Belfast Telegraph

Derek McGarrity forced to wait to clinch Northern Ireland rally title

By Sammy Hamill

Derek McGarrity is Northern Ireland rally champion for a fourth time, in all but name.

His victory on the Bushwhacker Rally seemed to have guaranteed him the title again but, in a bizarre twist, it later emerged that Derek McGeehan's ninth place finish would see the series go down to the final round – because none of the finishers between him and McGarrity qualified for points.

They were mostly from the separate Irish forest championship which concluded on the Tyrone event with Mick O'Brien taking the title.

Included among them was Frank Kelly, winner of the two-wheel drive division in sixth place in his Ford Escort, which was not decorated with NI championship decals even though he had previously scored points in the series.

It meant McGeehan, driving a Toyota Corolla instead of his regular WRC Mini, gained second place points, giving him an mathematical chance of becoming champion – if he wins the last round, the Down Rally on October 19, and McGarrity fails to score.

Saturday saw McGarrity win for a fifth time after starting steadily in a hired McKinstry Motorsport S14 Subaru before coming through strongly to take the victory by eight seconds.

Martin Cairns' S12 Impreza was second and the Ford Focus of O'Brien third.

Meanwhile, Alastair Fisher also retained faint hopes of winning the British championship after finishing third on the penultimate round in Yorkshire.

However, he needed to win to have a realistic hope of catching long-time leader Jukka Korhonen who took second place behind winner Osian Pryce in a fierce all-Citroen DS3 battle in the Yorkshire forests.

The young Welshman, who became the youngest winner of a BRC round with his victory in Ulster last month, held off the Finn by 10 seconds with Fisher a further three seconds back in third, the Trillick driver the best of the Irish contingent.

Mark Donnelly was fifth behind Tom Cave with Jonny Greer seventh and Daniel McKenna again winning the R2 division in 10th in his Ford Fiesta.

In the Trackrod National Rally which ran alongside the Yorkshire International, former Northern Ireland champion McCloskey was aiming to wrap up the UK gravel championship with a round to spare, but he tore a wheel off his Subaru Impreza on the fourth stage and was forced to retire.

Steve Petch won ahead of Charlie Payne with Euan Thorburn in third place and the series will go down to next month's Cambrian Rally with all three plus McCloskey still in contention.

Belfast Telegraph

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