Belfast Telegraph

It turns out all Wright on the day for winner Stephen

Kenny McKinstry
Kenny McKinstry

By Sammy Hamill

It was a case of Wright place, Wright time as Stephen Wright took a surprise first win in the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship at Kirkistown.

His R5 Ford Fiesta was still in the service area when rain came pouring down midway through the Pacenotes Stages Rally at the Co Down circuit, allowing his team the opportunity to change tyres as the front-running group led by reigning champion Derek McGarrity were caught cold.

On the right rubber Wright, who had spun his Fiesta twice in the early stages, leapfrogged from eighth to second, a position which became first when all-the-way leader McGarrity's WRC Fiesta suffered an engine fire at the end of the penultimate stage and he was unable to continue.

It left Wright and co-driver Keith Rainey to fend off a late challenge by former Irish Tarmac champion Darren Gass who gathered pace throughout the day to finish just six seconds behind on his debut appearance in his R5 Skoda Fabia.

"We dropped quite a lot of time on stages two and three but then we got a lucky break with a good tyre choice on stage four," explained Wright. "We were a bit fortunate in that our seeding was quite far back so we had a bit more foresight when it came to the weather conditions and tyre choice."

Derek McGeehan was third in his WRC Mini with Kenny McKinstry fourth in his WRC Subaru and Alan Carmichael fifth in his R5 Hyundai. Joe McQuillan rounded out the top six in another WRC Subaru.

Down south, Josh Moffett won the opening round of the Triton Showers Irish National Championship, the Birr Rally, leading all the way to finish 24 seconds ahead of the reigning champion Declan Boyle with Roy White third, all three driving WRC Ford Fiestas.

Peadar Hurson was the top Ulster finisher in fourth, also in a WRC Fiesta, with Scot David Bogie taking fifth in his R5 Skoda.

Meanwhile, Wayne Boyd had to settle for runner-up position in the Asian Le Man LMP3 championship in Malaysia despite qualifying on pole position and finishing third in the final race of the winter series.

The United Autosports Ligier team of Boyd, Chris Buncombe and American Garret Grist, who won the previous round in Thailand, again led in the early stages of the four hour race at Sepang before falling back with a problem in the pits.

However, United Autosports won the overall championship with their LMP2 Ligier driven by Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta.

Belfast Telegraph

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