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Circuit of Ireland
RALLY NEWS No.1 - Armagh - Saturday @ 10:31:22
RALLY NEWS NO.1 Saturday morning/Armagh
The Circuit of Ireland starts this year for the first time from Armagh and the City Council has pulled out all the stops to accommodate the event. The HQ and service area is at the Armagh City Hotel and the event has backing from the Donnelly Group and UTV Drive. The new ‘power’ stage at Lisburn is an innovative feature. All in all, under the direction of Bobby Willis and Clerk of the Course Gordon Noble and their hard working team, the rally is re-building the momentum that has made it such a big event in the motoring calendar since the 1930’s.

Some things remain the same, mainly the principle of man and machine racing against the clock through the special stage roads. Four times Circuit winner Derek McGarrity in his Impreza WRC will lead away the 100 plus strong field in his Subaru. However it nearly didn’t happen for Glengormley man McGarrity this time, as his newly re-built Subaru engine was leaking water. He has had to do a last minute deal with Monaghan’s Niall Maguire to borrow his Subaru engine. Judging by Maguire’s pace on last weekend’s Monaghan Stages rally, there is little wrong with this unit and McGarrity is certainly in with a fighting chance of taking the Circuit crown again.

However, it won’t be easy for Derek. Apart from the vagaries of the tough special stages over the two days of the rally, he faces some high calibre opposition. Ranked immediately behind him is young Markethill man Darren Gass in one of Kenny McKinstry’s Subarus. Darren won the Circuit of Kerry a few weeks ago in convincing style, which will have put him in the groove for this one, his first ‘home’ Circuit. Kevin Barrett is at 3 in his Triton Showers backed Subaru. In common with McGarrity, Barrett had some coolant concerns with his Subaru this week and the cylinder heads of his Impreza had to be stripped down and rebuilt at Kenny McKinstry’s Banbridge workshop.

Kenny himself starts at No.4 in another Impreza WRC. He has won a huge number of events in Ireland, is a former Tarmac and NI Rally Champion and indeed currently leads the NI series, but has never won the Circuit. There is something very special about this rally. It is certainly currently enjoying resurgence, but even in the dull years that has been the case. Ask any of the previous winners, such as Armagh man Andrew Nesbitt about winning this Easter classic and he will affirm that the Circuit is definitely ‘the special one.’ How Kenny would love to add it to his rally CV.

Starting at No.5 is Gary Jennings, the first of the GpN contenders in his Lancer, while Killarney man Alan Ring, also in a Lancer, rounds off the top six. Alan is currently 2nd in the Tarmac Championship, and although he wouldn’t be familiar with the Co. Armagh roads, Alan, a former National GpN Champion, will almost certainly be on the pace here. His Lancer was fitted with a new engine before the Circuit of Kerry a couple of weeks ago and seemed to lack bite, but then a cracked turbo pipe was discovered, so it should be a different ball game here.

These are just the top six crews on this landmark rally. The entry list is packed with superbly interesting cars and drivers. Starting at 8 for example is VK Energy supremo Steve Perez in his iconic Lancia Stratos. Last year’s Circuit National winner John Waring is at 9, with fellow Mk2 Escort exponents Wesley Patterson, Phil Collins and Camillus Bradley right behind. The rally is a round of the NI Championship and current Champion Stuart Biggerstaff starts at 19 in his Impreza WRC. NI GpN Champion Donagh Kelly is at 15 in his Lancer. Re-seeds include Neil McCance (No.25) starting 15th on road. Sam Moffett (No.28) is 16th on road. Eugene Meegan (106) 23rd on road. Plenty of interest then for everyone, and whoever takes the chequered flag back in Armagh on Sunday evening will certainly know that they have won a very special rally. More news later: BRIAN & LIZ PATTERSON www.rallynews.net

2020 Patterson Agencies

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