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Motorsport: McGarrity powers to fifth Circuit crown

Although Derek McGarrity had to play second fiddle to Kenny McKinstry on the opening day of the Donnelly Group/UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland Rally on Saturday, he surged ahead yesterday over the final six stages in Monaghan and Tyrone to score his fifth victory in the Easter classic, 42 seconds clear of his rival.

The Banbridge veteran's day started badly when he spun his Subaru Impreza on the first stage outside Emyvale, and the car wouldn't restart for an agonising half minute, giving the Glengormley driver the lead which he would hold to the finish.

McKinstry lost more time on the next two stages, leaving him 43 seconds down at the Armagh service halt.

Over the final three stages, McGarrity held station to clinch his fifth win in nine years, with co-driver James McKee repeating last year's success.

This puts McGarrity level with Irish rally legend Paddy Hopkirk in terms of numbers of victories, although the rally was a five-day marathon in Hopkirk's days in the 1950s and 60s, compared to today's sprint event.

Maynooth driver Kevin Barrett and his Limerick co-driver Sean Mullally held third place throughout the weekend, despite some early problems with their Impreza, but the drive of the day came from Welsh pair John Dalton and Gwynfor Jones.

They held eighth place overnight in their Darrian, 36 seconds behind the Ford Escort of Phil Collins and Derek Brannigan in a battle for the Clubman section, but yesterday's narrower, twisting stages suited their car and a series of quick times lifted them to fourth place overall at the finish, just 1.8 seconds ahead of Collins.

Garry Jennings headed the Group N Production class on the opening day after a terrific duel with Neil McCance, but Jennings rolled his car on the second stage of the day, Favour Royal, forcing him to retire.

McCance didn't restart yesterday morning, leaving Donagh Kelly from Donegal as the Group N winner.

Behind him, a four-way battle raged for runner-up position in the class, with the order changing after five of the six stages. On home ground, 21-year-old Sam Moffett from Clontibret twice took over second place, passing and being re-passed by both Alan Ring from Kerry and Dundalk driver Brendan Cumiskey.

However, major problems for Ring forced him to limp through the final three stages, dropping him well down the field, while Cumiskey finally beat Moffett for second place by 18 seconds, leaving them in seventh and eighth positions overall.

Irish Independent