Belfast Telegraph

Hotshot Greer a real threat to the champion McGarrity

 

By Sammy Hamill

Derek McGarrity is the record winner of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship, taking the title for the past five years in a row and seven times in total.

On many occasions he has been virtually unchallenged, winning the Championship with time to spare. But not this year.

Yes, the helicopter pilot from Mossley leads this season's McGrady Insurance series again heading into this weekend's penultimate round, the Bushwhacker Rally, but he is under pressure from an unexpected quarter.

Jonny Greer originally set out to contest the British Championship, but when that didn't go to plan he turned his attention to his home series in which he had won the opening round at Kirkistown in what was only intended as an early season shakedown for his R5 Citroen DS3.

A clashing date with the Border Counties Rally in Scotland meant he missed the second round but Greer came back to pull off an unexpected win over McGarrity on the Glens of Antrim Rally.

They both retired from the Tyrone Stages before Greer put himself in title contention by taking second-place points on the Lakeland Stages, where he again finished ahead of McGarrity, who made a first appearance in an R5 Skoda Fabia.

Now they are just six points apart - and closer still on the scoring system in which each driver counts their five best scores from seven rounds. On that basis, Greer is fractionally ahead with just Saturday's Bushwhacker and the Tour of the Sperrins next month to run.

The Omagh Club's McKelvey Asbestos-sponsored event doubles as the final round of the Irish Forestry Championship and has attracted a 120-strong entry which includes Sam Moffett, who is on the brink of an historic title treble - the Irish Tarmac, National and Forest crowns.

And with the NI Championship allocating points to all comers, Moffett will surely have an influence on the outcome, as will the likes of last year's Bushwhacker winner Mark Donnelly, his namesake from Omagh and Martin Cairns - all in WRC Ford Fiestas - as well as three-time NI champion Kenny McKinstry (WRC Subaru) and Desi Henry, current Irish forest champion.

Further down the list is Jon Armstrong, who drives a Mitsubishi Evo, with Aimee McManus co-driving, her reward for contributing to the prize draw which allowed Armstrong to have a pre-event test ahead of his R5 Fiesta debut on Rally Germany.

It paid off with Armstrong showing impressive pace, including fastest R5 time on the final stage, and he gets a second outing in the DMACK Ford at Rally Catalunya next month.

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