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Mourne Rally News After SS2

Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson have taken the early lead of the Modern Tyres Mourne Rally, round three of the McGrady Insurance MSA N.I. Rally Championship. The crew entered first service in their Subaru Impreza WRC with a 14.3 second advantage over Damian Toner and Denver Rafferty, who lead the two-wheel-drive category.

“We’re just cruising,” McGarrity said. “Stage one was fairly slippy but the second one was good. The aim is to keep the car good for Darren (Gass) – he’s using it next week.”

McGarrity also revealed he was going to change to harder tyres in service and Toner arrived at the end of stage two commenting that his rear tyres had “gone off” because it was too dry. Meanwhile, David Armstrong is third on the road and third overall on the leaderboard.

“I think the tyres are too soft on the front,” Armstrong said. “The car is a bit floaty so I need a stiffer tyre but it wasn’t bad.”

Camillus Bradley was in trouble at the end of the second test. He arrived at the stage finish with a loud noise coming from his engine.

“I think the manifold must have broke,” a disappointed Bradley said. “It happened at the first corner of stage two. I thought the engine had blown. She just lost power and I slowed down. We’ll see if we can sort it in service.”

He later discovered a spring had come off and a pipe had worked itself completely loose. It transpired to be “an easy fix” so he is still in the rally.

Car 5, Norman Armstrong, also felt his tyres were going off while Alan Nesbitt admitted to being “all over the place” and reckoned he had the wrong tyres. However, it hasn’t slowed his times too much as he holds fourth overall.

Championship sponsor, Fintan McGrady, struggled to find a rhythm through the slippery opening stage but was happier at the end of stage two. James Kennedy got his tyre choice spot on as he had “loads of grip”, as did Paul Britton who had a “steady enough” run in his Subaru.

Gary Rodgers and Brian Crawford arrived at the stage two finish full of smiles and laughter after surviving a big scare during the stage…

“Brian says he’s getting too old for this!” Rodgers laughed. “We had a big, big moment but we got away with it. There’s a bit in the middle with bad jumps. I went off at the same place before so we had ‘listen’ included in the pace notes but I didn’t listen!”

Brian McFall clipped a couple of rocks and was too close to the inside of a hairpin but survived to tell the tale. James Laverty, who holds second in the championship with his Group N Subaru, admitted to taking it easy to bed himself in. It’s his first time doing the event so he’s getting a feel for the nature of the stages but was “happy enough”.

Chris Simms reckons his front tyres have “gone off a bit” but is enjoying his first tarmac event of the year. Steven Armstrong has a new gearbox in his Escort and his gear display isn’t working but it’s not slowing him too much on the stages. Peter Bennett is struggling with no anti-lag and reckons he has a split in a pipe.

Kyle White says he’s driving very slow because he has to “think of the Championship” after his Tour of the Sperrins accident. He desperately needs to get some more points on the board.

Alastair Cochrane says he’s out for “a wee run around in a 1600 car” while Ian Green was lucky to make the finish after going off the road twice!

“We lost it over a jump both times,” Green explained. “I’m not sure if we have any damage – I haven’t got out to look!”

William Morgan wasn’t as lucky as he put his yellow Escort off the road near a bridge on the stage. He was eventually able to drive out after it was extracted from the ditch, long after the stage had finished.

It has been 10 years since Brian Black last competed on these stages and Colin Price admitted to being cautious and is going to change to harder tyres at service.

Michael McGarrity’s brakes were so hot they were on fire at the finish while Jamie Grant broke down on stage two but when he restarted the car it was running fine.

Gerard Hughes says his “suspension isn’t great from the yumpy stuff” so he has to lift off a bit but is really enjoying the stages. Marshall Kennedy is another driver who arrived at the stage two finish with his brakes on fire while Mervyn Tate is struggling with a misfire.

Gerard Feehan was full of smiles at the stage two finish. It is his first rally in 10 years and even though he’s trying to drive with no pace notes – it’s navigator Donna Feehan’s first event reading notes – both crews members are thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Paddy Quinn’s Escort cried ‘enough’ near the start of stage two while Mark Stewart finished the test full of laughter. He had a moment at the last right-hand corner when his Mazda MX-5 “stepped out”.

Daniel Hamill found a few jumps that he “didn’t expect” and survived a big moment on stage one when the back of his car was in a hedge.

Crews are now on the second loop of stages. Follow the results at www.rallyscore.net.

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