Belfast Telegraph

McGeehan ready to see it through in Fermanagh

 

Out in front: Derek McGeehan faces stiff challenge from Derek McGarrity and Stephen Wright at the NI Rally Championship
Out in front: Derek McGeehan faces stiff challenge from Derek McGarrity and Stephen Wright at the NI Rally Championship

By Sammy Hamill

The three-way tussle for the Northern Ireland Rally Championship resumes in the Fermanagh forests this weekend after the summer break with Derek McGeehan striving to hold off the challenges of Derek McGarrity and Stephen Wright.

The Draperstown rally engineer and his son Mark in their WRC Mini have a seemingly substantial lead of 22 points over McGarrity - 24 more than Wright - thanks to their consistency through the first four rounds but that doesn't tell the whole story.

Chasing a record ninth success in the McGrady Insurance series, champion McGarrity's round one retirement left him on the back foot at the start of the year but a win at round two followed by podium places at the following two events saw him jump back into contention.

Wright missed round three due to work commitments but he has two maximum scores and, like McGarrity, is in a position to benefit when the championship's 'dropped scores' rule kicks in.

McGeehan will maintain points in the bag are priceless at this stage but it means Saturday's Trailer Parts Lakeland Stages - the first forestry round of the series - could have a crucial effect as the crews return to action in a rally which doubles up as part of the Irish Forestry series.

The Irish title has already gone to Tyrone's Cathan McCourt and he is in the line-up in his R5 Ford Fiesta as are two former champions Sam Moffett and Desi Henry, both in WRC Fiestas.

Moffett, a past Lakelands winner, starts at number one with Henry at two ahead of the R5 Fiestas of Vivian Hamill and McCourt and former Tarmac champion Donagh Kelly who is taking to the gravel stages in his R5 Skoda Fabia.

McGarrity is the first of the NI title contenders at number eight in his WRC Fiesta, with McGeehan at 10 and Wright surprisingly starting at 17.

Based at Grosvenor Barracks on the Coleshill Road, crews will leave the service area shortly after 10.30am before heading to the forests for six stages.

Meanwhile, the Ulster and West Cork rallies have again been included in the British Championship schedule for 2020. West Cork will be round two on March 14/15 with the Ulster listed for August 21/22. The other four rounds are: Cambrian Rally, Wales, February 8; a new event Corbeau Seats Rally, Clacton-on-Sea, April 25/26; Ypres Rally, Belgium, June 25/27 and Galloway Hills Rally, Scotland, September 19.

A new event taking place this weekend is the Rali Bae Ceredigion, the first rally to be held on closed public roads in Wales and a likely candidate for future British Championships.

The line-up is headed by Welshmen Tom Cave and Osian Pryce, but it also includes Ulster's Marty McCormack who will drive an R5 Proton Iriz for the first time.

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