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Jonny Greer is the 2017 MSA Northern Ireland Rally Champion. Second place behind Derek McGarrity’s Skoda Fabia R5 on the Sunset Rally last month was just enough for the Citroen DS3 R5 driver to clinch the title. In fact the difference in the end was only one point Greer scored 59 while McGarrity’s total was 58. What an exciting end to a great battle which ran all season. The closest finish for years!

Outgoing champ McGarrity won the series seven times and for the last five years no one came close to beating the Glengormley driver. Derek chose to use his R5 car instead of a Subaru S14 after a back-to-back test earlier in the week revealed the Skoda to be a better choice for the short technical stages which would be used on the Sunset. This proved to be the right decision, the two leading R5 cars were fastest on eight of the ten tests.

The Sunset Rally was organised at short notice by Magherafelt and District Motor Club and held at Nutts Corner in Co.Antrim. The ten sealed surface stages were short totalling just 30 miles. Five run on a Sprint/Karting Circuit and the other five at the nearby Superdrive Motorsport Centre. The club were to have used gravel stages in Co.Derry but recent floods had rendered them unusable so a “Plan B” was hastily put into action.

For our part as BMMC/BRMC marshals we would be on timekeeping and radio duties as well as providing rescue cover. The weather was very cold early on but improved until the final tests when there were heavy rain showers. The first car started at 10am and the final stage was finished as the sunset and darkness descended around 16.30. From the 57 starters there were 45 finishers. Mini WRC driver Derek McGeehan was third while Gareth Sayers finished fourth in his Fiesta 4x4. Alan Carmichael eventually brought his Subaru WRC S14 home in fifth. It was good to see young Amy Cox from Omagh finish eighth in Marty McCormack’s Skoda Fabia S2000. Amy hasn’t rallied for over a year. Co-driving was Marty’s niece Caron.

It was good to see Greer and McGarrity go head to head this year on the seven-round mixed surface Championship and let’s hope more competitors will join in the fray next year. The only other driver to remotely challenge the top two was Alan Carmichael but he was 18 points back in third place. Top co-driver was Jonny Greer’s partner Scot Kirsty Riddick.

I would like to think I had some input in Greer’s decision to contest the NI series. Following his round one win at Kirkistown in February I suggested to the Carryduff man that he should carry on and challenge for the championship. Thank goodness he did and I think the win has raised his profile and at the same time helped to breathe new life into the NI Rally Championship. More promotion is required because the events are all excellent and relatively cheap to compete in.

The first round in 2018 is scheduled to be the BADMC’s Bishopscourt Stages in March. The North Armagh MC event at Kirkistown in February is set to be a reserve round next year, although talking to an official from North Armagh he is pessimistic about their ability to run ANY events in 2018. That of course would include their flagship Lurgan Park Rally which failed to run this year!

By the way it was great to see Marty McCormack and his co-driver Barney Mitchell win the Roger Albert Clark Rally last month. The historic gravel event was a huge challenge comprising of 300 stage miles and running over four days. It started on Friday 17th November at Shelley Walsh hill climb continued through Wales then up to Carlisle and Northumberland on to Scotland and finishing up in Kielder on the Monday. There were 30 special stages some run in darkness. 91 cars started with 62 making it to the finish.

This was McCormack’s second R.A.C. Rally win but this time the event was much longer and tougher. All top ten finishers were driving Ford Escort Mk.2’s.

In the WRC; Kris Meeke finished seventh in Australia and seventh overall in the 2017 Championship. Not what was expected at the start of the year but his Citroen proved to be a handful. There were high points with the victories in Mexico and Spain. Let’s hope next year will be a better one for Dungannon’s finest! Wales Rally GB winner Elfyn Evans finished fifth in the overall standings while Craig Breen was tenth. World champ Seb Ogier and Evans will spearhead the M-Sport Ford team in 2018 while Meeke and Breen stay with Citroen.


Rally Diary

Sat. 9th Dec.

Omagh Motor Club are organising this Targa Rally based at Carrickmore Flying Club in Co. Tyrone. Timekeepers and Marshals welcome. Sign-on from 8am. Start 10am.

Wed. 27th Dec.

The annual Ulster Automobile Club Targa Rally will take place this year in Magheralin at the Edenmore Golf and Country Club. We as a club have been asked to help with timekeeping and other marshalling duties. Sign-on from 7am. Event starts 09.31.

Fri. 29th Dec.

Organised by Maiden City Motor Club this sealed surface clubmans single venue Rally is based at the old Shackleton airfield in Ballykelly Co.Derry. We will be providing rescue cover, timekeepers and stage marshals. Sign-on 8am. Rally starts at 09.30.