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Greer is thrilled with shock Down Rally win

 

By Sammy Hamill

Just when he least expected it, Jonny Greer got a real confidence boost ahead of next month's Ulster International Rally, his victory at the Carryduff Forklift Down Rally surprising even the reigning Northern Ireland champion himself.

His build-up to the event had been disrupted, and when he found himself down in 10th place after the first short spectator stage at the Eikon Centre, Greer admitted that winning was the last thing on his mind.

The R5 Ford Fiesta he has been driving in the Irish Tarmac Championship was ruled out by an engine problem and he had to make a late switch to a new, untried R5 Citroen DS3 which has only recently been completed by Greer's DGM team.

But his fears rapidly evaporated once he became accustomed to the Race+Rally-owned car - he won the NI title in a Citroen last season - and when the rally moved to the closed road stages in Co Down, he and co-driver Kirsty Riddick suddenly shot to the front, building a lead that would see them pull off a 20-second victory over the R5 Skoda Fabia of Desi Henry and the WRC Ford Focus of Derek McGarrity.

Jointly run by the Ballynahinch and Rathfriland clubs, and incorporating the Protyre UK Asphalt Championship for the first time as well as the McGrady Insurance NI series, the rally proved a huge success, from its capacity entry list to its slick staging. And Greer's win kept it in the family.

"I can't quite believe it to be honest," said Greer. "With my home motor club involved and with the family business 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. But when the first few stage times came in, I was surprised to see we were quite competitive."

In fact, Greer took control from the first of three passes over the Hamilton's Folly stage in Co Down. He had recovered to third place behind Henry and Scot David Bogie going into the daunting 11-mile test but came out in front after a heavy landing over one of the notorious jumps dislodged an inter-cooler pipe in Henry's Skoda.

It cost Henry some 30 seconds, a deficit he couldn't claw back as Greer consistently matched the pace of the Tour of the Sperrins winner and Bogie, who was later to retire when his Skoda suffered power steering failure.

McGarrity, leader of this year's NI series, was in trouble on Hamilton's Folly too, a braking problem with the Focus, which was to persist throughout the rally, sending him down an escape road, although he battled back to complete an all-Ulster podium.

Daniel Harper was the leading driver from the Protyre UK Championship, taking fourth place in his WRC Mini over two minutes behind Greer.

Top seed Melvyn Evans struggled to adapt to a new WRC Ford Fiesta, the Welshman finishing back in ninth, four places behind his son Merion who was making just his second appearance in an R5 Fiesta.

Alan Carmichael rounded out the top six in a McGeehan Motorsport WRC Mini, with Damien Toner winning the two-wheel-drive division in his Ford Escort in seventh.

Former NI champion Stuart Biggerstaff was eighth, his Subaru bearing the scars of a Hamilton's Folly mishap.

Now it is on to the John Mulholland Motors Ulster International where Greer and Henry take on the leading contenders in both the Irish Tarmac and British Championships.

Belfast Telegraph

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