Carryduff’s Jonny Greer secured a sensational maiden Carryduff Forklift N.I. Championship victory on Saturday at round eight of the hotly contested series, the BJT Commercials & Plant Hire Lakeland Stages Rally!
Navigated by Gordon Noble, Greer secured maximum points in the series – which is sponsored by his father’s Carryduff based forklift business – after an incredible battle that went down to the final stage on the Enniskillen Motor Club event.
A relatively slow start saw Greer lying in seventh overall after two stages, some 13 seconds behind leaders Martin Cairns and Kevin Flanagan. Cairns moved to the fore when Vincent and J.P. McAree, who led the event after stage one, dropped to fourth. But the rally was set to be turned on its head after the long 14.4 mile ‘Carrigans’ stage.
It was 24-year-old Greer who was in sensational form on the first run over what was the longest stage of the rally. After more than 13 minutes of ‘flat out’ driving, he stopped the clocks nine seconds faster than any of his rivals, promoting him into joint first position with the Subaru belonging to local man Garry Jennings and Barry McNulty.
Jennings, who had been second overall going into the test, could only manage third fastest time, some 10 seconds behind Greer. It was third placed Mark Donnelly and Sean Ferris who had gone second fastest, allowing them to maintain third, while Martin Cairns and Kevin Flanagan had dropped to fourth ahead of Vincent and J.P. McAree.
With Greer now sharing the rally lead with Jennings, it marked the beginning of a titanic battle between the two crews. After service, they both entered the final loop of stages in determined form.
On the repeat run through the short 2.8 mile Blackslee stage, they were equal fastest and continued to share the rally lead. One stage later, a different story was told as Jennings had managed to move into a two second lead after the 3.3 mile Lough Navar test.
However, with another 14.4 mile run through the final Carrigans stage – the same test that Greer had dominated earlier in the day – it was still anyone’s rally.
Despite both pilots being highly experienced, neither man had a Carryduff Forklift N.I. series victory on their CV. So they entered the final test in determined form, going on a no holds barred attack in what was a thrilling finale to the rally!
But unfortunately for rally leader Jennings, his rally was destined to end in a Lakeland Stages ditch after an odd set of circumstances…
“It was a ’4 right’ into another ’4 right’,” Jennings explained. “We were in a lovely drift when the car just jumped out of gear after we went over some rough ground. Instead of taking my time in trying to find fourth gear, I banged it into third…and we shot straight into the inside of the corner!”
“It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” a good humoured Jennings added. “We just got stuck on the soft bank and couldn’t get out.”
While Jennings exited the rally, Jonny Greer and Gordon Noble stayed out of trouble and set another stunning pace through the final miles. In fact, they were so quick, they managed to beat the stage bogey time by a mammoth 11 seconds!
That was more than enough to secure the rally spoils, handing Greer and Noble a popular Lakeland victory aboard their Carryduff Forklift backed Evo 9 Lancer.
Mark Donnelly and Sean Ferris were the best of the rest in their Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, finishing the rally 24 seconds adrift of the rally winners. They just managed to stay ahead of Martin Cairns and Kevin Flanagan, who closed the gap to their rivals to just one second after the final test.
While rally winner Greer picked up maximum championship points from Donnelly, they have both only contested a handful of N.I. series events this year so neither pilot is in the midst of the battle for the 2012 title. Instead, Derek McGarrity, Derek McGeehan and Drew Stewart entered the event as the three main protagonists…
After the opening stage, Derek McGeehan and Damien Connolly were seventh overall, five seconds ahead of Stewart and seven ahead of McGarrity. McGeehan was fastest amongst the three crews again on stages two and three, but McGarrity made a charge over the final loop of stages.
He cut McGeehan’s advantage to 11 seconds after stage four but the Mini WRC pilot equalled McGarrity’s pace on the fifth test. So although McGarrity swiped some eight seconds out of McGeehan’s advantage on the final stage, it wasn’t enough.
McGeehan had sealed fourth overall and in terms of the title race, he closed the gap to McGarrity to 10 points. With a maximum of 12 points up for grabs at the final round, McGeehan is still in with a shout, although the advantage is certainly in McGarrity’s favour.
As for Drew Stewart and David White, they looked set to take top two-wheel-drive spoils on the event but slipped off the road on the final stage. That put any hopes of securing the overall title out of reach but they are still in prime position to seal the 2WD award.
The series finale takes place later this month with Omagh Motor Club’s McKelvey Bushwhacker Rally. Based in Omagh, the action will take place within the forests on 22 September. More details will be available from www.nirally.com.
Lakeland Stages Rally results (top 12)
1 Jonathan Greer/Gordon Noble (Lancer Evo 9) 40m52s
2 Mark Donnelly/Sean Ferris (Lancer Evo 9) 41m16s
3 Martin Cairns/Kevin Flanagan (Impreza WRC) 41m17s
4 Derek McGeehan/Damien Connolly (Mini WRC) 42m39s
5 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Impreza WRC) 42m42s
6 Ian Cochrane/Ray Fitzpatrick (Lancer Evo 9) 42m45s
7 Trevor Ferguson/David McElroy (Impreza N12) 44m51s
8 Gerard McFall/Connor O’Loan (Lancer Evo 9) 45m30s
9 Derrick Jobb/Thomas Nugent (Lancer Evo 9) 45m49s
10 Ray Brammer/Damien Fleming (Impreza WRC) 46m31s
11 Eugene Devine/Graham Henderson (Escort Mk2) 46m54s
12 Robert McKelvey/Aaron Johnston (Lancer Evo) 47m23s
Carryduff Forklift MSA N.I. Championship Standings
1 Derek McGarrity 66pts
2 Derek McGeehan 56pts
3 Drew Stewart 44pts
4 Ray Brammer 34pts
5 Trevor Ferguson 31pts
6 David Armstrong 25pts
Photo: William Neill/NEILLPICS.CO.UK
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