Saturday was a crowning day for Jonny Greer and co-driver Kirsty Riddick, as they claimed second place on the Magherafelt & District Motor Club’s Sunset Stages Rally at Nutts Corner to clinch the 2017 MSA ANICC McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship. Their Citroen DS3 R5 prepared by the Greer family DGM Sport team had run faultlessly and the crew had actually taken a narrow 0.3 second lead going into the tenth and final stage. “We had the narrowest of leads, but then on the start-line the rain came pelting down and the track was like a bottle. We knew the championship was the important thing and we just chilled out a bit and got round” said the Carryduff driver.
Derek McGarrity and James O’Reilly didn’t need an invitation to snatch back time and took a three second victory on the rally in their Skoda Fabia R5. Derek the seven times N.I Rally Champion had demonstrated why he took those titles as he was now really confident in his R5 car and took the lead on the second test at Superdrive Motorsports Centre. Despite his best efforts he has to hand over his crown to Greer who has enjoyed the competition with Derek. It’s been a memorable year for Jonny. “We didn’t anticipate that we would ever be in this position at the start of the year. We didn’t initially set out to do the championship, but when we won the first round, we sort of carried on. I think that actually makes it feel more special for me, as we went through the year the more interesting and enjoyable the whole thing became. It’s the first time I have contested the whole series, and some events I hadn’t done before like the Bushwhacker for example. I had often heard my dad talking about some of the stages on these rallies, and we have been competing on the famous stages in England and Wales for so many years so I wasn’t sure how they would compare. However when I actually drove some of the stages at home I understood why they had been talking about them for so long! With the mixture of surfaces in the series, a good atmosphere and the events on offer virtually on our door-step I actually feel that this is one of the better championships out there to contest also. I have really enjoyed the race with Derek and the camaraderie was good. He is the first person to congratulate you if you have done well on a rally, and I’m sure he will come out fighting again next year.”
There were other battles waged out on the final round and Derek McGeehan took the Mini WRC to a fine third place, with Gareth Sayers Ford Fiesta Proto in fourth. Alan Carmichael’s fifth place in the S14 Impreza helped the Ballymoney driver claim third in the championship, whilst Conor McCrossan took a fine sixth in his Super 2000 Skoda Fabia. In seventh was Niall Henry in his class eight Evo 10, enabling him to secure the class in the championship. In a fine eighth after a long lay-off from rallying was twenty-four year old Omagh lass Amy Cox in a Skoda Fabia Super 2000 kindly loaned by the McCormack family, with their daughter Caron also in the co-driver’s seat. Just seven seconds behind in ninth was top two wheel drive runner, Antrim’s James Kennedy in his MK2 Escort. James also claimed the coveted N.I two wheel drive title, just a few points ahead of Kyle White who was eleventh overall and first in class again with the 208 R2. Tenth overall was a great result for Joe Hegarty in his Evo 6, whilst the top Group N runners fell by the way-side with mechanical issues. Clive Kilpatrick wrapped up the Group N championship after a good year despite a retirement on the Sunset with a broken gear-box mounting. N.I Junior Champion Gareth Deazley fresh from his great Rally GB adventure also retired his Honda Civic with transmission issues.
In the Historic category too there was drama, as Drew Wylie’s challenge sadly expired lalong with his his BDA engine on stage one, and Raymond Johnston had to retire with clutch failure on stage six in his similar RS1800.
However the Fermanagh driver had enough points to become the new champion, from Philip Wylie who also suffered delays on the rally. Armoy’s John Adams was top Historic finisher home in his class 11 MK2 Escort.
Another drive of note came from local youngster Philip White. The former Junior 1000 front runner powered his now 1400cc Nissan Micra to an excellent twentieth overall, and first in class 3. Other class winners on the Sunset event were: Michael Nutt- class 1- (Honda Civic), David Christie-class 5 (MK2 Escort), Greg McCormack- class 12 (MK2 Escort).
The 2017 MSA ANICC McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship class winning drivers are: Class 1-Gareth Deazley, Class 2-Clive Kilpatrick, Class 3-Ryan Murray, Class 4-Kyle White, Class 5-Stephen McFerran, Class 6- James Kennedy, Class 7-Dessie McCartney, Class 8-Niall Henry, Class 9-Alan Carmichael, Class 10- Jonny Greer, Class 11-Philip Wylie, Class 12- Raymond Johnston, Ladies Champion- Michelle Morelli, Group N Champion- Clive Kilpatrick, 2WD Champion- James Kennedy, Junior Champion-Gareth Deazley, Historic Champion- Raymond Johnston
Thanks to the efforts of the Magherafelt Motor Club for running their reserve championship round, the sun has now set on the 2017 Northern Ireland Championship, but what of next year and our new champion? “I would love to do it again next year if we can get the budget all together, and also to encourage even more competition into the series would be great. It’s been a good year and a massive thank-you to the team for all of their efforts” said the 2017 champion.
2017 McGrady Insurance MSA ANICC Northern Ireland Rally Championship-Round Seven results
1st Derek McGarrity / James O’Reilly Škoda Fabia R5 20m31.2s
2nd Jonathan Greer / Kirsty Riddick Citroën DS3 R5 +0:03.1
3rd Derek McGeehan / Gary McElhinney Mini WRC +0:30.5
4th Gareth Sayers / Gareth Gilchrist Ford Fiesta 4X4 +0:45.6
5th Alan Carmichael / Ivor Lamont Subaru Impreza WRC +0:47.7
6th Conor McCrossan / Conor Murphy Škoda Fabia S2000 +0:54.1
7th Niall Henry / Aaron Johnston Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10 +1:19.5
8th Amy Cox / Caron McCormack Škoda Fabia S2000 +1:19.8
9th James Kennedy / Heather Kennedy Ford Escort MkII +1:26.2
10th Joe Hegarty / David Turkington Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI +1:32.0
2017 McGrady Insurance MSA ANICC Northern Ireland Rally Championship-Top Five Points
1 Jonny Greer 59pts
2 Derek McGarrity 58
3 Alan Carmichael 40
4 Kenny McKinstry 28
5 Peadar Hurson 25
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