Wright Wins Closest Battle in Championship History at Eurocables Belfast Kirkistown Stages!

Stephen Wright and Ger Conway won the Eurocables Belfast Kirkistown Stages in their Ford Fiesta R5. (Image: Graham Baalham-Curry).

Stephen Wright and Ger Conway emerged victorious at the Eurocables Belfast Kirkistown Stages Rally after one of the closest finishes in the history of the McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship!

The Ford Fiesta R5 powered crew held off a hard-charging Jonny Greer and Brian Crawford to win the event by just one-tenth of a second after six hard-fought stages around County Down’s Kirkistown Race Circuit.

Organised by North Armagh Motor Club, the event attracted more than 70 entries from some of the country’s top rally talent. With more than 20 top-spec R5 rally cars and a strong two-wheel-drive contingent, a tight battle for the spoils was expected but nobody could have predicted just how close that battle transpired to be.

Reigning champion, Jonny Greer, led the field off the start ramp but it was Stephen Wright who raised eyebrows after the damp opening stage. The two-times event winner set the pace by an impressive 5.1s while his rivals struggled with tyre choice. The gap might well have been even larger, only for Wright to be slowed by another competing car during his second lap of the track.

“We lost a few seconds behind another car,” Wright explained, “so the gap could have been bigger. It’s a good start but I know that Jonny (Greer) usually gets faster as the event progresses so we’ll see how it goes.”

Both second-placed Greer and third-placed Derek McGarrity admitted that they had selected tyres with a compound that was too hard for the conditions. After a brief spell in the service area, their respective cars were fitted with a new set of tyres and they went on the attack.

The new tyres worked a treat and Greer was fastest through stage two, almost halving Wright’s lead in the process. However, Wright was determined to seal his third Kirkistown win and went back on the attack. He claimed the fastest times through stages three and four but only by one-tenth of a second from Greer on both occasions.

By this point, third-placed Derek McGarrity had started to drop back. He was 16 seconds in arrears after his efforts were thwarted by a misfire. Instead of fighting for victory, he was trying to keep a hard-charging Aaron McLaughlin and Gareth Sayers behind him.

As for event leader Wright and second-placed Greer, they both entered the final two stages in determined form. Greer was back to his stage-winning ways on stage five and took a small chunk of time out of his rival to leave the gap at 1.2s with one stage two go.

“We’re already at maximum attack,” Greer said after the stage “It’s a bit more difficult for us because we’re running in class 10 to score championship points. That means we have a bit less power. Second is enough for maximum championship points but I’d still like to win the rally.”

Having less power didn’t stop the Carryduff driver from trying to snatch victory from Wright’s grasp and after another fastest time through the final stage, he almost turned the tables. But it wasn’t quite enough. Wright had also had a strong run through the test and he managed to fend off the challenge – by one-tenth of a second!

“I can’t believe it!” a delighted Wright said at the stage finish. “I did everything I could on the last stage. I’m not doing the championship this year but hopefully I’ll be able to get out on a few more rounds.”

Greer had to settle for second position on this occasion but he still secured a maximum championship points, placing him at the head of the McGrady Insurance N.I. Championship tables. It marked a near-perfect start to his title defence.

In the tussle for third overall, Derek McGarrity’s misfiring troubles continued into the final stages. Suspected to be caused by a fuelling issue, it cost him some precious seconds and he eventually fell into the clutches of both Aaron McLaughlin and Gareth Sayers.

McLaughlin and navigator Darren Curran secured the final podium position while Sayers and Gareth Gilchrist took fourth after a day that saw them struggle with the handling of their Fiesta in the tighter corners.

McGarrity and Graham Henderson just managed to cling on to fifth overall ahead of Stuart Biggerstaff and Anthony Nestor. In his efforts to catch McGarrity, Biggerstaff claimed a couple of top three fastest stage times but had to settle for sixth, just four-tenths of a second adrift.

Joe McGonigle and Ciaran Geaney brought their Fiesta home in seventh with Jason Dickson and Shane Byrne eighth, while an unusually off-pace Darren Gass and Sam Hutchinson were ninth ahead of Michael McGarrity and Damien Garvey who completed the top 10.

Further down the order, James Leckey made a successful return to the sport after a 25-year layoff. With a Fiesta R5 hired from McKinstry Motorsport, the former Killarney Rally of the Lakes winner claimed a top 20 position and is now focussing his attention on next weekend’s Samsonas Rally Fivemiletown.

2WD Category

In the two-wheel-drive category, Jason and Gareth Black brought their stunning Toyota Starlet to a well-deserved category win but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the pair.

Despite using the event as a test session with multiple changes made to the car during the day, the Blacks were fastest from the outset. They set the early pace from the Escort piloted by James and Heather Kennedy, with Kyle White and Sean Topping third in their Peugeot 208.

