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McGarrity makes switch as he bids to reclaim crown

 

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Derek McGarrity

Derek McGarrity

Derek McGarrity

He said he wouldn't be able to defend his Northern Ireland rally title and, despite winning the opening round of the 2020 series, that seems to be the case for Stephen Wright.

The first driver from the Republic to win the championship, Wright is absent from the starting list for Saturday's McGrady Insurance Stages at the Bishopscourt circuit in Co Down, the Monaghan man citing work commitments.

In his absence, eight-time champion Derek McGarrity heads the line-up for the Ballynahinch Club round, which he has won on multiple occasions including last year.

He was third behind Wright and Derek McGeehan in the first round at Kirkistown, struggling to come to terms, he said, with his R5 Skoda Fabia in the streaming wet conditions.

But in typical McGarrity fashion, even though the Fabia had been upgraded to produce more power, it has gone, sold on to a buyer in Italy, and in its place the rally car trader from Mossley has acquired a WRC Ford Fiesta which he will use instead. It is the Fiesta used by former UK Asphalt champion Damien Cole to win the Mewla and Harry Flatters rallies last season. McGarrity drove a WRC Fiesta to victory at Bishopscourt last year.

McGeehan will also have WRC power in his Mini as he attempts to keep ahead of McGarrity in the title race, as will PJ McDermott and Kevin Kelleher in Subarus. Kelleher is making the trip from Cork to take part after an extended period away from the sport.

But R5 cars dominate the top of the entry list, with Gareth Sayers and Emma McKinstry aiming to build on their top-10 finishes at Kirkistown. The two-wheel-drive category is headed by the likes of James Kennedy (Escort), Niall Carey (BMW), Alastair Cochrane (Escort), Drew Stewart (Escort) and Jamie Grant (Starlet).

The rally is scheduled to start at 9am for six stages all within the confines of the Bishopscourt circuit.

Meanwhile, the Triton Showers Irish National Championship kicks off on Sunday with the Mayo Stages based at Castlebar, where the entry list is headed by 2019 champion Josh Moffett.

One of six national champions in the field, Moffett will use the event to further acclimatise himself to the R5 Hyundai he is using this season. He takes on the likes of Roy White (WRC Fiesta), Donagh Kelly (R5 VW Polo), Peadar Hurson (WRC Fiesta), Niall Maguire (WRC Subaru) and Eugene Donnelly (R5 Proton Iriz).

Scotland's former British champion David Bogie joins the two-wheel-drive brigade in his Mk2 Ford Escort.

Belfast Telegraph