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SS3: McGarrity Extends Lead, Wright Fixes Problems, Greer Spins

Bishopscourt Race Circuit continues to bask in sunshine as Derek McGarrity and Sean Topping extended their lead to 12.6 seconds after the third stage.

“We used a harder tyre for that stage and it made a big, big improvement,” McGarrity said after setting the pace by a little over one second from Mark Massey and Eathan McColgan. “We’re going to stiffen the car a bit in service to make it a bit better.”

Earlier we reported that championship leader, Stephen Wright, was in trouble with suspected differential problems. His service crew have managed to work around the issue so Wright is still in the rally and holding seventh overall.

“We resolved the problem but it means I have no handbrake,” Wright said. “It’s a bit of a problem for me but the car is a whole lot better than what it was.”

“There’s a cylinder that disconnects the drive to the rear wheels when you pull the handbrake and it had seized,” he explained. “We were contending with that for the first two stages and I wasn’t really absorbing the track so I feel that’s the first stage that I’ve started to get to grips with it.”

Derek McGeehan admitted to dropping a couple of seconds as a result of “my own wee mistakes” but he still holds second overall, four seconds ahead of Massey who found a lot more grip after fitting slick tyres. He dislodged Paul Barrett from fourth position who lost around 10 seconds during the stage.

“The track’s a lot drier,” Barrett said. “It’s still tricky and slippy in the concrete section but I’m enjoying it.”

Stuart Biggerstaff has finally found his mojo and set third fastest time, just 1.5s slower than rally leader McGarrity. “That’s a bit more like it!” a delighted Stuart said at the stage finish. He’s now fifth overall ahead of Kenny McKinstry.

Neither Kevin Barrett (eight) nor Martin Cairns (10th) had any dramas to report but Nigel Feeney lost a lot of time with a spin in his Mini WRC and holds ninth overall.

James Kennedy was still using ‘wet’ tyres and reckoned it was time to move to a harder tyre as the track continues to dry. Rival John Devlin was over three seconds quicker on the stage, leaving four seconds between the crews in the battle for the two-wheel drive category.

Fintan McGrady echoed Kennedy’s sentiments and reckoned it was time to change his tyres to a more suitable compound. Drew Stewart seemed a little bit concerned about his Escort as he arrived at the finish. His engine seemed to be revving quite high and when asked if everything was OK, he just said “I think so”.

Jonny Greer went off the track in his GT86 and was stuck on grass for over a minute.

“The grass was that wet we couldn’t get going again,” Greer explained. “I just couldn’t get traction so we were stuck for about a minute and a half.”

Alastair Cochrane’s appeared to fix his misfire issues but four corners before the finish of stage three, his car started misbehaving again and he had a big spin. Johno Doogan also lost time with another spin, as did James Leckey who damaged his driver’s door in the process.

“I just had a little bit of overexcitement,” Leckey explained. “I put new tyres on the back and they weren’t quite scrubbed in.”

Jonny Morrow had his first clean stage of the rally and had a beaming smile on his face at the stage finish. Gary Rodgers had a couple of “half spins” while Colm McFall spun his Evo. He also explained that Brian McFall had to pull out of the rally with overheating issues while Kyle White reckoned he should swap his car for a motorbike!

“I’m never on four wheels!” White laughed while his navigator shook his head. “I’m cutting corners everywhere to try and find time. I think we got a wrong time earlier today so we have about 20 seconds to find.”

Jamie Grant reported losing time when he caught cars on stages one and two but had a clean run through stage three while Matthew McGaffin seems to have fixed a misfire that he struggled with on stages one and two.

David Riddles is in a bit of bother with his Escort. He’s lost second gear, making the slower corners hard going.

“I’m having to go straight from third gear to first,” Riddles explained. “Then accelerating out of the corners, I’m having to rev the car really high before putting it into third. It’s hard work but we’re enjoying the car apart from that. I think it’s a selector rather than the gear so it will be good if we can get it sorted.”

Chris McGurk has lost time with a few excursions off the track and Seamus Morris is enjoying his run in the Darrian. He admitted that “the jumps are all new to me” while Roy Haslett said he was happier now that the track had dried out a bit.

Further down the order, Gerard Neeson’s Peugeot 106 has stopped during stage three and is awaiting to be towed back to service. Meanwhile, Sam Adams and Beth Cochrane survived a spin over the finish line!

There’s now a short lunch break before crews return to action for stage four. Results are available from www.rallyscore.net.

Jonathan

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