Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Champion Greer keeps his cool to end McGarrity's long run of success


By Sammy Hamill

Jonny Greer never had any real intention of challenging for the Northern Ireland Rally Championship, not even after he won the opening round at Kirkistown back in February.

It was only meant to be a warm-up for the British championship and he skipped round two at Bishopscourt to head for the Border Counties Rally in Scotland.

Then came perhaps the best win of his career to date In the Glens of Antrim, an event also aimed at preparing for the tarmac of the Ypres Rally in Belgium, and suddenly Greer was emerging as a serious challenger to seven times NI champion Derek McGarrity.

Then, as his British championship hopes faded he began to take his home series more seriously, resulting in him and McGarrity going head to head in the final round, the McGeehan ­Motorsport Sunset Rally on Saturday.

It turned out to be a cracking finish around the short sprint stages of Nutts Corner kart circuit and the nearby Superdrive Centre, the two of them trading seconds throughout the day until McGarrity, who, after back-to-back tests, had elected to run his R5 Skoda Fabia instead of his WRC Subaru, squeezed home by three seconds.

But it wasn't enough. Greer kept his head and secured the second place that ensured he and Scottish co-driver Kirsty Riddick were the new champions by a single point, ending McGarrity's run of five titles in a row run.

Gracious in defeat he said: "I couldn't have done any more. I needed someone to get between Jonny and myself and push him down to third but it wasn't to be. Well done to him and Kirsty."

Understated and often underrated, Greer showed his steel on Saturday with an immaculate performance in the DGM team's R5 Citroen DS3, shadowing McGarrity and monitoring what was happening behind him.

But no one got close, Derek McGeehan finishing half-a-minute back in third place in his WRC Mini and Gareth Sayers 45 seconds adrift in fourth in his Ford Fiesta. Alan Carmichael in a McKinstry Motorsport Subaru was next with Connor McCrossan sixth in his Fabia.

"I just tried to keep everything neat and tidy, not take chances or make any mistakes and thankfully it worked out," said Greer. "I never expected to end this season as Northern Ireland champion but I'm delighted, especially for the team behind me.

"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 and I'm sure he will come out fighting again next year."

Amy Cox was challenging for a top six position on her debut in the McCormack brothers' Tiger Risk S2000 Skoda and was up to seventh after five stages before she was caught out by a sudden rain shower which saw her overshoot a junction, dropping two places. She fought back to an impressive eighth behind the top production car of Niall Henry and ahead of the Ford Escort of two-wheel-drive champion James Kennedy.

Belfast Telegraph

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