Photo by Wayne Turkington…

The third round of the 2015 MSA ANICC McGrady Insurance MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship took place on the Circuit of Ireland National Rally, eighteen stages over some of the finest roads in County Down and Antrim. This was the big one as the Nationals ran behind the European Championship’s finest, with many of the National crews proving capable of matching times with Europe’s best.

Irish Tarmac series contender Declan Boyle was the pace-setter in his S11 Impreza WRC, stretching out a 1 minute 16 second lead over Derek McGarrity before his engine blew up on stage ten. Derek even after the first day’s six stages had over a minute and a half’s advantage over Kenny McKinstry in a similar S14 Subaru, and that gap was eaked out to over two minutes at the finish, as the Mossley driver took his third maximum score in the McGrady Insurance series. “It wasn’t an easy rally” said Derek. “Conditions were tricky early on, and there was a lot of mud pulled out by the ERC guys cutting. Once Declan went out we had to manage that gap to Kenny, but it worked out well for us.”

Behind them there were some interesting battles with Killarney’s Rob Duggan finishing fourth overall, matching times with the top ERC R2 crews and winning the Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales category on the event. Even more remarkable was Montgomery Motorsport Historic category winner, who had his Pinto MK1 Escort into fifth overall on day one, embarrassing many in more powerful machinery. Stanley dropped to eleventh on day two as the more powerful cars passed him on the dry stages.

Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson recovered from day one issues to take a fine third in his 2.5 Escort, with Keith White in the MK1 fifth despite a noisy gearbox, and Frank Kelly who was re-gaining confidence after a crash in February. Camillus Bradley was seventh ahead of two litre class winner Alastair Cochrane both in Mk2’s, with Alan Carmichael ninth in a hired Subaru WRC, and Davy Armstrong completing the top ten.

Notable retirements included Stuart Biggerstaff with fuel problems, Paddy McVeigh with a cracked radiator, Fintan McGrady after a big crash on stage one and Paul Killen with a blown head-gasket in his new G3 Escort. Round four is back on the closed roads on the 9th May for the Tour of the Sperrins.

Issued by Andrew Bushe Promotions-