Then it was all change on stage four. After building up a five-second lead, Black frittered it away with a spin during the test. Suddenly, it was the Kennedy husband and wife team who led the Starlet crew by 4.3s.

Black went into the final two stages with a renewed determination. He managed to reclaim a narrow advantage after stage five and cemented the category win with another strong run through the final stage.

James and Heather Kennedy claimed second on this occasion while Barry Morris and Dylan Doonan got the better of Kyle White and Sean Topping to secure third overall in their Darrian. With White in fourth, Drew Stewart and David White claimed fifth ahead of Adrian Grant and Olivia Chambers in sixth.

Next Event

Round two of the McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship takes place next month. The Race & Rally Stages at Bishopscourt Race Circuit is scheduled for 11 March.

Results (Top 20)

1 Stephen Wright/Ger Conway (Ford Fiesta R5) 31m13.5s
2 Jonny Greer/Brian Crawford (Citroen C3 Rally2) 31m13.6s
3 Aaron McLaughlin/Darren Curran (Ford Fiesta R5) 31m44.3s
4 Gareth Sayers/Gareth Gilchrist (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 31m45.8s
5 Derek McGarrity/Graham Henderson (VW Polo GTi R5) 31m51.7s
6 Stuart Biggerstaff/Anthony Nestor (Ford Fiesta R5) 31m52.1s
7 Joe McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 32m03.3s
8 Jason Dickson/Shane Byrne (Ford Fiesta R5) 32m17.3s
9 Darren Gass/Sam Hutchinson (Citroen C3 Rally2) 32m21.5s
10 Michael McGarrity/Damian Garvey (Skoda Fabia R5) 32m29.4s
11 Niall Henry/Barney Mitchell (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 32m41.1s
12 Ian Dickson/Kenny Bustard (Ford Fiesta R5) 32m42.6s
13 Darren McKelvey/Dean O’Sullivan (Ford Fiesta R5) 32m57.0s
14 Emma McKinstry/Kenny Hull (Ford Fiesta R5) 33m10.6s
15 Conor McCrossan/David Burns (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 33m12.1s
16 Chris McGurk/Mark McGeehan (Ford Fiesta R5) 33m16.2s
17 Terry Donnelly/Gareth Donnelly (Ford Fiesta R5) 33m17.4s
18 Jason Black/Gareth Black (Toyota Starlet) 33m22.7s
19 James Leckey/Stephen McAuley (Ford Fiesta R5) 33m24.3s
20 Cal McCarthy/Eric Calnan (Citroen C3 Rally2) 33m32.3s

Kirkistown Hosts McGrady Insurance N.I. Rally Championship Opener This Weekend with the Eurocables Belfast Stages Rally!

Image caption: Reigning champion Jonny Greer in action during last year’s Kirkistown Stages Rally. This weekend’s event hosts the opening round of the 2023 McGrady Insurance N.I. Rally Championship and is sponsored by Eurocables Belfast. (Image: Graham Baalham-Curry).

High-octane motorsport action returns to Northern Ireland this Saturday with the opening round of the hotly contested McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship!

Based within the confines of County Down’s Kirkistown Race Circuit and organised by North Armagh Motor Club, the Eurocables Belfast backed Kirkistown Stages Rally has attracted almost 80 entries.

The return of Eurocables as the event sponsor resumes a long tradition that dates back more than 20 years, while McGrady Insurance confirmed its continued sponsorship of the overall championship at a recent prizegiving event – a relationship that has thrived since 2014.

Leading Entries

If the entry list for this weekend’s event gives an indication of the season ahead, the tussle for the 2023 crown could be one of the closest battles in recent years. More than 20 top-spec R5 rally car powered crews litter the entry list, with reigning champion, Jonny Greer, ready to defend his title.

Three-times champion Greer will be navigated by Brian Crawford in their Citroen C3 and they head a quality field that includes 2019 champion and former event winner, Stephen Wright, who starts at number two in his Ford Fiesta with Ger Conway.

Derek McGarrity is another multiple champion with a record eight titles to his credit. He and Graham Henderson add more variety to the mix with their VW Polo GTi R5 at number three, while former Irish Tarmac Champion, Darren Gass, is sure to be among the front-runners with Sam Hutchinson calling the notes in their Citroen C3.

Joe McGonigle and Aaron McLaughlin finished on equal points last year, with McGonigle getting the nod on the tie-break to claim third overall in the title chase. Both men are back for more in their Fiestas, while Stuart Biggerstaff is another former champion who will be looking to get in the mix too with his Fiesta.

Gareth Sayers could be a dark horse in his latest spec Fiesta while regulars Kieron Graffin (VW Polo), Niall Henry (Fiesta) and Emma McKinstry (Fiesta) could spring a surprise or two.

