BRADLEY WINS AS MCGARRITY TAKES TITLE
Organiser: Rathfriland Motor Club When: October 15 Where: County Down, Northern Ireland Championship Northern Ireland Rally Championship Stages: 6 Starters: 67
Derek Mcgarrity put a topsy-turvy MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship season to bed with a fifth-straight drivers’ crown and his seventh in total to rewrite the record books, as Camillus Bradley took overall victory on the Down Rally.
Mcgarrity was forced to dig deep after losing bags of time on the opening loop with a misted-up front window. Although Mcgarrity didn’t win he upheld his side of the bargain by finishing on the podium to deny event winner and main title rival Bradley. Sandwiched between them was the Ford Escort Mk2 belonging to Damian Toner.
“I’m over the moon to have won. With the conditions the way they were, I never thought winning would be possible. It caps off a fantastic year for me and the team,” said Bradley.
Monsoon-esque showers prior to the event meant road conditions should have favoured four-wheel drive but that failed to materialise as a clearly surprised Bradley headed up the timesheets after the opening loop. Toner was second with David Armstrong in third and Mcgarrity 25th. Jonny Greer was an early retirement six corners in with engine woes in his Citroen DS 3 R5.
Standing water remained a problem for the second pass over Ardbrin and Closkelt, Bradley doing enough to keep Toner at bay as Brendan Cumiskey moved up to third, multiple Northern Irish champion Kenny Mckinstry was fourth and a resurgent – and visibly happier – Mcgarrity up to fifth. He had threatened to withdraw if the misting issue persisted, but thankfully it did not.
Showers were replaced with sunshine for stages five and six but the roads remained greasy. While caution might have been the order of the day, Bradley could not afford to ease up with Toner breathing down his neck. He held on to record his first victory in the Northern Ireland championship since May 2012 and also seal the two-wheel-drive title.
Mcgarrity clawed back a further two places to finish third with Mckinstry netting fourth, despite encountering gear selection troubles with his Subaru Impreza. John Devlin in fifth pipped perennial rival Alastair Cochrane to the two-litre spoils while Mitsubishi Lancer driver Clive Kilpatrick crashed out towards the end to hand Colm Mcfall t he Production Class win.
Alan Smyth won the front-wheel-drive race in his slightly battered-looking Suzuki Swift, with Andy Johnson (Vauxhall Chevette) getting the better of Drew Wylie to win the Historic honours.
Bradley took Down glory in Ford Escort