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McGarrity and Henry go head-to-head in season finale

 

By Sammy Hamill

The title may already be in Derek McGarrity's hands for a record eighth time but tomorrow's final round of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship, the Tyrone Stages, still has scores to be settled.

McGarrity heads the entry list in his WRC Ford Focus and, at the end of a season in which he has, unusually, won just two rounds, he will be keen to repeat his 2016 victory on the Cookstown Club's Benone-based event.

He bowed out early last year with his Subaru suffering an engine issue and it was Desi Henry who came through to claim the victory in his R5 Skoda Fabia.

Henry is back again, seeded at No.2, and may still be regretting the fact he didn't register for the championship until midway through the season otherwise his strong run over the latter rounds would have seen a last day showdown between two past Tyrone Stages winners.

The top of the entry list also includes former NI champion Connor McCloskey in his WRC Ford Fiesta as well as the WRC cars of Martin Cairns, Gareth Sayers, Dominic McNeill and Marty McKenna.

Just outside the top 10, British Championship junior star William Creighton switches from his R2 Peugeot to drive an R5 car for the first time, the Citroen DS3 in which Jonny Greer won the Down Rally earlier in the season.

Championship issues still to be resolved include James Kennedy, sponsor of the series, Fintan McGrady and John Devlin in the two-wheel-drive category, Kyle White and Jamie Grant in the juniors plus several classes which are going down to the wire.

In the battle for the Group N production title, James Laverty holds an 11 point advantage over Paul Britton and looks set to claim the honours but should Laverty's Subaru falter, a strong result for Britton could see the tables turn at the last gasp.

Based at Benone Tourist Complex near Limavady, the rally consists of 14 tarmac stages starting at 10.30am.

Meanwhile, a strong Irish contingent led by 2018 UK champion Niall Murray will be in action this weekend in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.

The list includes David McCullough, recent winner of the Martin Donnelly Trophy at Kirkistown, his brother Ivor, a past Festival winner, Noel Robinson, Alan Davidson and Matt Round-Garrido, the young Birmingham driver who won the Northern Ireland Championship this year.

Charlie Eastwood has been selected as Motorsport Ireland's Young Racing Driver of the Month for August.

The 23-year-old shared TF Sport team's Aston Martin Vantage to runner-up position in the GTE Am class at the Silverstone round of the World Endurance Championship, having led earlier in the six-hour race.

Eastwood moved to sports cars with a two-year Porsche scholarship in 2016 which launched him into the Carrera Cup Championship. He won the Rookie title in 2016 and went on to win the overall Porsche Carrera Cup GB title last year.

He's been busy this year, contesting the Blancpain European Endurance series at the wheel of TF Sport's GT3 Aston Martin in addition to the WEC which spans a lengthy season, running from the Six Hours of Spa last April and ending with the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2019.

Between races, Eastwood works at the Porsche Experience Centre at Silverstone.

Having been selected as the fifth Driver of the Month, Eastwood is now a contender for the Motorsport Ireland Young Racing Driver of the Year Award.

Belfast Telegraph

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