McGarrity sees Ulster hopes go up in smoke
It couldn’t have been closer. The Todds Leap Ulster Rally was going down to the wire and after nearly one-and-a-half hours of flat-out driving, Derek McGarrity and Tim McNulty were exactly equal, tied for first place.
Just two stages remained, both up in the Sperrins including the longest in the rally at Slieve Gallion.
And it was there that it all went wrong for last year’s winner McGarrity. His S11 Subaru flew over a crest, landed heavily on its nose, bursting the left front suspension strut.
“There was a huge bang and smoke started pouring from the front of the car,” he said.
“I pushed on as hard as I could to the end of the stage, but by then the wheel was on fire.
“That was it, really. I lost 18 seconds to Tim and with just one stage to go there was no way of pulling that back.”
The five-times Circuit of Ireland winner did get a couple of seconds back on the final stage, but McNulty brought his S12 Subaru back to Antrim with a 15-second winning margin.
With a first Ulster victory added to his earlier wins in Galway and Donegal this season, the Meath man moves up to take the lead in the Irish Tarmac championship with just the Cork round remaining.
Darren Gass was more than a minute back in third place with Daragh O’Riordan fourth and Kevin Barrett fifth, all in Subarus.
Garry Jennings, meanwhile, dominated the production-based Rally NI that ran alongside the main event, leading from start to finish in his Mitsubishi.
The Kesh driver left all the British championship contenders in his wake — all that is except Draperstown’s Marty McCormack who hounded him stage after stage in his little French-run, Citroen DS3 and finished just 17 seconds behind.
With Jennings not registered for the British series, McCormack became the first driver for a decade to ‘win’ a BRC round in two-wheel-drive car and now takes a commanding lead in the F2 category. Tommy Doyle took third in his Renault Clio ahead of the Mitsubishi of overall championship leader David Bogie with Jonny Greer overcoming transmission trouble with his Skoda Fabia to finish fifth.
The national rally was won by Pat Kirk in a Mitsubishi ahead of Geoff Dolan’s Sunbeam and the Ford Escort of Fintan McGrady.
The historic rally was won by Welshman Tomas Davies in a Ford Escort but there were class wins for the Porsches of Dessie Nutt and Jimmy McRae.
Kris Meeke was forced to retire close to the end of the penultimate stage of Rally Deutschland, his Mini WRC coming to a halt with electrical failure.
The Ulsterman had been battling with the Citroen of former World champion Petter Solberg over fifth place on the final day, both of them having suffered a spate of punctures, but his rally ended when it is thought the alternator failed, draining the electrical system.
But Meeke’s team-mate Dani Sordo went on to take third place, the Mini’s first podium finish in just its third World championship rally.
Victory went to Sebastien Ogier despite the Citroen team issuing team orders to allow leader Sebastien Loeb to take the win. But the seven-time World champion lost over a minute with a puncture and fell back to finish second, his first defeat in Germany after eight wins.
Meanwhile, Craig Breen won the WRC Academy division of the rally, the young Irish driver coming through to take the victory in his Ford Fiesta by 15 seconds from Spaniard Yeray Lemes. Alastair Fisher finished ninth after falling back with accident damage to the rear axle of his Fiesta.