 Rally Challenge Ireland, in association with www.rallysales.eu also took place at Bishopscourt for the Ballynahinch Motor Club’s McGrady Insurance Stages event.
Five junior 1000 crews lined up for the six stage event, as the 14-17 year old rally stars of the future took to the expanses of the County Down race-circuit for nearly 40 miles of special stage.
Making another return to the series, before he is old enough to compete in his R2 Skoda Fabia, was Loughgall’s Peter Bennett.
The 16 year-old, who was runner-up in last year’s series, had once again borrowed a Nissan Micra and proved to be the class of the field, but elected again not to score points.
He was fastest on the first slippery stage, despite a half spin, ending the test only 0.9 of a second faster than 15 year-old Sam Adams who was on his first ever visit to Bishopscourt.
On stage two Bennett was eight seconds faster, but he ended it with a tattered Micra after over-cooking the braking into the chicane on the main straight and ploughing into the tyres.
It was battered but not broken, as Peter powered to some seriously fast stage times in the afternoon to take a convincing win, proving the fact that one of the lower budget Nissan Micras is still capable of winning the Junior 1000 rallies.