McGarrity's MINI Bishopscourt Victory!
Derek McGarrity and James McKee secured their second consecutive Carryduff Forklift MSA N.I. Rally Championship victory last weekend to extend their championship lead.
They secured a dominant win at the McGrady Insurance Stages, held at Bishopscourt Race Circuit. With a newly acquired MINI John Cooper Works WRC, the Glengormley driver led the event from start to finish, eventually securing the win by 51 seconds.
Coming home in second position, Kieron Graffin and Neil Doherty were pleased with the result in their ex-Petter Solberg Impreza WRC. Despite it being Graffin's first event in a World Rally Car since late 2010, he quickly became accustomed to WRC power.
Graffin initially trailed the MINI WRC belonging to Derek McGeehan and Laurie Smyth. McGeehan held second overall from the outset, but dropped some precious seconds to the hard charging Graffin during the fifth stage.
That left Graffin holding second going into the final test. Although McGeehan clawed back a few seconds, it was Graffin who sealed the runner-up position ahead of McGeehan, while John and Lesley McGaffin secured fourth in their Impreza WRC.
In the production category, David Graham and James McDermott impressed in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. Seeded at 34, Graham immediately took the category lead, leaving his rivals struggling to keep up. Graham went on to win the category and finish fifth overall.
Trevor Ferguson and David McElroy held second in Group N from the outset with their Impreza. They could have had a tough job holding off Jason Curran and Barbara Love, only the Evo 8 crew hit trouble near the start.
Curran received a 20 second penalty which dampened his charge. The crew dropped down the leaderboard, but fought back to eventually finish 12th overall and third in class, 21.6 seconds behind ninth placed Ferguson.
In the two-wheel-drive category, Rodney White and Sam McMullan were quickest out of the blocks. It was White's first event in the Sunbeam since a big accident towards the end of last year sidelined the car, but the Sunbeam was obviously back to full health with joint fifth fastest time (overall) on the opening stage.
Unfortunately for White, he later clipped a tyre which bent his steering. Combined with back troubles, he retired before the end of the rally.
Gary Price and Sharon McCarter were another crew in with a shout of victory but they also retired. Instead, James and Heather Kennedy powered through to take the spoils ahead of David Armstrong and Corin Giles, while event sponsor Fintan McGrady and Mark Hanna completed the top three two-wheel-drive crews.
The event also hosted the second round of the McGrady Insurance Junior 1000 Rally Challenge Ireland. 14-year-old Ben Crealey secured another convincing win aboard his Nissan Micra, with Kyle White second ahead of Rhys Bunting.
Attention now turns towards the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, which hosts round three of the Carryduff Forklift N.I. series. With a Superspecial stage set in Belfast's Titanic Quarter, as well as closed road stages elsewhere in the country, this year's event, which takes place over 6-7 April, will be a thriller. More details can be found online at www.nirally.com.
McGrady Insurance Stages Top 10
1 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (MINI WRC) 32m49.5s
2 Kieron Graffin/Neil Doherty (Impreza WRC) 33m40.5s
3 Derek McGeehan/Laurie Smyth (MINI WRC) 33m42.2s
4 John McGaffin/Lesley McGaffin (Impreza WRC) 33m56.6s
5 David Graham/James McDermott (Evo 9) 34m36.7s
6 James Kennedy/Heather Kennedy (Mark 2 Escort) 34m49.3s
7 Dominic McNeill/Tommy Speers (Evo WRC) 34m55.7s
8 David Armstrong/Corin Giles (Mark 2 Escort) 35m01.1s
9 Trevor Ferguson/David McElroy (Impreza) 35m07.8s
10 Fintan McGrady/Mark Hanna (Mark 2 Escort) 35m13.5s
Photograph: Derek McGarrity and James McKee in their MINI John Cooper Works WRC during round two of the Carryduff Forklift MSA N.I. Rally Championship, the McGrady Insurance Stages. Image may be used free of charge for editorial use with credit to the photographer, Jonathan MacDonald. Image may not be sold, resold or used for commercial purposes. Copyright remains with the photographer.