NI Championship revamp sees more rounds and new scoring
An increase in the number of rounds and a revamped points scoring system have been introduced to the 2019 McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship.
Won for a record eighth time last season by Derek McGarrity, the series gets under way next week with the Pacenotes Magazine Stages at the Kirkistown race circuit, the first of eight rounds this year instead of seven.
The new event is the Maiden City Rally which will take place on April 6.
The most significant change involves the distribution of points, championship co-ordinator Bob McKeown explaining: "The top 27 registered competitors who finish events will all score points.
"In previous years, only the top 10 were awarded points but more competitors will be recognised for their efforts with the new scoring structure.
"Competitors will be awarded 28 points for finishing first, 26 for second, 25 for third and so on," he added.
"There's also an additional point for starting an event and an additional point for finishing."
The series will be sponsored for a sixth year in a row by McGrady Insurance, whose managing director Fintan McGrady is a regular competitor. He will be back in action again this year in his Ford Escort.
"I've been competing in motorsport for a long time so I like to support rallying as the rally fraternity are very loyal and have always supported our company," he said.
The Samsonas Fivemiletown Rally is not part of the championship but it kicks off the Ulster season on Saturday in the forests of Tyrone. The entry list is headed by the R5 Ford Fiestas of Andrew Purcell and Cathan McCourt, with Martin Cairns fielding his WRC Fiesta at No.3.
The 2019 championship schedule: Feb 23 Pacenotes Rally Magazine Stages (Kirkistown race circuit); Mar 9 McGrady Insurance Stages (Bishopscourt race circuit); Apr 6 Maiden City Rally (Co. Derry/Londonderry); Jul 20 Down Rally (Co. Down); Sep 7 Lakeland Stages (Co. Fermanagh); Sep 21 Bushwhacker Rally (Co. Tyrone); Oct 19 Tyrone Stages (Co. Tyrone); Nov 9 Glens of Antrim Rally (Co. Antrim).