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by Brian & Liz Patterson

Last weekend’s Maiden City MC Dogleap Rally at Ballykelly provided Barry Morris/Declan Campbell in their Darrian with a well deserved victory despite it being the crew’s first time in the car. Although second placed Joe McGonigle/Patrick Brides in their McGeehan Mini WRC lost a few seconds when they caught another car, the 15 second winning margin by Dungannon man Morris would suggest that Joe wasn’t going to close the gap anyway. Muff man Joe, a previous winner at Shackleton, wasn’t too downhearted as his main aim last Saturday was to get warmed up for this weekend’s National Championship Stonethrowers. Joe said that on one stage he “drove on the door handles, banging the car off chicanes, but knew I couldn’t do anything about the Darrian!” Damien Tourish/Rodney Stewart upheld Mk2 Escort honours by taking 3rd o/a, with John Bonner/Kayleigh Bonner in a similar car 14 seconds in arrears. Darren McKelvey/Aaron Johnston took 5th in their Lancer and Mark Massey/Niall Burns (Focus WRC) rounded off the top half dozen.

Alan McGeehan, another previous winner, co-driven this time by Arthur Kierans, was back behind the wheel following a four month lay-off with a hurt back, and Alan brought his Mini WRC into 8th. Donegal’s Kyle McBride/Darren Curran won the Junior 1000 section, while Magherafelt’s Marcus McElwee,with John Henderson co-driving in his Citroen C1, did enough to take the Championship title. Several of the Juniors made the overnight trip to the Solway Coast Junior Rally which was the final round of the NI Junior Championship on the Sunday but with mixed results! It did not affect the NI Junior Championship.

Alistair Wylie also made the trip to the Solway Coast and finished a fine second co-driving for Lee Hastings. The pair then travelled across to the Tyneside Stages, but a couple of punctures kept them just outside the top 10.

Further afield Paddy O’Brien in an Evo X had a great run on the Samsonas Rally Rokiskis in Lithuania. Omagh man Paddy finished in the top ten. Shane McGirr got as far as stage 7 when he misjudged the distance between a crest and a tight right hand bend. Shane’s Starlet slithered into the ditch, with no real damage but stuck. Cork’s Ian Chadwick also retired, his Skoda suffering a broken shaft. On his return to Fivemiletown Shane told us, “Really enjoyed the trip, but the stages are like Finland, it would take years to get used to it.”

We mentioned above about Joe McGonigle being on a warm up for this weekend’s Stonethrowers - Joe is seeded at 4 for this Co. Tipperary Triton Showers National Round. The Championship has been on somewhat of a sabbatical since the last round in Cavan, partly due to the Sligo counter being put off until September. So, it is all stations go in Clonmel this weekend for the top seeds, including Declan Boyle, Roy White and Josh Moffett. These three are running their Fiesta WRC’s in class 20, which allows them to use the M-Sport ‘Power Plus Kits’. A bigger turbo, a 5th injector into the inlet manifold for more torque, plus a few other bits. All high octane stuff! Of course we may now need even more chicanes!

The rally is about more than these three of course, with, besides Joe McGonigle, top ten names include Niall Maguire, Kevin Barrett and Daniel Cronin, Maguire and Barrett in Subarus, Daniel is the odd one out in an R5. Perhaps the biggest danger to the top seeds may come from the two Darrian drivers Ian Barrett and Stuart Darcy. It is amazing the way the Darrian vehicles have come to the fore. Of course they are very lightweight, the best of them with ultra strong engines, but realistically it will be amazing if they can challenge the Boyle/White/Moffett trio here. Adrian Hetherington, this time in his trusty Escort and with Gary Nolan co-driving, round off the top ten.

Championship points leaders are Declan Boyle/James O’Reilly (59pts), Joe McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney (44pts), Donagh Kelly, missing this time, (42pts), Josh Moffett/Keith Moriarity (38pts) and Stuart Darcy/Patrick Brides (34pts). Former Champion Roy White, with James O’Brien co-driving, is languishing in joint 6th along with Kevin Barrett, on 26pts. White is seemingly out of Championship contention, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be trying everything to win on this his home rally. The event service area is at Powerstown Racecourse and there are 9 stages (3x3) on the menu. Clerk of the Course John Ward has laid out very interesting, flowing stages, although following the recent dry spell the good quality roads could get very slippy if there is any dampness about.

Interestingly the Stonethrowers has only about 80 entries, despite the hard work by the organisers. It is not that long ago that Championship rounds invariably had over 100 contenders. Last weekend’s Dogleap had less than the Stonethrowers, and with the Ulster, Galway Summer, Sligo, Lakelands and Wexford coming up in rapid succession, is it any wonder entry numbers are looking stretched?

Also this weekend sees the first reconnaissance for the John Mulholland Motors backed Ulster Rally. The rally brings the Irish Tarmac and British Championship contenders to compete together and should provide some interesting scenarios, making for an exciting top ten battle and beyond. Current British Champion Keith Cronin, co-driven by Mikie Galvin in a Hyundai i20 R5 is the number 1 seed. Ranged behind Keith is a top list of drivers, almost any of whom, on their day, could take victory. Ford Fiesta R5s as well as Skoda Fabia R5s are the car of choice, Cronin’s being the lonely top ten Hyundai. At numbers 2 & 3 are Tarmac front runners Josh and Sam Moffett, with British Championship points leader Matt Edwards at 4. Desi Henry and Jonny Greer make up the top half dozen.

The remainder of the top ten is David Bogie, Marty McCormack, the rapidly improving Rhys Yates, and Alex Laffey at 10. Eugene Donnelly in a 2nd Hyundai is at 11 and Alan Carmichael in a Mini WRC at 12. All of these top drivers have well proven pedigrees. Any of them could win the rally. There will be lots of interest in other areas of the Ulster as well of course. For example in the 2wd category, with Frank Kelly, John Bonner and Alan Smyth all seeded in the top 20.

The battle of the minnows – the cars that is, not the Junior drivers – between the likes of William Creighton, Steve Rokland, James Wilson, James Williams in an Adam, as is Jordan Hone, Josh McErlean, Marty Gallagher – all looks really interesting. The speed these young drivers screw out of these small capacity cars is amazing! On the cards are some classic stages, such as Torr Head, Glendun and Doraville, which is basically a variation of the old Rousky test. The rally is mainly centred in Co. Antrim, with controls also in Ballyclare and Randalstown.

This weekend coming also sees the running of the Scottish Championship Grampian Rally. Valvoline Forest Champion points leader Barry McKenna is flying back from the US to compete in his R5, with a view to keeping sharp before the Lakelands Stages Rally. Arthur Kierans is co-driving on this Stonehaven & District MC event. Jock Armstrong, who knows the Scottish forests like the back of his hand, is the top seed. Barry McKenna also plans to fit in an American Championship rally before the Lakelands event.

New York based Barry McKenna remains the points leader of the Valvoline Forestry Championship following the recent Jim Walsh Cork Rally. Barry is on 97 points, Stephen McCann is on 83, Josh Moffett moves up to 3rd and is on 81, Andrew Purcell has 79, Donal Sweeney 53 and Cathan McCourt 51. Of course dropped scores have still to be taken into account, and the next round, the 1st September Lakelands, could tell a big story.

Young Jason Black from Armagh is the latest nominee for the Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year, with the award being decided towards the end of the year. 20 year old Black drives a Starlet and is contesting his class in the Triton Showers National Championship and Sligo Pallets Border series. Jason has had some great results recently, the highlight being the Junior class win on the Donegal Rally.


2018 Patterson Agencies

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