McGradey Insurance Bishopscourt Stages Rally at Bishopscourt Race Circuit

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Glengormley’s McGarrity takes two on the trot at McGrady Insurance Bishopscourt Stages!
 
Derek McGarrity and James McKee claimed another emphatic victory on Saturday at the McGrady Insurance Stages Rally, round two of the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship!
 
The Glengormley rally car and helicopter dealer dominated at Bishopscourt Race Circuit, setting a full complement of fastest stage times to win the rally by more than one minute in his Subaru Impreza WRC S12B.
 
The venue, which is situated a few miles outside Downpatrick, attracted almost 100 crews to the former airfield. But it was reigning Hankook champion McGarrity who dominated once again, sealing a second consecutive Northern Ireland Rally Championship victory.
 
McGarrity and McKee were in a league of their own throughout the event, leaving George Robinson and Stuart Biggerstaff to again tussle for the runner-up position.
 
Robinson, a Ballymena building contractor, was determined to make up for his round one disappointment. He had looked set to seal second overall at the opening event of the season until he was forced to complete the final stage in two-wheel-drive. 21-year-old Biggerstaff capitalised on that occasion, nipping in front at the last gasp.
 
On Saturday, it was Robinson who held second overall after stage one but Biggerstaff was just a few tenths of a second in arrears. The second test saw Biggerstaff move in front, and he extended his advantage on the following test.
 
Robinson was forced to up his game, and the fourth stage saw him snatch almost two seconds back. With two stages remaining, little more than two seconds separated the two pilots. It was all to play for but a small mistake by Biggerstaff through stage five handed his rival some breathing space.
 
"It was the first time the track was run in reverse," Biggerstaff recalled. "At the square right after the big jump, I ran wide, caught the grass and spun. After that, I concentrated on having a clean run to get the car to the finish."
 
The 21-year-old pilot lost 18 seconds with the incident, forcing him to settle for third overall. A clear run through the final test saw Robinson and navigator Tommy Speers claim the runner-up spot, while third placed Biggerstaff sealed third, as well as the top Superdrive and Hankook Junior positions.
 
Gary White and Dominic Carson also put their Kirkistown demons behind them. The crew failed to complete a stage at round one after a wheel fell off their Impreza. They enjoyed better luck at the McGrady Insurance Bishopscourt Stages, with fourth overall a deserving result, as well as maximum points in the AutoFashion.ie Group A Cup.
 
In the Sunoco Fuels Group N category, Kieron Graffin and Neil Doherty claimed the top spot aboard their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. The crew also finished fifth overall in the process, with rivals Alan Carmichael and Ivor Lamont taking second in class and sixth overall.
 
The Hankook two-wheel-drive category victory was sealed by Drew Stewart and Steven Park. They claimed the win by less than three seconds after a late charge from James and Heather Kennedy. Gary Price and Matthew McKenna were third among the two-wheel-drive crews.
 
Philip Hunter and Tommy O’Connell claimed a narrow Montgomery Motorsport Historic category victory after a huge tussle with Andy Johnson and Jim Young. It was Johnson who headed the category going into the final stage, but in a last gasp effort, Hunter moved in front to take the win by little more than one second.
 
Meanwhile, in the historic class 10, Brian Carson and Lloyd Cochrane were the sole entrants, so there were no surprises when they claimed the award.
 
Finally, Jonny Leonard and Jackie Donaldson claimed the M-Sport Bonus Parts Scheme prize as the leading Fiesta crew. They also won class one and finished just outside the top 30 overall.
 
With two circuit based events now completed, the Hankook MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship now turns to the first closed road event of the year. The UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland National Rally, which takes place over 03/04 April, marks the third round of the Championship. More details can be found online at www.nirally.com.
 
 
<span style=”font-weight: bold;”>McGrady Insurance Bishopscourt Stages – top 10</span>
 
1 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Impreza WRC) 37m11.9s
2 George Robinson/Tommy Speers (Impreza WRC) 38m26.0s
3 Stuart Biggerstaff/Damien McCann (Impreza WRC) 38m43.7s
4 Gary White/Dominic Carson (Impreza) 39m22.7s
5 Kieron Graffin/Neil Doherty (Lancer Evo 9) 39m29.2s
6 Alan Carmichael/Ivor Lamont (Lancer Evo 9) 39m42.8s
7 Raymond Johnston/Fabian McAleer (Lancer Evo 9) 39m50.1s
8 Graham Ballantine/Donnacha O’Callaghan (Lancer Evo 9) 39m51.9s
9 Drew Stewart/Steven Park (Escort Mk2) 39m56.1s
10 James Kennedy/eather Kennedy (Escort Mk2) 39m59.0s
 
<span style=”font-weight: bold;”>Hankook N.I. Rally Championship Standings after round two</span>
 
1 Derek McGarrity 24pts
2= Stuart Biggerstaff 19pts
2=George Robinson 19pts
4 Raymond Johnston 13pts
5 Alan Carmichael 13pts
6 Drew Stewart 9pts

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Graham is a professional photographer and motoring writer with over 15 varied years of coverage from manufacturer press launches to international motorsport and rally events throughout the world. Graham is a full member of the Guild of Motoring Writers. See more at grahamcurry.com

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