GREER SHIFTS UP A GEAR FOR KIRKISTOWN WIN
DGM Citroen driver overcomes cylinder issues for victory
Organiser: North Armagh Motor Club Ltd When: February 11 Where: Kirkistown Race Circuit, County Down Championships: MSA ANICC Northern Ireland Rally Championship, ANICC Junior 1000 Rally Challenge Ireland Starters: 78 Stages: 6
Jonny Greer and Brian Crawford were undeterred when their Citroen DS 3 R5 lapsed on its cylinders over the second half of SS2 to lead the field throughout and win the Kirkistown Stages, the opening round of the MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship, by 13s.
Heading into the series with seven title wins, Derek Mcgarrity was 1.1s down on the 4.1-mile SS1. Despite Greer’s problem, later put down to a minor wire issue, the Ford Fiesta R5 of Mcgarrity and Robert Travers was 5.1s behind after the repeat. But Mcgarrity, the New Year Stages winner at the Kirkistown venue two weeks prior, went quicker on the longer SS3 by 1.2s to leave a 3.9s gap at the mid-event service.
Over the afternoon, Greer added 3s to the gap on each stage to stamp his authority at the top, while Connor Mccloskey matched the winning SS4 time before he retired from third with engine failure, metres from start of SS5.
Peadar Hurson and Gary Mcelhinney debuted a Ford Fiesta WRC and despite a spin on SS2, which dropped the pair from an early third to fifth, snatched the podium place back, 5.3s from Mcgarrity at the end.
Robin Phillips, the 2000 Northern Ireland champion, looked like he had never been away in his Subaru Impreza S10 WRC. Sparse outings since his title did not affect his pace, taking fourth fastest on SS1 and he stayed in the same position at the finish, 12.5s from Hurson and 4.8s up on Kieron Graffin’s DS 3 R5.
Graffin had a steady start with 12th fastest and was sixth before getting ahead of Alan Carmichael on the penultimate test. Carmichael, again in a Mcgeehan Motorsport-run Mini John Cooper Works, has made his championship ambitions known and is expected to feature regularly this season. He finished sixth.
Kenny Mckinstry won the rally last year but with his S14 version of the Subaru Impreza at the Cambrian Rally with Tom Cave, the S8 Banbridge-based car was in his possession. A misfire issue, later sorted, meant seventh was the result having fought up from 12th.
Eighth and Group N winner on his rally debut was Philip Allen, son of the late Northern Ireland champion Glenn. The Allen family were welcomed to the service area again with Glenn’s regular co-driver, Damien Connolly’s brother Martin, alongside in what was a fine effort to win a competitive category by 18s.
First of the Escorts and first twowheel-drive were Keith White and Paul Mulholland. The later conditions favoured the Crumlin driver, and he moved from 11th on SS1 and 13th fastest on SS2 to head Dessie Mccartney’s Darrian T90 GTR by 4.3s, while 6.5s from Allen. Mccartney is still impressive on national rallies as a septuagenarian.
Last year’s Group N champion Clive Kilpatrick was knocking on the door of a top 10 finish in 11th and Kyle Orr put a retirement on the last outing behind with 12th. Border Rally Championship preparation had Kyle White 13th, ahead of both James Kennedy and Geoff Mcmahon.
Despite getting a tyre stuck under their Skoda Citigo, Sam Adams and Andrew Bushe won the Juniors by almost four minutes to head Peter Beaton by a 16-point advantage in the junior championship standings.
Greer topped NI championship opener