Go Tour of the Sperrins: After SS1

Desi Henry

The leading crews are through the opening stage of the Go Tour of the Sperrins Rally, round two of the McGrady Insurance MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship, and unofficial times show that Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan are fastest so far.

They powered their Skoda Fabia R5 through the short test 1.6 seconds quicker than Garry Jennings and Michael Moran (Impreza WRC), with Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson were “happy enough” with being one second further adrift in third.

“We’re quickest so far,” Henry said at the stage finish, “but young Philip Allen is coming through behind us and he could go hard.”

Unfortunately for Allen, he stalled his Hyundai i20 R5 on the start line and lost a handful of seconds so it is Henry who leads the way.

“We had a dirty big stall on the line,” Allen reported. “Probably dropped five or six seconds.”

While Derek McGarrity reported a bumpy stage and Garry Jennings commented that the conditions are very different from when he did his recce in the rain, number five seed, Paddy McVeigh, reported a steady run…

“We were a bit late on the brakes a couple of times,” McVeigh said. “I’m a bit rusty. Our last event was in February but we had been out of action 18 months before that.”

A somewhat dejected Alan Carmichael arrived at the finish of stage one reporting that he was out of the rally. His Mini WRC’s clutch gave up at the start of the stage so it is an early bath for the Ballymena man.

It isn’t a good day for the Mini crews as Joe McGonigle was also forced to pull out before the start due to illness.

Alan Smyth (Mitsubishi Evo X) reckons he wasn’t brave enough over the very bumpy roads. Maybe that’s a good thing as a number of crews reported a few moments. They included Niall Henry and David Armstrong…

“Massive moment” Niall Henry said. “It was a 4 left over crest. We spun backwards into the ditch. Very, very lucky.”

Meanwhile, Escort MkII pilot, David Armstrong, said: “We had a massive moment on the first big crest. The back of the car nearly passed the front!”

Ryan Loughran also reported a “bit of a scare” at the same crest but he managed to set quickest time among the first handful of two-wheel-drive crews that arrived at the finish.

“It set me back a wee bit,” Loughran admitted. “I thought we were slow!”

Camillus Bradley reported a few small moments while Stuart Biggerstaff reckons his suspension is set a bit too soft. Scottish visitor David Bogie (Escort) was on the same pace as Bradley commenting, “we were a bit too deep into the gravelly junctions.”

Meanwhile, Marty McCormack has his wife, Laura, co-driving for the first time on a closed road rally.

“It’s Laura’s first ever stage reading pace notes,” Marty said. “It’s a baptism of fire!”

Provisional top 3 (after SS1)

1. Desi Henry
2. Garry Jennings +1.6s
3. Derek McGarrity +2.6s

We’ll have more news after service!

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