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McGarrity Tops Entry for McGrady Insurance Bishopscourt Stages

Derek McGarrity in his Fiesta WRC Image: Mark Breen
The 2018 McGrady Insurance MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship blasts off this Saturday (10 March) with a stunning line-up for the Bishopscourt Stages Rally!

Four former N.I. Champions bolster an already strong entry across all categories of the event which is also sponsored by Downpatrick based insurance brokers McGrady Insurance.

Derek McGarrity, who last won the N.I. title in 2016, is seeded at number one in his Impreza WRC. Having won the rally every year it has run since 2012, his tally of Bishopscourt victories speaks for itself. The Glengormley driver is looking for his sixth consecutive win but he has a tough job ahead of him.

Vying for the spoils will be former Irish National Champion, Peadar Hurson. Although the Newry man only plans to contest a handful of events this year in his Fiesta WRC, he is aiming to better his 2017 sixth-placed finish.

“I haven’t sat in the car since last year so I’m looking forward to getting out for a run,” Hurson said. “I’ve done Bishopscourt before and it’s an event that suits me as it’s so close to home. I’m looking forward to it.”

Another former N.I. Champion starts the event at number three. Connor McCloskey won the title back in 2008 and is ready to blow off the winter cobwebs with his Fiesta WRC.

“I like the look of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship this year,” McCloskey admitted. “I don’t have any solid plans in terms of doing the full Championship but I’ll do the first few rounds and take it from there.”

Mark Massey finished in a strong second overall at the recent non-championship New Year Stages and he starts the event at number four, this time with an Impreza WRC at his disposal. Alan Carmichael finished third overall in last year’s title chase and completes the top five seeds with his Mini WRC.

A quartet of leading two-wheel-drive crews follows, each in Ford Escort MkII rally cars of various specifications. They include Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson, Belfast’s Fintan McGrady, Maghera’s Martin McCormack who is one of six crews running in the Historic category, and Banbridge’s David Armstrong.

The top 10 is bookended by another former champion, Denis Biggerstaff, who won the N.I. title in 1999 and 2001. After a number of years out of regular competition, Biggerstaff made a comeback at January’s New Year Stages only for engine problems to force his retirement early in the event so he’s back to make amends.

Such is the quality of competition that another former champion is seeded just outside the top 10. George Robinson, who claimed series honours back in 1995, has a new car at his disposal. Listed as a Fiesta WRC on the entry list, his car is actually a Fiesta with Escort WRC running gear.

“Other than sitting in the car to make sure I fit in the seat, I haven’t been in it yet!” Robinson laughed. “I’m hoping to drive it a couple of days before the rally. It should be a bit more nimble than my old Evo so it’ll be interesting to see how it works.”

One notable name that’s missing from the entry is that of reigning champion, Jonny Greer. However, the Carryduff driver hasn’t completely ruled out getting to the start line…

“We’re still waiting on parts arriving from Citroen for a new car that we’re building,” Greer said. “The bad weather has delayed things but we haven’t completely ruled it out. If a miracle happens and the parts arrive, we’ll try to get an entry for Saturday but at the moment we’re in limbo.”

The event, which also hosts a round of the NCSA Junior 1000 Rally Challenge Ireland, will feature six stages within the confines of Bishopscourt Race Circuit with the first getting underway at approximately 9.30am. Spectators are welcome to attend – a £10 entrance fee payable at the gate which includes parking. Accompanied under 16s are free.

Top 20 Seeded Entries
1 Derek McGarrity (Glengormley)/Paddy Robinson (Letterkenny) Subaru Impreza WRC
2 Peadar Hurson (Newry)/Damien Connolly (Monaghan) Ford Fiesta WRC
3 Connor McCloskey (Kilrea)/John Rowan (Cushendall) Ford Fiesta WRC
4 Mark Massey (Ballygowan)/Niall Burns (Sligo) Subaru Impreza WRC
5 Alan Carmichael (Ballymena)/TBA Mini WRC
6 Wesley Patterson (Lisburn)/Ray Fitzpatrick (Portarlington) Ford Escort MkII
7 Fintan McGrady (Belfast)/Jordayna Magill (Ballymena) Ford Escort MkII
8 Martin McCormack (Maghera)/Laura Conlon (Maghera) Ford Escort MkII
9 David Armstrong (Banbridge)/Paul Mulholland (Newtownhamilton) Ford Escort MkII
10 Denis Biggerstaff (Dromore)/Stephen Jess (Dromore) Subaru Impreza WRC
11 George Robinson (Ballymena)/Tommy Speers (Ballymena) Ford Fiesta WRC
12 James Kennedy (Antrim)/Heather Kennedy (Antrim) Ford Escort MkII
14 Paul Britton (Strabane)/George Tinsley (Ballyclare) Subaru Impreza GpN
15 Gary Rodgers (Ballynahinch)/Brian Crawford (Hillsborough) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 GpN
16 James Laverty (Kilrea)/Paul Hughes (Martinstown) Subaru Impreza GpN
17 Jonny Morrow (Maze)/TBA Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9
18 John McGaffin (Craigavon)/Aaron Faulkner (Gilford) Subaru Impreza
19 Amy Cox (Beragh)/Caron McCormack (Maghera) Skoda Fabia
20 Andrew McCormick (Crossgar)/Robert McCormick (Ballynahinch) Vauxhall Chevette

Full entry list available from RallyScore.

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