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by Brian & Liz Patterson

Last Weekend’s Nicky Grist Stages provided some frenetic action between Matt Edwards (Fiesta R5) and Tom Cave (Mitsubishi R5), with each driver scoring a fair number of fastest times through the classic dusty stages such as Crychan, Halfway and Route 60. Edwards, co-driven by Darren Garrod, came out on top to take victory. Cave may have been 2nd on stage times, but was not classified as a finisher, having ‘contravened a regulation’. This brought Luke Francis/John Roberts in their Fiesta WRC into 2nd and Rory Young/Alan Cathers into 3rd with their Fiesta R5. The speed of the top cars reflected the high level of competition amongst the BTRDA Championship front runners on this 4th round. Martin Cairns finished the stages 14th o/a but was not classified as a finisher as he had to rush off to catch the ferry home. Martin Laverty was a non finisher, his Fiesta N3 suffering a broken driveshaft. Another non finisher was Owen McMackin who retired his Escort in stage 6, but he has been enjoying a fair bit of success on the BTRDA.

This weekend coming there are two interesting events on the cards at home, the Down Rally and Imokilly. Being a round of the Protyre MSA Asphalt Championship, the Down Rally has attracted a fair few drivers whom we do not see here too often: No.1 seed Melvyn Evans springs to mind, as well as his fellow Welshman Jason Pritchard at 2 in his Focus WRC. David Bogie, Desi Henry and Jonny Greer are at 3, 4 & 5 in their respective R5s. Greer, whose family company Carryduff Forklift are sponsoring the rally, was to have driven at Goodwood last weekend in the new Citroen R5, but opted at the last minute to stay at home to help with the engine rebuild of his Fiesta R5 for this weekend.

Derek McGarrity, former multiple NI Rally Champion and current points leader of the McGrady Insurance NI series, rounds off the top half dozen seeds. Derek’s Impreza WRC is not quite ready since its Donegal Rally mishap and the Glengormley man reckons he could be in a Focus WRC on Saturday, or maybe a Fiesta. Derek feels that the first ‘proper’ stage is really tricky, with sudden tight corners, lots of crests and gravel. He thinks as well that Hamiltons Folly, the meat of the rally, will be a huge test and at high speeds the bumps and jumps will prove to be a handful. Behind Derek in the seeding are Peadar Hurson and Kenny McKinstry, both in WRCs. At 9 is current Protyre MSA Asphalt Championship leader Wayne Sisson in his Lancer EvoX, while top NI Championship contender, Alan Carmichael, rounds off the top ten. This is just a taster of what is a very significant 130 car entry, with competitors coming from as far way as France. The action starts with a spectator stage beside the Eikon service area at 08.30. There are two more spectator stages during the course of the day, interspersing the 8 closed road stages.

Meanwhile down at Imokilly Barry Meade and Jack Newman in their respective Escorts head a very decent 90 strong entry. Interestingly Owen Murphy has switched from his Skoda S2000, which has now gone to David Guest, and Owen drives the Lancer Evo X that he drove a few years ago and with it finished a brilliant 2nd o/a in West Cork. Owen plans to give Imokilly a real good go and reckons a drop of rain would do his chances no harm at all! Colin Byrne and David Condell round off the top six. Servicing this year will be in Midleton and there are two challenging stages on the menu, each one repeated three times, while there is a shakedown stage the night before the rally.

The following weekend the rally spotlight turns to Finland and the WRC event. Two drivers from here, Craig Breen and Callum Devine will be competing. Craig had a great shakedown with the Citroen team on Rally Estonia last weekend, able to adjust the car’s set up and still managed a top result. Ott Tanak in his works Toyota took victory on his home rally. Haydon Paddon finished 2nd in his Hyundai WRC. Breen seemed to be heading for 2nd place but an excursion into a field, and then a time penalty leaving service, relegated the Waterford man to 3rd. The stages were very similar in nature to Rally Finland so Craig’s 3 fastest stage times will have given him some encouragement.

Closer to home we have the Jim Walsh Cork Forestry and Clerk of the Course Paul Casey reports over 70 entries received so far for what is now a two day rally. There has been a lot of work put into the stages, which are in very good condition, so it should be a great weekend for the competitors.

Further news includes the announcement that the Sligo Stages, postponed twice over the fear of melted tar damage to the roads, will now run on a new date, Sunday 2nd September 2018. Almost certainly the overall schedule and stages for the event will otherwise remain the same.

On a different subject the ANICC has announced that the NI Rally Championship co-ordinator Denise McCanney is stepping down from her role. The ANICC Stage Rallies Specialist Committee wish to thank Denise for her time and efforts in 2017 & 2018.


2018 Patterson Agencies

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