McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship

AFTER SS1: Wet, wet, wet – Derek and Mark McGeehan lead in their MINI WRC!

AFTER SS1: Derek McGeehan and his 17-year-old champion navigator son, Mark, were fastest on a very wet opening stage at the Pacenotes Rally Magazine Stages to take the early lead!

The Mini WRC crew were 1.2 seconds quicker than the Fiesta R5 belonging to last year’s winner, Stephen Wright, while former champions Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson are third.

Rain is pummelling Kirkistown Race track making conditions very slippery. Most took it cautious, with second placed Wright – who has co-driver Gary McKenna with him this year – commenting that they didn’t want to risk spinning.

“I kept it tidy and safe,” Wright said. “There’s a lot left to come but I didn’t want to make the same mistake as last year when I spun early in the event. That made life difficult!”

As for leader McGeehan, his only issue was at the flying finish where there is a lot of standing water. He struggled to get his car stopped and reckons the finish line needs to be moved.

In third, McGarrity is lacking some experience with driving his Skoda in these conditions. He’s never driven the car in the wet so he took time to bed himself in.

Philip Allen and Mark Kane admitted to having a “cautious” run to set fourth fastest time, 7.8 seconds behind the leaders. Meanwhile, Kenny McKinstry had a disastrous first stage. The wipers weren’t working in his Subaru and he lost first gear. We’re not sure if he’ll be able to continue.

His daughter had a much better time as she accelerated to the stage finish in fifth overall with her Fiesta R5, just ahead of Alan and Lucy Carmichael. Gareth Sayers reported no issues in his Fiesta.

In the two-wheel-drive battle, James and Heather Kennedy are fastest through so far in their Escort, closely followed by Keith White and Gavin Campbell who were another crew that struggled to stop at the finish. Just six-tenths of a second separate them after a treacherous stage.

Joe McQuillan is back out in an Evo today and he overshot the finish. No time was lost but it was one of those heart-stopping moments!

Crews are now back in service, trying to dry off before the start of stage two. There’s no sign of the rain easing off. It looks like it’s going to be one of those days…

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