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Wright hoping luck will be on his side again at Bishopscourt

 

Great win: Stephen Wright picked up Kirkistown triumph
Great win: Stephen Wright picked up Kirkistown triumph

By Sammy Hamill

Stephen Wright was in the right place at the right time at Kirkistown last month to snatch a rare victory by a southern driver in the Northern Ireland Rally Championship.

Encouraged by his win in the Pacenotes Stages Rally, the Monaghan driver is back with his R5 Ford Fiesta for round two of the McGrady Insurance series at Bishopscourt on Saturday - but he will be fortunate if the pieces fall into place like they did a fortnight ago.

Wright jumped from eighth to second when his starting position allowed him to fit suitable tyres when the rain came pouring down, and he found himself in front when leader Derek McGarrity was forced out after the penultimate stage with a small engine fire in his WRC Ford Fiesta.

The minor damage has been repaired and the eight-time champion returns to head the line-up at the Co Down circuit where he has been totally dominant over the past decade, winning almost a dozen times.

"The car is all sorted now," said the Mossley rally car trader. "A plastic steering pump pipe melted, causing the fire. We have new pipes fitted and there was no other damage. Now I have to get a win to get back on track."

Among those trying to stop the McGarrity Bishopscourt blitz will be two former champions, Kenny McKinstry and Stuart Biggerstaff, both in WRC Subarus, as well as Derek McGeehan, who was third at Kirkistown in his WRC Mini.

Other WRC contenders include Kevin Barrett, George Robinson and Scot Nigel Feeney, who made his debut in the series at Kirkistown. Wright and Mark Massey lead the R5 contingent.

There is an equally strong two-wheel-drive contingent with James Kennedy, John Devlin, Paul Barrett, Drew Stewart and Kyle White among the main contenders.

Even 2017 champion Jonny Greer has opted to join the two-wheel-drive brigade on this occasion with a Toyota GT86 before he heads for West Cork next week and the second round of the Irish Tarmac Championship with his R5 Fiesta.

Organised by the Ballynahinch club, the event is held within the confines of the Bishopscourt circuit near Downpatrick, with the action getting under way shortly after 9.30am.

• Fernando Alonso was confirmed as a McLaren ambassador last week, keeping him in the loop for the 2019 F1 season after he left the sport at the end of the last campaign, but he's left the door ajar, hinting at a possible return.

After signing onto his ambassadorial role, Alonso has been rumoured for an early return.

In a conversation with Rubens Barrichello which has now been released, Alonso said: "Formula 1 has the fastest cars on the planet. If you have the opportunity to reach a leading team, the possibility of winning, you will always say yes because F1 is F1."

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