Further down the order, James Leckey is set to dust off some 25-year-old cobwebs. He was among the fastest competitors in the Irish Tarmac Championship during the ‘90s, trading times with some Irish rallying greats such as Austin MacHale and the late Bertie Fisher.

After hanging up his helmet at the end of 1998 – a season during which he won the Killarney Rally of the Lakes – the Lisburn man is set to return to action on Saturday with a Fiesta R5 hired from McKinstry Motorsport. It will be a far cry from his days behind the wheel of a Group A Subaru Impreza but given his past performances, he will be one to keep an eye on.

“Saturday is really a test session for me,” Leckey said. “I want to get back into a car and see if it’s something I want to do again. I haven’t driven competitively since the end of the 1998 season and Kenny (McKinstry) has told me to be ready to find out how slow I am! So I’m just going to test the car and see if I enjoy it.” 


A strong entry has been received for the two-wheel-drive category too. Jason and Gareth Black are among the front-runners in their Toyota Starlet and will face stiff opposition from the likes of Kyle White (Peugeot 208), Barry Morris (Darrian) and James Kennedy (Escort MkII).

The event also hosts the opening round of the Micra Challenge; a category that aims to provide low-cost competition for those in Micra rally cars. 10 crews have entered the rally, promising another hotly contested category for 2023.

The Event

The Eurocables Belfast Kirkistown Stages will feature six stages, all held within the confines of Kirkistown Race Circuit. The opening stage starts at 9.15am and the finish is expected to be around 4.30pm. Admission to the event is £10 per person.

For more information, including regular updates as Saturday’s rally progresses, follow the championship on Facebook at fb.com/nirallying and nirallychampionship.com. Live results will be available from rallyscore.net.

Entry List (Top 20)

1 Jonathan Greer/Brian Crawford (Citroen C3)
2 Stephen Wright/Ger Conway (Ford Fiesta)
3 Derek McGarrity/Graham Henderson (VW Polo GTi)
4 Darren Gass/Sam Hutchinson (Citroen C3)
5 Aaron McLaughlin/Darren Curran (Ford Fiesta)
6 Joseph McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney (Ford Fiesta)
7 Stuart Biggerstaff/Anthony Nestor (Ford Fiesta)
8 Gareth Sayers/Gareth Gilchrist (Ford Fiesta)
9 Niall Henry/Barney Mitchell (Ford Fiesta)
10 Kieron Graffin/Amy Graffin (VW Polo GTi)
11 Emma McKinstry/Kenny Hull (Ford Fiesta)
12 Michael McGarrity/Damian Garvey (Ford Fiesta)
14 James Leckey/Stephen McAuley (Ford Fiesta)
15 Chris McGurk/Mark McGeehan (Ford Fiesta)
16 Ian Dickson/Kenny Bustard (Ford Fiesta)
17 Cal McCarthy/Eric Calnan (Citroen C3)
18 Jason Black/Gareth Black (Toyota Starlet)
19 Kyle White/Sean Topping (Peugeot 208)
20 Barry Morris/Dylan Doonan (Darrian T90 GTR+)


North Armagh Motor Club is pleased to confirm that EUROCABLES BELFAST has renewed its previous association with this event, and is backing the opening round of this year’s McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship.

Based at Kirkistown Race Circuit on Saturday 18 February, the Eurocables Belfast Kirkistown Stages, which is organised and promoted by North Armagh Motor Club Ltd, will attract the crème de la crème of local rally talent as they battle for the spoils at the popular County Down venue. In fact, the entry is filling fast with many of these competitors already entered, bringing the total so far, to over 80 crews.

Barry Taggart, Clerk of the Course for the event, said: “We are delighted to have the renewed support of Eurocables Belfast. We are privileged to be associated with Shane Braniff, a long-standing supporter of North Armagh Motor Club ltd., motorsport in general and rallying in particular.”

Eurocables Belfast was established in 1989 by Shane Braniff and has become a leading supplier of Industrial, Network and Security Products throughout Ireland and beyond.

“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to support North Armagh Motor Club and the opening round of the N. I. Rally Championship 2023,” commented Eurocables Belfast Managing Director, Shane Braniff. “There’s always a lot of buzz surrounding the opening round of the championship and Kirkistown is always a well-supported event so it’s great to be a part of it and meet the rally fans at the event.”

Competitors will tackle six stages within the confines of Kirkistown Race Circuit, with a similar format to last year. In an effort satisfy all competitors’ needs, vehicle scrutiny will be on Saturday morning only, before the rally, with the opening stage set to start at 9.15am. The finish will be around 4.30pm. The stages will be minimum 90% sealed surface.

A limited number of entries can still be made via www.rallyscore.net  Regulations and future rally information will be available from the club’s virtual noticeboard at www.namcc.com 

If anyone would be available to marshal, contact Chief Marshal:

Caroline McGuinness on 07792 037441.

eurocables Belfast Kirkistown Stages Rally 2023 – Regulations and Online Entry Submission!

