McGarrity Wins Bushwhacker But Championship Battle Goes Down To Wire!
September 30, 2013 by Jonathan MacDonald
Derek McGarrity secured victory yesterday at the McKelvey Bushwhacker Rally, round eight of the Carryduff Forklift MSA N.I. Stage Rally Championship, but second placed points for Derek McGeehan has ensured that the title battle will go down to the wire at the Down Rally on 19 October!
While McGeehan only managed to finish ninth overall, a little over one minute behind series leader McGarrity, he was the second championship registered competitor to cross the finish line. As a result, he gained second placed points, ensuring that he still has a mathematical chance of lifting the spoils.
However, the odds are very much in McGarrity’s favour. For McGeehan to snatch the title at the final round, he must score maximum points and hope that McGarrity fails to finish. Given McGarrity’s consistency this year with five victories from five starts, it’s an unlikely scenario but anything is possible in rallying.
At the Bushwhacker event, McGarrity and navigator James McKee used an S14 specification Impreza WRC to head home Martin Cairns and Kevin Flanagan by just eight seconds after a day long battle.
It had taken a few stages for McGarrity to settle in and he found himself in fourth overall after stage one. Instead, it was Owen Murphy and James O’Brien who moved into an early lead with their Evo 9 before transmission trouble put them out of the rally on stage two.
Their retirement allowed Liam Regan and Damien Duffin into a brief lead before Pat O’Connell and Andrew Purcell assumed the advantage after stage three. One stage later, Derek McGarrity and James McKee surged to the fore, moving them into a lead that they would never relinquish throughout the remainder of the 10-stage event.
Despite his rivals never being any more than a handful of seconds adrift, McGarrity was perfectly capable of dealing with the pressure. In the end, he claimed four fastest stage times to eventually emerge victorious by eight seconds from the Impreza WRC belonging to Martin Cairns and Kevin Flanagan.
Third for Michael O’Brien and Greg Shinnors in their Ford Focus WRC saw them secure the Irish Forestry title, while Pat O’Connell and Andrew Purcell secured fourth from Enda McNulty and Paul Sheridan.
Behind them the battle for two-wheel-drive honours raged with Frank Kelly and Sean Ferris tussling for the top spot with Shane McGirr and Jackie Elliott. It was an astonishing battle that saw the lead change on a number of occasions throughout the day.
With two stages remaining, Kelly held a one second lead over McGirr. Incredibly, the two crews set exactly the same stage times over both of the final two stages, leaving Kelly victorious in the 2WD category by just one second!
“It was one of the most ferocious battles that I’ve ever been in,” Kelly said afterwards. “Never have I worked so hard for one second!”
Interestingly, Kelly opted not to use the Carryduff Forklift Championship decals on the event so that he would not be eligible to score championship points. It was this decision that has allowed the battle for the overall spoils to go down to the wire. That vital extra point for McGeehan, who finished ninth overall, was all he needed to keep his hopes alive. Otherwise, the title might have already been wrapped up in McGarrity’s favour.
The event also claimed a number of retirements including third placed championship contender, Jonny Leonard. He had been holding sixth overall when his Evo 6 left the road on stage six but Leonard is confident of fixing the damage in time for the next event.
The final round of the series takes crews to County Down for Rathfriland Motor Club’s Down Rally on 19 October. For more details, log on to www.nirally.com.
Bushwhacker Rally – Top 10 Results
1 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Impreza WRC) 30m12s
2 Martin Cairns/Kevin Flanagan (Impreza WRC) +8s
3 Michael O’Brien/Greg Shinnors (Focus WRC) +15s
4 Pat O’Connell/Andrew Purcell (Evo 9) +39s
5 Enda McNulty/Paul Sheridan (Impreza) +47s
6 Frank Kelly/Sean Ferris (Escort Mk2) +53s
7 Shane McGirr/Jackie Elliott (Starlet) +54s
8 Liam Regan/Damien Duffin (Peugeot 206 4×4) +1m06s
9 Derek McGeehan/Darragh Mullen (Mini WRC) +1m09s
10 Josh Moffett/Jason McKenna (Evo 9) +1m10s