Belfast Telegraph

Greer has sights on a surprise Down Rally double

 

Great going: Jonny Greer was shocked to triumph last year
Great going: Jonny Greer was shocked to triumph last year

By Sammy Hamill

Jonny Greer surprised even himself when he won last year's Down Rally - and he will surely be equally shocked if he can repeat the performance this weekend.

True, he was Northern Ireland champion at the time but his build-up to the event had been disrupted when his regular R5 Ford Fiesta was ruled out with an engine issue and he had to switch to a borrowed Citroen DS3.

On top of that the line-up included a strong UK contingent from the Protyre Asphalt Championship, and the likes of multi-NI champion Derek McGarrity, in more powerful WRC cars, as well as R5 rivals such as Desi Henry and ex-British champion David Bogie.

When he was down in 10th place after the first stage, winning never entered Greer's head.

But he and Scottish co-driver Kirstie Riddick rapidly climbed to the front and went on to win by 20 seconds from Henry's R5 Skoda, a victory which had particular significance in that the rally was backed by his family business, Carryduff Forklift, and was jointly run by his local Ballynahinch Motor Club in conjunction with the Rathfriland Club.

Still looking a bit dazed afterwards, Greer said: "I can't quite believe it to be honest. With my home motor club involved and with the family firm sponsoring the rally, I always thought it would be great to win it.

"But we had a problem with the car we were going to use so we had to change to this new Citroen and at that point, I really didn't think we'd have a chance."

Now, Greer, back in his R5 Fiesta, will line up at No.1 on Saturday morning at the excellent Eikon Centre near Lisburn but a capacity field of over 130 crews will cross the start ramp behind him, including reigning British champion Matt Edwards and leader of the UK Asphalt series Damien Cole.

Like Greer, Edwards is using the rally in preparation for the next round of the British Championship, the Today's Ulster Rally, which takes place across similar territory in Co Down in August. Having won the Ulster Rally last year, Edwards will return as joint leader of the BRC series with fellow Welshman Tom Cave.

Another Welshman, Melvyn Evans, a former Irish National champion, starts at three behind Greer and Edwards and his son Meirion is also in the starting list as he too prepares for the Ulster Rally.

The rally doubles up as a round of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Championship which is currently being led by Derek McGeehan and he starts at five in one of his WRC Minis behind the WRC Fiesta of another cross-channel visitor, Tom Preston. However, Greer picks out another of the McGeehan Minis which will be driven by World E-Rally champion Jon Armstrong as potentially a major threat.

"The top 10 is very strong and we know we are going to have a tough job if we want to replicate last year's result," said Greer, who goes into the rally after an impressive third place in Sligo last weekend.

Meanwhile, Elfyn Evans has been ruled out of next month's Rally Finland after injuring his back during Rally Estonia last weekend.

The former Ulster Rally winner was among a number of World Championship drivers, including Craig Breen, competing in Estonia in preparation for Finland. But a heavy landing off one of the huge jumps damaged his back and he has been advised to rest.

His place in the M-Sport Ford team alongside Teemu Suninen will be taken by Gus Greensmith.

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