Derek McGarrity extends title advantage after fifth win

Antrim’s Derek McGarrity has secured his fifth Tour of Sperrins Rally win to extend his lead in the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship.

Co-driven by Tralee’s Diarmuid Falvey, he brought his S14 Subaru WRC to a 14.5 seconds victory over fellow Antrim driver Desi Henry in a S9 Subaru WRC. Henry was co-driven by Millstreet’s Liam Moynihan. Derek McGeehan/Arthur Kierans (Mini WRC) were third.

Extricating a 4.5 second advantage from the opening stage McGarrity quickly set the pace with McGeehan second quickest. Henry —worried by an oil leak — was 1.5 seconds further behind. Although Henry slotted into second — 6.4 seconds behind McGarrity after S. S. 2, he admitted he could not extricate anymore from the S9 Subaru. McGeehan felt he was somewhat cautious on the stage and Paddy McVeigh (Subaru WRC) endured a moment.

As the event progressed McGarrity consolidated his lead but another spin for PJ McDermott (Subaru WRC) was enough to make up his mind to withdraw at the stage finish. Henry, disappointed with his performance, was 12.2 seconds behind the rally leader in a top four that also included McGeehan and Marty McCormack (Skoda) with Scotland’s David Bogie in his Fiesta R5 holding fifth.

Elsewhere, Frank Kelly (Escort) was lucky to survive unscathed after landing awkwardly over a big jump, nevertheless, he led the two-wheel drive category.

Henry did manage to post a fastest stage time (S.S. 5) —both he and McGarrity had a moment on an oil patch. Kelly gave a more subdued performance through S.S. 5 after his Escort punctured on the road section and he had to change the wheel — and the replacement was not of the same tyre compound. McGarrity went onto claim victory and score anther batch of maximum points in the NI series.

“We had no real problems, maybe just over-cautious on tyre choice on the final tests,” McCarrity said. “The stages were very enjoyable, great driving stages, you really had to commit to them, it was no easy day as Desi was never too far behind.”

Following a run of non-finishes, second-placed Henry was pleased to have secured a good result. McGeehan managed to hold off McCormack for third spot but McVeigh lost out when he stalled on the final stage and he had to be content with fifthh. Kelly won the two-wheel drive category.

In the Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales series, Kesh driver Jon Armstrong (Peugeot 208 R2) finished 16 seconds ahead of Killarney’s Rob Duggan (Fiesta R2).

Yesterday, the Carlow Rally resulted in a final stage victory for Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson, who edged out the Subaru WRC of Steve Wood by a tenth of a second. Donegal’s Declan Gallagher on his first competitive outing in a Mk. 2 Ford Escort was 7.9 seconds further behind in third. Top seed James Belton retired his Fiesta S2000 with driveshaft failure. The Manx National Rally was won by Jason Pritchard (Ford Focus) after long time leader Paul Bird (Ford Focus WRC) was forced to retire when he couldn’t remove a wheel nut to change a punctured wheel.

Meanwhile, in the British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton, there were wins for Gordon Shedden (Honda), Jason Plato (Volkswagen CC) and Adam Morgan (Mercedes).

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