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After SS8: Moffett Leads, Henry Hits Trouble

(AFTER SS8) It looks like the 2018 McGrady Insurance N.I. Rally Championship title could be swinging in Derek McGarrity’s favour, despite his retirement from the McKelvey Asbestos Bushwhacker Rally earlier today…

Desi Henry had to win today’s event to stay in the title hunt and he was vying for victory until a gear selection problem on stage six resulted in substantial time loss. Forced to use cable ties to fix the problem, a dejected Desi is now more than 30 seconds behind the rally leaders.

“We broke a gear shift lever,” Henry said. “We got it fixed but we lost a lot of time.”

Alan Carmichael was the only other driver who could have potentially spoiled McGarrity’s plans but he’s currently outside the top 10. If things stay as they are, McGarrity and navigator Paddy Robinson will be crowned as the 2018 Northern Ireland Champions.

At the top of the rally leaderboard, Josh Moffett and Stephen Thornton now have a more comfortable advantage. They had a scare earlier when they spun and hit “something hard” but the car was fixed in service and Moffett is back in fine form. He leads the rally by 13 seconds from Vivian Hamill who reported “a clean run” over the latest loop of stages.

Meanwhile, Connor McCloskey spun on stage seven and was lucky to escape unscathed when he met a family of deer during a stage but he and Noel O’Sullivan hold third overall.

Adrian Hetherington and Ronan O’Neill are in a fine fourth and reported no mistakes while Cathan McCourt and Barry McNulty are fifth ahead of Patrick and Stephen O’Brien. They said they were caught out by a shower of rain on stage eight but they managed to beat the bogey time through stage seven.

2WD

There was drama in the two-wheel drive category as David Crossen put his Escorts on its side. He managed to get going again with some superficial damage but he won’t be able to recover the time loss.

“On the first stage out of service, we got out of the ruts and rolled the car onto its side,” Crossen explained. “We lost a minute so it’s game over. Now we’re just going out for a bit of fun.”

That leaves newly crowned British Historic Champion, Paul Barrett, at the head of the two-wheel drive field. Navigated for the first time by Gordon Noble, they hold an advantage of more than 30 seconds over Shane McGirr and Liam McIntyre.

“It’s getting rough out there but it’s still fast,” Barrett said. “It’s a pity David rolled as we were having a good race.”

Shane McGirr really enjoyed the latest loop of three stages, commenting that the long Lough Braden stage was a “class stage”. That was a comment echoed by Ashley Dickson, who said it was the “best stage of the rally”.

A lot of competitors mentioned that the short Lough Braden stage is cutting up very bad. They’re due to complete the same stage one more time but some are hoping that organisers may opt to cancel the stage.

“It’s very rough,” Mickey Conlon said. “I wasn’t sure if we were going to get out of the ruts!”

Further down the order, William Graham (car 117, Vauxhall Corsa) broke a shaft on stage five but he’s back in service in the hope that he can get back in action for the final loop of stages.

Crews are now tackling two stages before final service, and then one more stage before returning to Omagh’s Silverbirch Hotel for the champagne finish. Latest results are available from www.rallyscore.net.

Jonathan MacDonald

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