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McGarrity out to build on his NI title lead

 

By Sammy Hamill

In recent times it has brought the curtain down on the Northern Ireland Championship in the north coast forests, but this year's Glens of Antrim Rally switches dates and road surfaces to become round three of the McGrady Insurance series.

And, granted a public road closing order, the Mid Antrim Club organisers have chosen to include two of the most iconic stages in the country, Torr Head and Glendun, for Saturday's Ballycastle-based event.

Last used to wide acclaim on the 2016 European Championship Circuit of Ireland, they represent a huge challenge to the 100-strong entry list. They are, however, among the all-time favourites of reigning NI champion Derek McGarrity, who heads the line-up in his WRC Ford Fiesta.

Winner of the title a record six times, the Mossley rally car trader again leads the series after the first two rounds. But the Glens event is a different challenge, and one that McGarrity will treat with caution even though he has won on these stages in the past.

Peadar Hurson and Kenny McKinstry, second and third in the standings, aren't here, but Jonny Greer, winner of the first round in his R5 Citroen DS3, is back, as is Alan Carmichael, fourth in the table, in a McGeehan Motorsport WRC Mini.

Camillus Bradley and local man Declan McNaughton head up the Mk2 Ford Escort contingent and Robin Phillips, himself a past NI champion, is back in his S10 Subaru Impreza with daughter Laura co-driving.

When Phillips won the title in 2000, Stephen Whitford was a contender. He plays a different role these days as part of Kris Meeke's back-up team in the World Championship, forming the Citroen driver's gravel note crew with Derek Brannigan. But on Saturday they will be in action for real in a Mitsubishi Evo.

Ex-NI king Stephen Mawhinney in a Lotus Sunbeam and Richard Hall in a 911 Porsche RS represent a strong historic entry.

The first stage, Pollan, starts at 10.40am, followed by Glendun and Torr Head before they are repeated again after service in Ballycastle.

Belfast Telegraph

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