Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

McCloskey leaves it late but is back in title race

Strong finish: Connor McCloskey won after a final stage charge

Connor McCloskey pitched himself right back into the thick of the battle for the UK gravel rally championship with a last-gasp victory on the Woodpecker Stages in Shropshire.

The former Northern Ireland champion from Coleraine mounted a final stage charge to snatch his third win of the season and move to second place in the points standings with two rounds remaining.

McCloskey led the series earlier in the season but missed the fifth round to get married. He then crashed on round six and knew he needed a strong result at the weekend to re-ignite his challenge.

He trailed the Ford Focus of leader Steve Petch by four seconds with just the last stage remaining but set the fastest time in his Subaru Impreza to overturn the deficit and win by two seconds.

Euan Thorburn, another of the title contenders, was third but, importantly for McCloskey, championship leader Charlie Payne failed to finish, crashing out on the penultimate stage.

Derek McGeehan followed up on his national category win on the Ulster Rally by winning the Sunset Stages in his WRC Mini. He set fastest times on three of the Friday night stages to take an eight-second victory.

Kris Meeke learned how tough the European rallycross series can be when failing to get through the qualifying heats at Loheac in France.

He made a promising start for the Albatec Peugeot team, taking second place in his first heat. He was second again in heat two until a clash with Davy Jeanney's Citroen punctured a front wheel and he dropped to fifth. Needing a strong result in heat three, Meeke was disqualified for an over aggressive bid to take the lead and although he won his fourth heat he didn't make the semi-finals.

Meanwhile at Kirkistown Philip Shields set a new outright track record on his way to victory in the second of the Formula Libre races.

The Dromore driver put in a lap of 50.78 seconds at a speed of 107.18 mph in his GP2 Dallara.