Belfast Telegraph

McGarrity can celebrate as confusion is cleared up

By Sammy Hamill

Derek McGarrity, it seems, has finally been confirmed as Northern Ireland rally champion.

More than a week after he appeared to have sewn up the series with second place behind Kenny McKinstry on the penultimate round, the Down Rally, the latest championship standings show McGarrity with a winning 16 point lead.

The dispute arose over additional points which are awarded to competitors who marshal on other rally-type events — an incentive to contribute to the overall health of motorsport.

McKinstry had earned his 10 bonus points for officiating at Spelga hillclimb, which, if allowed, would have brought him within six points of McGarrity going in the November 7 final round, the Glens of Antrim Rally.

Under strict interpretation of the rules a hillclimb should not count although there had been a tacit agreement in 2008 that this type of speed event was acceptable.

There was further confusion concerning a number of competitors, including McGarrity and production category leader Donagh Kelly, who planned to earn their extra points at last weekend’s Gortin rally time trial only to discover belatedly it was outside the qualifying period.

But it now emerges McGarrity had actually already fulfilled his obligation by marshalling after retiring from the Circuit of Ireland at Easter.

“Myself and my co-driver James McKee were still spectating on the rally after we retired and were asked to help out by assistant clerk of the course Pat McCartan — which we did,” explains McGarrity.

“It never occurred to me to claim marshalling points for that day until this dispute arose but Pat McCartan has now confirmed it and as far as I know it has been accepted.”

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