Wednesday 13 December 2017

Motorsport: Fourth Circuit triumph for McGarrity after engine woes deny MacHale

Paul Phelan

Derek McGarrity yesterday scored his fourth victory in the UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland International Rally, five years after he completed his hat-trick.

The Belfast motor trader's Subaru Impreza finished 34 seconds ahead of Gareth MacHale's Ford Focus; the Dubliner's car suffered frustrating problems all through the two days, with the engine cutting out up to five times per stage, costing him large amounts of time.

However, added to his win in the Galway International in February, MacHale is the clear leader in the Citroen Irish Tarmac Championship, which his legendary father Austin won a record five times.

Despite his problems, he set best times on several stages, even though he could never predict when he could expect full power from his engine.

Alastair Fisher was delighted to finish third in his Group N Production class Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, having led the rally overall on Saturday night after an excellent drive through the slippery evening stages. The 21-year-old's late uncle Bertie was a three-times Circuit of Ireland winner during the 1990s and the Tyrone youngster is following in the family tradition.

Aaron MacHale, Gareth's elder brother, also had a troubled weekend, but battled on to fourth place in his Ford Focus. He lost time on the opening stage when he slid off the road and was down in eighth position on Saturday night, but recovered well yesterday.

Corkman Daragh O'Riordan held a surprise third place during Saturday's daylight section, but slipped to sixth on the night stages when he went off the road. He was fifth at the finish,

Tim McNulty from Summerhill, Co Meath, was the early leader on Saturday, but a puncture on the Doughary stage cost him more than a minute, dropping his Impreza to fifth position. He improved to fourth overnight but was forced to retire when he went off the road with three stages to go.

Another casualty was Billy Coleman Award winner Craig Breen, who held sixth position after the opening loop on Saturday.

He hit a patch of standing water during a rainstorm and crashed his Ford Fiesta S2000 out of the rally.

Marty McCormack dominated the Citroen Racing Trophy section for most of the rally but dropped a lot of time on the final loop and Mark Donnelly came through to snatch a narrow class win.

Sebastien Loeb secured his second win of the season as he extended his lead in the World Rally Championship with victory in Jordan. The Frenchman had entered the final day holding a 24.6-second advantage over compatriot Sebastien Ogier and was never troubled as he took the 25 points with a 31.1-second margin.

Irish Independent

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