Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan have won the Eakin Bros Brian James Trailers Stages Rally, round three of the McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship!
The Skoda Fabia R5 mounted crew grabbed the lead from the start and never looked back as they powered to a 14.1-second win over Callum Devine and Brian Hoy.
Henry, who opted to register for the 2019 Championship before the start of the event, secured maximum points in the series and plans to enter round four’s Down Rally in July.
“We were trying a lot of different things with the car today,” Henry revealed. “I wasn’t happy with the car at the West Cork Rally so one of the reasons I came here was to see if we could do anything to improve the setup.”
“We were having a bit of a problem with the car crashing out over the bumps and jumps,” he explained. “Where these cars are designed, you don’t get the same bumps that we have in this country but I think we’ve done a good job. We made a lot of changes to the suspension and it seems to be working very well now.”
It wasn’t a straightforward affair for the rally winners as a trip up a bank caused some panel damage to the front of their Skoda on stage two. They also lost their rear bumper but the damage was all cosmetic as they powered to the rally spoils.
Callum Devine and Brian Hoy claimed second overall after an early battle with Philip Allen and Mark Kane. Allen was using the event as a confidence builder after struggling to become accustomed to his previous car. He admitted the Hyundai was working much better for him and was battling for second overall.
“I like to feel a car moving around,” Allen said. “This car suits me much better and I think we could have been fastest on the first stage only we caught another competitor.”
Allen impressed with his speed and was swapping seconds with Devine but unfortunately a fuel pump failed before the start of stage four which put the Hyundai out of the rally.
Devine went on to claim second overall and was much happier in his car at the end of the day after making some setup changes. He struggled with his Fiesta’s handling over stages one and two but after the setup was adjusted in service, Devine was flying.
He closed the gap to the eventual rally winners by almost four seconds over the final two stages, ensuring the runner-up position was sealed by the number four seeds.
A big battle for the final podium position developed over the closing stages between reigning Northern Ireland Champion Derek McGarrity as well as two-wheel drive pilot Ryan Loughran. However, it was Kevin Eves who sprung a massive surprise in his Toyota Corolla to take third overall as he pulled out all the stops on the final stage.
“That was as close to a suicide mission as I’ll ever have!” a delighted Eves said at the finish. “The last stage is so bumpy and we were on the grass at the side of the road, then off it and back on it again a few times!”
It was a massive push that saw the Corolla pilot swipe more than 13 seconds out of Loughran who had led the two-wheel drive category from the start. Loughran couldn’t believe his eyes and admitted he eased off too much for the final stage after trying “harder than I wanted to” on stage five.
Eves was also 10 seconds quicker than Derek McGarrity who struggled with a bad tyre choice for the final loop of stages. McGarrity had eased himself into the event over the opening stages and admitted he was a bit rusty as he hadn’t competed on closed roads since last July’s Down Rally.
He upped his pace throughout the day but struggled to get heat into his tyres for the last two stages and finished fourth ahead of Loughran. The result places McGarrity second overall in the championship standings while Derek and Mark McGeehan now comfortably head the tables.
The McGeehan father and son team had hoped to get a 20-second penalty quashed, which would have placed them third overall, but their hopes were dashed and they had to settle for sixth.
Sean Devine and Sean Ferris brought their Ford Fiesta home in seventh overall ahead of Alan Carmichael and Ivor Lamont who had a brief scare when a fuel pressure warning light illuminated. Niall Devine and Liam McIntyre won the Group N category and were ninth overall with Camillus Bradley and Crawford Henderson completing the top 10 in their Escort.
While Philip Allen retired with fuel pump failure, Manus Kelly exited the rally three corners into stage one when he became beached, thankfully with no damage. Frank Wray retired with power-steering issues in his Impreza WRC and Darren McKelvey went out with gearbox trouble.
Paul McErlean crashed his Escort on stage one in an incident that he thought was going to be the “biggest accident of my career” while Daniel Hamill crashed his Peugeot out of the rally on stage one. Raymond Gurney was forced out with a broken windscreen and Joe Gallagher retired with turbo failure.
The McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship now enjoys a three-month break before the fourth round of the series gets underway in July. The Down Rally will be another closed road event, this time based in County Down. Details will be revealed over the coming weeks at www.nirallychampionship.com.
Results (Top 10)
(Full results available from www.rallyscore.net.)
1 Desi Henry/Liam Moynihan (Fabia R5)
2 Callum Devine/Brian Hoy (Fiesta) +14.1s
3 Kevin Eves/Chris Melly (Corolla) +1m29.4s
4 Derek McGarrity/Paddy Robinson (Fiesta WRC) +1m33.2s
5 Ryan Loughran/Frances Doherty (Escort MkII) +1m35.6s
6 Derek McGeehan/Mark McGeehan (Mini WRC) +1m40.3s
7 Sean Devine/Sean Ferris (Fiesta) +1m43.2s
8 Alan Carmichael/Ivor Lamont (i20 R5) +1m47.4s
9 Niall Devine/Liam McIntyre (Lancer Evo) +2m13.1s
10 Camillus Bradley/Ivor Lamont (Escort MkII) +2m28.2s