R3: Top Class Entry for Eakin Bros Brian James Trailers Closed Road Rally!

The McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship returns to action this Saturday with the Eakin Bros Brian James Trailers Stages Rally. Organised by Maiden City Motor Club and based near Claudy, 100 crews will tackle two closed road stages a total of three times as they fight for the rally spoils.

Heading the high quality entry is multiple rally winner Desi Henry. Navigated on this occasion by Paddy Robinson, the Kilrea driver won Maiden City Motor Club’s event in 2019 and 2021 so he rightfully leads the field off the start ramp in his Ford Fiesta R5.

A host of R5 powered crews will be hot on his heels. Unfortunately, Callum Devine has withdrawn his entry so Dromore’s Cathan McCourt is leading the charge in his Skoda at number 3. He and co-driver Liam Moynihan have enjoyed a number of podium finishes together but victory for the pair has so far been elusive, with McCourt’s last outright success being secured back in 2019. However, it is only a matter of time until it all falls into place for the potent duo.

Jonny Greer is the reigning McGrady Insurance N.I. Rally Champion and he starts the rally at number 4 with Niall Burns in their Citroen C3. Two-time N.I. champion Greer is targeting his third title this year and has got his season off to the best possible start with victories at both of the opening rounds in Kirkistown and Bishopscourt. Can he make it three wins on the trot?

Derek McGarrity is another former champion – the most successful ever with eight titles to his name. The Glengormley driver is currently Greer’s closest challenger in the race for the title thanks to solid podium finishes at the opening rounds. Navigated by Graham Henderson, he will have a VW Polo at his disposal this weekend as he bids to close the five-point deficit to his rival.

Also in a Polo, former Irish Tarmac Champions, Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan, will be ones to watch. Kelly is no stranger to success and has sealed a couple of victories aboard his Volkswagen. However, his last win was in 2020 so the County Donegal driver in hungrier than ever for another rally win.

Aaron McLaughlin and Darren Curran are at number 7 in their Ford Fiesta WRC. They are third in the N.I. Championship standings, seven points adrift of Greer. McLaughlin has been increasing his pace in recent events and a second placed finish at Bishopscourt, ahead of McGarrity, could be a sign of things to come for the Carndonagh driver.

Other contenders include a trio of Fiesta drivers such as Joseph McGonigle, who lies fourth in the championship standings, as well as Jason Mitchell and Sean Devine. Meanwhile, Michael McGarrity has his new Hyundai i20 at his disposal, as has Alan Carmichael who has managed to get off the reserve list along with PJ McDermott (Impreza WRC).

In the two-wheel-drive category, Damien Tourish and Domhnall McAlaney are the leading lights in their Escort MkII and start the event at number 12, just ahead of Ryan Loughran and Gareth Doherty. Also among the front-runners are Adrian Hetherington, Kyle McGettigan and Camillus Bradley.

However, in McGrady Insurance Championship terms, category leader James Kennedy is not on the entry list. That will give a prime opportunity for either Andrew White or Alan Smyth to take control at the head of the standings if either driver can secure a strong finish at the event.

The event service area will be based in Cumber, near Claudy. Rally programmes complete with stage maps are on sale in the area. The full entry list is available from RallyScore.

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