With one stage remaining, Jonny Greer and Darragh Mullen are on the verge of victory at the Orchard Motorsport Kirkistown Stages, round one of the McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship!

Greer’s lead stands at 8.6s – a virtually insurmountable margin for any competitor to claw back in one stage. However, as the Carryduff driver discovered during the final stage of an event last year when a puncture snatched victory from his grasp, he cannot afford to relax until he crosses the finish line. And with rain now threatening the circuit, the final stage could prove to be a difficult test.

The battle for second is as intense as ever. Third-placed Derek McGarrity and Graham Henderson claimed another fastest time through stage five, placing them within 1.1s of second-placed Phillip Allen and Emily Turkington. Allen reckons he lost a couple of seconds on the stage but is geared up for a final stage battle.

“I didn’t use the handbrake at a few corners when I should have,” Allen rued.

Meanwhile, Stephen Wright and Ger Conway continue to hold fourth overall, just three seconds behind McGarrity. All three drivers are pushing hard and if the rain arrives before the final test, it could really put the cat amongst the pigeons.

“That stage was a lot more enjoyable,” Wright said. “We used old tyres and it took a while for them to work. But when they heated up, they really worked and the car was top class!”

Darren Gass was full of smiles at the stage finish as he recalled a big slide at the bottom end of the circuit. He holds fifth overall, 2.1s behind Wright.

“We slid the whole way around the corner,” he smiled. “It was fun but it was just a bit slow!”

Aaron McLaughlin and Darren Curran were happy with their stage time as they claimed third fastest behind McGarrity and Greer. They climbed to sixth overall as a result, with Mark Massey and Alistair Wylie in seventh ahead of Joseph McGonigle and Ciaran Geaney who lost a couple of seconds when they ran wide on the gravel section.

Ian Dickson lost precious seconds when he caught another car while Alan Carmichael is struggling after his Subaru’s power steering failed. Cal McCarthy lost time with a spin and Chris McGurk was another driver who lost time when he caught another competitor.

Michael McGarrity is struggling with a misfire and in the two-wheel-drive category, James and Heather Kennedy nipped a few more seconds out of Andrew White and Paul Hughes. With one stage to go, 7.4s separates the two crews. However, White was really fast in the wet conditions this morning and the rain is threatening again. Could he put the Kennedys under pressure in a final stage dash?

Speaking of rain, Kieron Graffin was hoping it stayed dry for the last run. As I type, stage five is still running and a few spots of rain are starting to fall. In fact, it caught out James and Linda Wylie right in front of us with their Escort scooting onto the grass. Things could get even more interesting once the final stage gets underway…

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