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Northern Ireland Rally Champion Derek McGarrity won the New Year Stages at Kirkistown late last month. This was the first rally of the year in NI and it also marked the first appearance of the current champion in an R5 Fiesta.

Although not a round of the 2017 Championship, the Ulster Automobile Club event attracted an entry of almost 60 competitors. Six special stages around the Co.Down Race Circuit were laid out and proved to be challenging as the crews had to negotiate tyre markers, water-filled barrels, various chicanes and hairpins.

McGarrity and co-driver Jonny Magee led from start to finish although the opposition consisted of a couple of WRC Fiesta’s, two WRC Subaru’s and an R5 Citroen. The tight and twisty nature of the tests seemed to suit the less powerfull Ford.

For my part I was marshalling with two others on the stages. There had been heavy overnight rain but thankfully the weather was kind once the rally started and although cold we even had some sunshine. I known lots of BMMC/BRMC marshals signed-on and covered various duties on the day.

Second place went to Connor McCloskey (and John Rowan) who was setting up his new Fiesta WRC in readiness for the Cambrian Rally. Kenny McKinstry/Claire Gamble was out in one of the last Subaru S14 WRC’s to have been built by Prodrive. The Banbridge legend finished third in the 2 litre car having had launch control problems all day. Fourth was Mark Massey from Ballygowan who had hired a McKinstry S8 Subaru for the day. Mark had Niall Burns co-driving.

An interesting crew finished fifth. Robert Woodside and Allan Harryman first competed together in this same event 20 years ago in a little Nissan Micra, on a whim!. Fast forward to 2017 and also on a whim they decided to enter again, this time in a hired DGM Citroen DS3 R5. Well they managed to set some great times in the little French lassie and were well pleased with their day’s work!

Top 2-wheel-drive crew were Kyle White and Sean Topping in their new Peugeot 208 R2. They were seventh behind Martin and John Cairns in a Fiesta WRC.

Stanley Orr in his Mk.1 Escort, Richard Hall in his new-to-him Porsche 911 and Dessie McCartney in the Diarrian were among my favourites to watch and listen to. Richard was 20th, Stanley (who was NI Motorsport Personality of the Year 1987) 21st and Dessie 25th.

Altogether 50 main field and 4 juniors finished the six stages and there were no incidents of note to report.

I asked Derek McGarrity if he would continue with the R5 car for the rest of the year. His answer was in the negative! He prefers the power of the WRC’s. If that’s the case and Derek enters the series, let’s hope we see some good opposition for the multiple champion to compete with when the NI Championship gets underway on the 11th of this month back at Kirkistown!

Rally Diary


Back to KIRKISTOWN for the opening round of the 2017 NI Rally Championship. Organised by North Armagh MC the event follows the same format as the New Year Stages. Sign-on by 8am.


To be held at KIRKISTOWN again. Sign-on by 09.30. As I always say, we NEED to attend this event.

You will learn something new and keep up with any FeFnew developments on the motorsport front. Jim Whitaker will preside as Chief MSA Trainer.