2022 Winners Jonathan Greer & Darragh Mullen / www.NeillPics.com

Regulations and Online Entry Submission are now available for round one of the 2023 McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship, the North Armagh Motor Club Ltd eurocables Belfast Kirkistown Stages Rally.

The event, which takes place on Saturday 18th February, is sponsored by eurocables Belfast, and will feature six stages based within the confines of Co.Down’s Kirkistown Motor Racing Circuit.


Entries for the event should be completed online (including Online payment) at www.rallyscore.net

Please submit your competed online entry form, including the appropriate fees and seeding information promptly in order to allow us as organisers to be able to confirm the running of the event and the availability of all the necessary services and equipment at the earliest date possible.


Entries Secretary;

Charlie Deering
Telephone / WhatsApp +44 (0)7519 828407

Enquires only between 6.00pm and 9.00pm weekdays, 1.00pm and 6.00pm weekends

e-mail: kirkistownstagesrally@gmail.com

eurocables Belfast Kirkistown Stages Rally –

Saturday 18th February 2023

2022 Winners Jonathan Greer & Darragh Mullen / www.NeillPics.com

Ballylisk Car Sales Orchard Country Targa Rally – Entries open!

Entries are now open for our Ballylisk Car Sales Orchard Country Targa Rally. The event takes place on Saturday 8th October 2022 and will repeat the well-liked layout of previous years, including the smooth special tests and also one new test are this time. Entries open on the Rallyscore online system only, at 19.00hrs on Sunday 18th September 2022. Entries close at 20.00hrs on Saturday 2nd October 2022, or earlier if numbers reached.

Entries Secretary;

Barry Taggart
Telephone +44 (0)7771 892423

(between 16.00hrs and 22.00hrs please)
e-mail: barry27@sky.com


Entries Received


For all the latest information check out our Virtual Noticeboard


Damian Toner and Denver Rafferty 2021 Loughgall Stages Rally

Damian Toner first won the Loughgall Stages Rally in 2015 and is back again this year looking forward to his sixth-year win in his powerful MK2 Escort.

Hoping to spoil Damian’s run of success is Sam Moffett fresh from his second place in Donegal last weekend, he is entered in his Toyota Starlet.

Taking place on Saturday 2 July, the North Armagh Motor Club Ltd organised event now in its 24th year will be held as usual, within the beautiful confines of County Armagh’s Loughgall Country Park.

PRM Group and RPM Motorsport have agreed to sponsor the event again this year. Managing Director, Philip Morrow, said:

“I am delighted to be associated again with such a high-profile motorsport event in Northern Ireland. It provides the perfect fit for our business interests and as a keen car enthusiast, I am looking forward to seeing some of the fastest drivers in the country compete for the spoils in what is a stunning location.”

Competitors will tackle a total of six stages, all based within the confines of the park. The event’s Clerk of Course, William Fullerton, said:

“We are most grateful to PRM Group and RPM Motorsport for their generous and enthusiastic support, and also to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, DAERA and AFBI Government Departments and the N.I. Forest Service for the use of Loughgall Country Park.”

Formerly a two-wheel-drive only event, the Loughgall Stages Rally is now open to four-wheel cars also and along with the dominant two wheel drive cars it should provide an exciting and competitive spectacle for spectators.

Regulations and entry forms are still available from www.rallyscore.net and entries are available up until 10.00pm on Sunday 27th June.

Scrutiny begins at Loughgall Country Park for all Competitors from 4.00pm on Friday 1st July where cars and service vehicles may be left overnight in the service area, which will have security present throughout.

Competitors will have the opportunity to walk or cycle the stages from 4.00-8.30pm on Friday 1st July and from 7.00-8.30am on Saturday morning.

There will be an historic, classic and rally car display in the central arena during the event; anyone wishing to bring a suitable display vehicle, the entry is £10 per car and club contact is Alan Dalzell, 07913 675902.

The action starts at 10.00am with all six stages held on tarmac roads and will conclude at 5.00pm. Admission to the event is £10 for adults (which includes a programme) while accompanied children under the age of 16 are admitted free; public car parking available. For more information, visit www.namcc.com

PRM Group & RPM Motorsports Loughgall Stages 2022 – Regulations and Online Entry Submission!

Regulations and Online Entry Submission are now available for the North Armagh Motor Club Ltd PRM Group & RPM Motorsports Loughgall Stages.

The event, which takes place on Saturday 2nd of July, is sponsored by PRM Group & RPM Motorsports, and will feature six stages based within the confines of Loughgall Country Park.


Entries for the event should be completed online (including Online payment) at www.rallyscore.net

Entries Secretary;

Barry Taggart
Telephone +44 (0)7771 892423

e-mail: barry27@sky.com