Derek McGarrity heads entry at favourite Bishopscourt Rally hunting ground
The McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship bursts back into action this weekend at County Down’s Bishopscourt Race Circuit!
Just two weeks after the opening round of the series concluded at Kirkistown where Stephen Wright claimed a last gasp win aboard his Ford Fiesta R5, crews are revving up to lock horns once again at Saturday’s McGrady Insurance Stages Rally.
This time the reigning champion, Derek McGarrity, is out to exact his revenge. He suffered a premature finish to his opening round challenge when a power-steering pipe melted after the finish of the penultimate stage.
Having led the event from the start, McGarrity was forced to the sidelines and his hopes of getting his 2019 campaign off on the right foot went up in smoke.
Fast-forward less than two weeks later and his Fiesta World Rally Car is back on full song with McGarrity eager to get to the Bishopscourt start line.
“The car is all sorted now,” McGarrity revealed. “We have new power steering pipes fitted and there was no other damage. Now I have to get a win to get back on track!”
The Glengormley driver is the undoubted favourite for victory this Saturday and his Bishopscourt record speaks for itself. He has won the event more than 10 times, including every year it has run since 2012, and set fastest times on every stage in 2018.
Stephen Wright will be among his main opposition on Saturday.
Having won the opening round of the series, the championship leader has been enticed to return for round two with his Fiesta R5 in a bid to bolster his points tally at the top of the tables.
Also in the hunt will be Derek and Mark McGeehan who claimed third at the opening round. The father and son Mini WRC crew are becoming accustomed to podium positions and won last year’s non-championship May Day Rally. Derek has been on the podium at Bishopscourt on multiple occasions in the past and will be keen to secure another.
Kenny McKinstry was the last man to break McGarrity’s Bishopscourt stranglehold but that was back in 2011. The former N.I. champion is set for another attempt in his Impreza WRC and will be putting last year’s engine troubles to the back of his mind.
Mark Massey made his Fiesta R5 debut at Kirkistown and was running inside the top five overall when a misfire forced him out of the rally. He joins the leading contenders at Bishopscourt while Sean Devine could be another one to watch now that he has a bit more experience of his Fiesta WRC.
Stuart Biggerstaff became the youngest ever Northern Ireland Rally Champion when he won the series in 2010. He hasn’t entered many events in recent years as work and family life have taken over but on his last outing at Bishopscourt in 2017, he was the only driver to claim a fastest time other than Derek McGarrity. Expect to see Biggerstaff among the top contenders.
Kevin Barrett, George Robinson and Nigel Feeney complete the leading World Rally Car entrants in what is another very strong top 10 entry.
There is an equally strong two-wheel drive contingent with James Kennedy, John Devlin, Paul Barrett, Drew Stewart and Kyle White among the main contenders. Even 2017 champion, Jonny Greer, has opted to join the 2WD brigade on this occasion with a Toyota GT86!
More information is available from www.nirallychampionship.com.