Circuit of Ireland: McGarrity overcomes engine drama
Pre-rally favourite Derek McGarrity was a relived man this morning as he lined up for the start of the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland in Armagh.
Four-time winner McGarrity only made it with the help of former Irish national champion Niall Maguire who stepped in at the last minute to provide him with a replacement engine for his Subaru.
With the prospect of becoming only the second five-time winner alongside Paddy Hopkirk, McGarrity had taken the precaution of having all the mechanicals of his S11 Subaru WRC rebuilt and had planned to use last weekend’s Monaghan Rally to shakedown the car ahead of the Circuit.
But when the gearbox was late arriving back at his Mossley base, the former Tarmac champion had to withdraw and it wasn’t until Tuesday that the car had all its parts re-installed.
Then, when an engineer from constructors Prodrive arrived on Wednesday to programme the engine, it refused to fire up. When it eventually did, the engine had no oil pressure. When that was fixed, it developed a serious water leak.
“I was on the point of pulling out,” said McGarrity, “but then I phoned Niall and he immediately offered me his engine.
“My boys went down and pulled the engine out of his S11 on Thursday night and they spent yesterday fitting it to my car.
“Niall has been using it on national rallies this year so it won’t be as fresh as mine should have been but at least it is running.
“I haven’t had any opportunity to test the car and it is seven months since I last drove a World Rally car so we are going out here on a bit of a wing and a prayer,” added McGarrity who has been campaigning a production Mitsubishi on events this season.
“If it wasn’t this rally, the Circuit of Ireland, I would have pulled the plug and spent Easter at home.”
One Subaru driver missing out, however, today was Emma McKinstry.
The Banbridge girl, daughter of another of the favourites, Kenny McKinstry, was forced to withdraw because of illness.
Most of the rest of the 100-plus crews made it across the start ramp in Armagh just before lunch time to begin the 80th running of Ireland’s premier rally.