Desi Henry from Portglenone with his Cork co-driver Liam Moynihan guided their Skoda Fabia R5 to a convincing victory on the fourth round of the 2017 MSA ANICC McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship on Saturday. The Tyrone Stages Rally run by the Cookstown Motor Club attracted a bumper entry of over one hundred crews, for nine closed road stages, three loops of three tests all bases close to the rally headquarters at Loughery College.
Number one seed and championship leader Derek McGarrity with a S14 Subaru Impreza this time was also one of the first retirements. “On stage one I just felt the engine tightening up and we pulled in. That was it, but we will aim to convert this car to gravel for the Lakeland” said the Belfast driver. It wasn’t a good morning for the S14 Subaru’s with Alan Carmichael’s example retiring with gearbox failure, Alan another championship challenger, third in the points race entering this round. Kenny McKinstry reunited with co-driver Robbie Philpott, scored fifth place despite a small over-shoot and running in road mode on stage with his S14 Impreza.
Tyre choice was a factor after over-night rain, and threatening rain clouds during the day, a heavy shower appearing before the final loop. At the front Peader Hurson took fastest time on stage one, but he was set to drop behind the charging R5 Fabia’s of Desi Henry and Marty McCormack, who was fortunate not to puncture after breaking a wheel on a rock. Marty was picking up confidence all day in his car sporting a new body-shell after his big Ypres crash. “My confidence is coming back all day. It’s virtually a new car so I’m getting the feel for it again and it’s good to see an event like this running in this format.” Desi Henry took a lead he was never to relinquish, and a stunning time on the fifth stage widened the gap to McCormack and Hurson who was still learning his Fiesta WRC. Jonny Greer, second in the points race entering this event was fourth in the Citroen DS3 R5, but on stage six the Carryduff chargers rally ended with a fuel pressure problem, meaning that the top three in the McGrady points table all retired!
One of the talking points of the rally was the performance of Cookstown’s Philip Allen on his first closed road rally in the Mini WRC. Son of the late Glenn Allen- the 2007 NI Rally Champion, Philip had Eugene Donnelly in the co-driver’s seat and the pair where sensationally second fastest on the first stage. A spin and stall on stage three cost them almost twenty seconds, but fourth place overall was a fabulous result, which won praise from his co-driver.“Philip did amazingly well today. He realised early on the importance of the pace-notes and he really listened. We wanted to finish, that was important but he did more much than just that.” A late retirement from the top ten, with clutch trouble was Daniel Barry in his Peugeot Super 2000, whilst Niall Devine had an excellent run to lift the Group N spoils and take seventh in his Evo 9. Group N series leader Clive Kilpatrick’s challenge was delayed with an excursion on stage eight.
In the two wheel drive battle Armagh’s Damien Toner took a splendid sixth place overall in his MK2 Escort and always a slight advantage from the start which he extended on the second loop, from Adrian Hetherington, who pulled out after a minor excursion on stage seven. Donall Sweeney took eighth overall and the class six win in his two litre MK2 Escort, and former ANICC Junior 1000 Champion- William Creighton was a fine ninth overall in the Peugeot 208 R2. Kyle White in his similar machine ended up stuck in a ditch on stage four and retired this time out. No such issues for Isle of Mull visitor Callum Duffy in tenth making a debut of a newly built MK2 Escort. Other two wheel driver runners to hit trouble were Keith White who ran into transmission problems, event sponsor Enda McNulty in his MK2 who was a late retirement and Marty Toner who retired the Sunbeam with some light damage.
The Historic race was dominated by a charging Stanley Orr in his MK1 Escort BDA, with Raymond Johnston in his FIA specification MK2 RS1800 second, and Stephen Mawhinney’s Lotus Sunbeam third. Championship leader Drew Wylie in his RS1800 was also in the hunt until gearbox trouble forced retirement on the middle loop.
Other class winners were: Gareth Deazley- class 1 (Honda Civic), Ryan Murray- class 3 (Peugeot 205 Gti), Jonny Cargo- class 5 (MK2 Escort), Niall Henry- class 8 (Evo 10).
The big winners on the day however were Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan who eased off over the final slippery loop to claim a 12.6 second victory. “We had a ball today!” commented Desi at the finish. “We really enjoyed the rally, and thanks to the team we had no issues with the car. It was by no means an easy event, very challenging special stages, technical in places and with the weather changing for the final loop everything was thrown in. All in all it was a good event, and hopefully it will be back on again next year.”
— Desi Henry (@DesiHenry) July 29, 2017
Round five of the McGrady Insurance series will see the crews switch to gravel for the traditional Lakeland Stages Rally, over the classic Fermanagh forest tests, run by the Enniskillen Motor Club. The final round scheduled for the Down Forests has been cancelled due to issues of usage for key forests, so it’s expected that an announcement will be made soon whether the reserve event planned for the 4th November will round off the 2017 championship.
2017 McGrady Insurance MSA ANICC Northern Ireland Rally Championship-Round Four results
1st Desi Henry / Liam Moynihan Škoda Fabia R5 41:50.9
2nd Marty McCormack / Barney Mitchell Škoda Fabia R5 +0:12.6
3rd Peadar Hurson / Damien Connolly Ford Fiesta WRC +0:24.2
4th Philip Allen / Eugene Donnelly Mini Cooper WRC +0:53.5
5th Kenny McKinstry / Robbie Philpott Subaru Impreza S14 +1:35.6
6th Damian Toner / Denver Rafferty Ford Escort MK2 +1:48.7
7th Niall Devine / Kieran McGrath Mitsubishi Lancer Evo +2:51.3
8th Donall Sweeney / Deane O’Sullivan Ford Escort MK2 +2:51.6
9th William Creighton / Liam Regan Peugeot 208 R2 +3:05.8
10th Callum Duffy / Iain Duffy Ford Escort MK2 +3:09.3