After SS4: McCloskey Leads, Britton Punctures

AFTER SS4: Connor McCloskey and Noel O’Sullivan have surged into an early lead at the MJE Wheels Repair sponsored Tyrone Stages Rally. The crew has been fastest or equal fastest on the opening four stages to lead the rally by four seconds from Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson who lost time with a half spin.

“We had a half spin on the first stage but we had a better run on the second loop,” McGarrity said. “The second stage is quite tight and our handbrake isn’t working which is making it really awkward. There’s nothing we can do about it, just drive around the problem, but other than that it’s going good!”

Meanwhile, McCloskey had some braking troubles on stage four and lost a bit of confidence…

“The pedal is going to the floor so we dropped a bit of time,” he revealed. “I don’t think we lost a lot – it was more down to a lack of confidence.”

William Creighton is having a fantastic drive on his debut with a Citroen DS3 R5. Navigated by Liam Regan, the crew is in third overall ahead of Martin Cairns and Peter Ward.

James and Heather Kennedy are the leading lights in the two-wheel drive category and reported that his car is “doing everything I want it to do”. John Devlin and John McCarthy are hot on their heels, while Josh McErlean is enjoying his four-wheel drive debut and holds eighth.

James Laverty and Paul Britton are fighting tooth and nail for the Group N Championship. Britton had an early lead but then a puncture on stage four has dropped him down the order.

“We lost about 35 seconds,” a dejected Britton said. “I think we were seven or eight seconds in front (of James Laverty) until that happened but that’s the way things go.”

Rival Laverty caught him on the stage and although he admits he is driving “for points”, it’s not going to be an easy ride as he reported a slipping clutch. He holds ninth.

“I just want to get her to the finish,” Laverty said. “I’m just thinking of the Championship more than anything.”

Gareth Sayers is struggling with a misfire in his Impreza WRC and has only had one ‘clean’ stage so far. More worryingly, he also has an oil leak which he’s having to keep a close eye on.

Dominic McNeill is enjoying himself although he reckons it’s 10 years since he last competed on a stage rally. Cathal Rogers is another driver who is enjoying his first event in 10 years and admitted he’s still trying to find a rhythm.

Brendan Cumiskey lost more than 30 seconds on the first loop when the intercooler pipe came adrift in his Fiesta. Championship sponsor, Fintan McGrady, is also in trouble. A sticking throttle and a down on power engine is leaving the McGrady Insurance man frustrated.

Barry Morris was frustrated after the first loop as he lost time to his 2WD rivals but stages three and four proved more fruitful after he changed to softer compound tyres.

Raymond Doyle is full of smiles after enjoying “plenty of sideways” through the technical stages two and four. Geoffrey Nevin spun at a hairpin on stage four and lost at least 10 seconds while Philip Greenlee is struggling with a misfire in first gear.

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Jonathan MacDonald

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