Competitors Gear Up for Kirkistown’s Pacenotes Rally Magazine Stages!

Championship sponsor Fintan McGrady takes invited media out for a spin around Kirkistown Race Track. Image: Graham Curry
The 2019 McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK N.I. Stage Rally Championship gets underway this Saturday (23 February) with the Pacenotes Rally Magazine Stages at Kirkistown!

An entry of more than 70 crews has been received for the popular County Down venue with a host of high-powered machinery that includes a handful of World Rally Cars and state-of-the-art R5 rally cars ready to battle for the spoils.

Reigning champion, Derek McGarrity, is expected to lead the field off the start line. The Glengormley driver has confirmed his intent to bid for a record-making ninth N.I. Rally Championship title and although he had initially planned to use his freshly rebuilt Focus WRC, the car has since been sold. Instead, he intends to drive a Fiesta WRC.

His main opposition includes a host of Mini WRC pilots. Draperstown’s Derek McGeehan is a former winner at the Kirkistown venue’s New Year Stages and he also won last year’s non-championship May Day Rally. He plans to use his Mini WRC, as does Scottish visitor Nigel Feeney.

Feeney has campaigned his Mini WRC for a couple of seasons but this will be his first foray into the N.I. Rally Championship scene. He has won a handful of events over the years and could be one to watch once he finds his bearings at the venue.

“I’m planning on doing the championship,” Feeney revealed, “but I may have to miss one or two rounds depending on work commitments.”

Meanwhile, Alan Carmichael should be up to speed after contesting last weekend’s British Rally Championship opener. The Ballymoney man has switched his Mini WRC for a Hyundai i20 R5 which he used to finish second overall at last year’s non-championship Turkey Run Rally in
December.

Sean Devine will be among the front-runners as he makes a return to the series in a Fiesta R5. He narrowly missed out on lifting the N.I. Championship title around 10 years ago and he hasn’t had many outings since the 2009 season as he struggled with a back injury. 

Also returning to action is Brian McCloskey who, like Devine, hasn’t had many outings in recent years. In fact, it was McCloskey’s son, Connor, who denied Sean Devine the title back in 2008!

McCloskey will contest the event in a Fiesta and so too will Mark Massey. He started last year’s N.I. Championship season with a fourth overall finish at Bishopscourt and will be vying to get his 2019 campaign off to an equally good start.

Other notable entries include Dominic McNeill in a Fiesta WRC, Jonny Morrow in his beautiful Mitsubishi Mirage RS while Liam McFall intends to make his debut in the ex-Niall Henry Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.

In the two-wheel drive category, all of last year’s main contenders are in the mix including champion James Kennedy, his main 2018 rival John Devlin, plus Damian Toner and championship sponsor, Fintan McGrady.

They are joined by Keith White’s beautiful Ford Escort MkI and Kyle White returns to action in his Peugeot 208 R2 for the first time since his UlsterRally accident.

Where to Watch?

All of the action will take place within the confines of Kirkistown Race Circuit near Portavogie. The North Armagh Motor Club event will feature six stages and spectators are welcome to attend. The entry fee of £15 per person is payable to the Motor Racing Club of Ireland at the gate and includes parking.

More information, including regular updates from the event, will be available from nirallychampionship.com and on the championship’s social media channels.

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