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Once again Derek McGarrity has won the UAC New Year Stages at Kirkistown. Last year he did it in a Fiesta R5 but this time he chose a Subaru S14 WRC to set dominant times on the six mixed surface tests at the Co.Down racing circuit. From my marshalling post it was obvious that the former NI Champion was quickest on stage one. The nearest challenger was young Philip Allen in his Ford Fiesta. Just a year ago this month the son of the late Glenn starred on a similar event here at Kirkistown, his first ever rally, in a Group N Mitsubishi. Now he was back in a much quicker state of the art R5. He was part of a two-car team with Kieron Graffin in an identical Fiesta.

As the day went on McGarrity was still on top as the fast stages suited the big 2 litre Subaru and Allen slipped back behind the S14 of Mark Massey but ahead of the similar Subaru of the legend that is Kenny McKinstry. In fact there were four examples of the last WRC car that Subaru produced on the event. Considering that around only ten were made that is quite amazing. Kevin Barrett finished sixth in his S14.

Three other earlier Subaru WRC’s were on the entry list. Denis Biggerstaff was a retirement on the penultimate stage when his S9 ground to a halt while in 11 place. Denis hadn’t drive the car for some years and he took some time to get on the pace. Scottish visitor Brian Watson was in an S11 while Paddy McVeigh finished fifth in his S12b.

Although there had been heavy overnight rain, the rally started in mild drying conditions but more heavy rain before the final two stages meant that there was lots of surface water for the remaining competitors to contend with. There were 47 starters compared to around 60 last year. I think this reflects the present economic conditions. Entry lists and events will all suffer this year in Ireland and beyond.

In the end 43 cars finished the New Year Stages. Philip Allen almost passed Mark Massey with a fastest final stage time but was just one second shy of second place! The drive of the rally for me anyway! I don’t know his plans, but can Philip raise the funds to contest the 2018 Northern Ireland Championship which stars at Bishopscourt next month?McKinstry was fourth, McVeigh fifth and Barrett sixth.

Top production car was seventh placed James Laverty in his Group N Subaru while Alan Atcheson was eighth in his modified Fiesta WRC lookalike. Kieron Griffin was ninth in the R5 while Barry Morris took the two-wheel-drive award with his Mk.2 in tenth. I really enjoyed marshalling with Peter and Stevie on the Kirkistown event. Lots of BMMC/BRMC marshals signed on to cover the stages. Oh! and by the way, the North Armagh MC’s Rally which was due to take place at the same venue on February 10th has been CANCELLED as I suspected it would be!

On the Monte Carlo Rally; surprise! surprise! local hero Sebastien Ogier driving his M-Sport Ford Fiesta took a fifth victory. Capitalising from the start while the rest spun off on the snow and ice, the Gap resident made it look easy, winning by almost a minute from the Toyota Yaris of Ott Tanak. Jari-Matti Latvala was third in his Yaris. Toyota had been on course for fourth place with their third Yaris but Esapekka Lappi lost time on the final Power Stage with an off and dropped to seventh overall.

In the end it was a great result for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle. After dropping way down the leaderboard on day one they fought back in the still wayward Citroen C3 to take an unexpected Power Stage win and fourth overall into the bargain. At least that puts some big valuable points on the board. Last year they failed to finish. Good luck for the rest of the season Kris and Paul. Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were sixth in the number two Fiesta. Craig Breen and Scott Martin had a troubled Monte but still managed a couple of points as they finished ninth in their C3.

By the way I tried to watch most of the Monte stages on WRC+ All LIVE .To say the internet coverage was disjointed would be an understatement. John “Desperates” effort was only saved by the brilliant Julian Porter’s expert commentary which kept him right! There were embarrassing breaks and it was hard to stream the coverage. Things can only get better I hope! We have signed up for the season.

Rally Diary

Sat.10th March

Round one of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship. Held at Bishopscourt racing circuit in Co.Down this sealed surface six-stage event is organised by Ballynahinch and District Motor Club. We will be helping out with radio cover and other marshalling duties. Sign-on 8am. There will be seven rounds in the championship again this year, five are due to be sealed surface events while the Lakeland and Bushwacker are scheduled to run on the loose. McGrady Insurance will once again sponsor the popular series.

Sun.11th March

Our annual training day will be held at Kirkistown Racing Circuit in Co.Down. Sign-on by 9.15am. As I always say you learn something new every training day. It is also essential to keep up to date with the latest developments in marshalling and get any signatures that may by required on your personal record card.


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