SS1: Wright grabs early lead at rain-soaked Orchard Motorsport Kirkistown Stages

SS1: Despite losing a couple of seconds off the start line, Stephen Wright and Ger Conway have grabbed the early lead after the opening stage of the Orchard Motorsport Kirkistown Stages Rally. As the rain fell on the County Down venue, they were inch-perfect through the wet test to set fastest time by 1.4 seconds from Jonny Greer and Darragh Mullen.

“I’m not sure what went wrong at the start,” Wright said. “I don’t think I got the start sequence right. Then we lost a bit of time behind another car too.”

Second placed Jonny Greer (Citroen C3) had his own dramas when he caught the struggling Kenny McKinstry and Sean Topping. McKinstry’s windscreen misted up during the test and he couldn’t see a thing, forcing him to stop at a chicane. Greer was right behind him and there was no room to pass, losing vital seconds.

While McKinstry only managed to complete one lap instead of the required two, placing him at the bottom of the leaderboard, Philip Allen and Emily Turkington are third overall after a drama-free run while Derek McGarrity and Graham Henderson are fourth ahead of Darren Gass and Mark McMillan. All commented on the slippery nature of the stage.

Mark Massey and Alistair Wylie nearly overshot a corner but survived to set sixth fastest time just ahead of Aaron McLaughlin who was happy to be at the stage finish.

“It’s my first time at Kirkistown and we were going backwards on the grass at one point!” McLaughlin said.

Also on the grass was Joe McGonigle. “I went off at Fisherman’s and thought I was heading for the house!” he revealed. Ian Dickson lost time when his screen started to mist up, as did Kieron Graffin who “couldn’t see anything” on his second lap.

Alan Carmichael was late getting through scrutiny and didn’t have time to change his wheels so he completed the test on slick tyres – far from ideal in the conditions. Cal McCarthy was happy to get through the stage on what is his first time at Kirkistown and first time driving his Citroen DS3.

Meanwhile, in the two-wheel-drive battle, Andrew White and Paul Hughes are fastest through so far in their Escort MkI. They were a couple of seconds quicker than James and Heather Kennedy, who lost a bit of time off the line.

Further down the order, Jamie Grant reported a drama-filled morning. His Starlet’s brake pipe burst when they took the car off their lorry this morning, and then a fire extinguisher in the footwell came loose during the stage!

Crews are now back in service. The rain is still falling here at Kirkistown. Stage two will start shortly. Latest results are available from

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