Report by Andrew Bushe…Photo by Roy Dempster…
The 2013 Carryduff Forklift MSA ANICC Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship resumed after it’s summer break with the toughest rally of the season, the two day Ulster National Rally, which included ten stages, with eighty-eight special stage miles for the fifty-six starters. At the Enniskillen town centre finish, it was Draperstown’s Derek McGeehan who took a well-deserved victory in his Mini WRC, ahead of the MK2 Escort of Frank Kelly, and Shane McGirr’s enthusiastically driven Toyota Starlet.
After Friday’s four stages, two of which were in darkness, it was Frank Kelly who held the over-night advantage, despite being caught out on slicks on the final night stage, and having a few scary moments in the powerful 2.5 car.
Derek McGeehan was actually fastest on that Mallabeny Hill stage, despite the Mini stalling on the start line with an Anti-lag switch issue, and the gap was 3.8 seconds overnight to leader Frank Kelly. Third, just ten seconds further back was Paddy McVeigh in his S10 WRC Subaru, with Shane McGirr fourth in the little Starlet, the MK2 Escort’s of Fergus O’Meara and Chris Armstrong fifth and sixth and Jonny Leonard in his Evo 6 in seventh. Emma McKinstry had started well in her WRC Subaru in sixth after the third test, but fuel pressure problems dropped her well down on the final night test, but she would climb up to ninth by the Saturday tea-time finish.
The Saturday morning stages included the challenging Sloughan Glen and Widow Magee stages, and Frank Kelly was fastest on the opening Sloughan Glen stage, with McGeehan taking three seconds back on Widow Magee to leave the gap at 6.8 seconds entering the second running of the St.Angelo airfield spectator stage. Here Derek McGeehan took four seconds from Frank, and on the next stage, the first run over Carran Bridge, the Mini man moved into a twenty-two second lead, with a storming time, with Frank having picked the wrong tyres suffering a slight over-shoot. Paddy McVeigh retired his Subaru on the opening stage of the day, so Shane McGirr was now third, followed by Fergus O’Meara, Jonny Leonard and Chris Armstrong. Kieron Graffin had moved ahead of Stanley Ballantine in the Group N race, despite Stanley being third fastest overall on the Carran Bridge stage.
Over the final stages Derek McGeehan extended his advantage, and Jonny Leonard, after an earlier scare, moved up to fourth behind Shane McGirr, with other notable drive’s coming from Brian Armstrong, Fintan McGrady and Group N winner Kieron Graffin. The win however puts Derek McGeehan in a much closer to leader Derek McGarrity in the Carryduff Forklift NI Championship, and he was naturally delighted. “It was superb to get this Ulster National victory after losing out to Frank last year. Everything worked well today, the car, Daragh on the notes, and we made a good tyre choice. It was a tough event, and a satisfying result which puts us back in the hunt for the NI Championship.”
Carryduff Forklift NI Rally Championship- Rnd 6- Ulster National Rally Positions
1 Derek McGeehan/Darragh Mullen- Mini WRC – 1h26m02.1s
2 Frank Kelly/Russell Harold – Escort Mk2 +24.0s
3 Shane McGirr/Jackie Elliott – Toyota Starlet +1m59.0s
4 Jonny Leonard/Niall Burns – Evo 6 +3m01.1s
5 Chris Armstrong/Tommy Clinton – Escort RS +3m11.1s
6 Brian Armstrong/Paul Mulholland – Escort Mk2 +4m56.2s
7 Fintan McGrady/Mark Hanna – Escort Mk2 +4m58.4s
8 Kieron Graffin/Paddy Robinson – Evo 9 +5m47.3
9 Emma McKinstry/Kenny Hull – Impreza WRC + 5m59.0s
10 Stanley Ballantine/Wendy Blackledge – Evo 9 +6m03.4s