Rallying returns to Northern Ireland with top class Bishopscourt Rally entry

Rallying returns to Northern Ireland this weekend with the opening round of the McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 6:02 am

Based just outside Downpatrick at Bishopscourt Race Circuit, the Bishopscourt Stages Rally is also sponsored by McGrady Insurance and has attracted a full capacity entry of 100 crews.

The event marks the first stage rally to be held in Northern Ireland since the pandemic was declared last year.

Spectators will not be permitted into the venue on this occasion but fans can follow regular updates via the Championship’s website and social media.

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The McGrady Insurance Stages, organised by Ballynahinch & District Motor Club, will host the opening round at Bishopscourt Race Circuit on 19 June. (Photographer: William Neill.)
The McGrady Insurance Stages, organised by Ballynahinch & District Motor Club, will host the opening round at Bishopscourt Race Circuit on 19 June. (Photographer: William Neill.)

Ballynahinch and District Motor Club has organised six stages with Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson leading the field off start ramp in their Ford Focus WRC.

Bishopscourt is one of the Glengormley driver’s favourite hunting grounds. He has numerous wins to his credit, the most recent being in March 2020 at what was the last rally to be successfully held in Northern Ireland.

Stiff opposition will come from a host of top-line World Rally Car and R5 specification crews.

The top 10 is filled with high-specification machinery and taking the fight to eight times N.I. Champion McGarrity will be a number of former champions.

Reigning (2019) Champion Stephen Wright, Jonny Greer (2017 Champion), Stuart Biggerstaff (2010 Champion) and Kenny McKinstry (1988, 1989, 2011 Champion) are all among the main contenders.

Greer and Kirsty Riddick start the event at number 2 in their Citroen C3 R5 while Wright and Liam Moynihan are at number 4 with their Ford Fiesta R5.

Sandwiched between the two is Portglenone’s Desi and Mark Henry in a Hyundai i20 R5, and former Irish National Champion, Peadar Hurson, is gearing up to mount an attack with Damien Connolly and his Fiesta WRC at number 5.

Stuart Biggerstaff and Chris Nelson return to the fray with a Fiesta R5 hired from McKinstry Motorsport; the same car that Biggerstaff used to win the Ulster National Rally in 2019.

Kenny McKinstry and Dean McDowell are at number 7 in their Impreza, followed by a pair of Fiestas driven by Kieron Graffin/Amy Graffin and Sean Devine/Paul Ward.

Donal Sweeney was seeded at 10 but he has withdrawn his entry, as have a number of other drivers.

That has allowed a few competitors on the reserve list to get a run, including Philip Allen and Ian Dickson in their Hyundai i20 R5.

Notably, Derek and Mark McGeehan are also on the reserve list, waiting patiently to see if they can bring their Mini WRC into the fray this weekend.

The event features a host of potent two-wheel-drive crews. From Darrians to Escorts, BMWs and more, the category will be hotly contested between a number of crews.

Barry Morris and Dylan Doonan are the favourites in their Darrian T90 GTR+. Seeded at 14, the crew will be one to watch and might even give some of the four-wheel-drive machinery a run for their money, especially if it’s a dry day.

Fighting them for the spoils will be Damian Toner (Escort MkII), Marty Toner (BMW 1M), John Devlin (Escort), event sponsor Fintan McGrady (Escort) and former 2WD Champions, James and Heather Kennedy in their Escort MkII.