Stephen Wright and local co-driver Ger Conway finished fourth on Saturday’s Kirkistown Rally, the opening round of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship.
This stage-by-stage account and photos were supplied by Jonathan MacDonald of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship press office
Despite losing a couple of seconds off the start line, Stephen Wright and Ger Conway grabbed the early lead after the opening stage of the Orchard Motorsport Kirkistown Stages Rally. As the rain fell on the County Down venue, they were inch-perfect through the wet test to set fastest time by 1.4 seconds from Jonny Greer and Darragh Mullen.
“I’m not sure what went wrong at the start,” Wright said. “I don’t think I got the start sequence right. Then we lost a bit of time behind another car too.”
Greer and Mullen moved into the lead after stage two. The rain eased off and despite admitting to being a “bit messy and sideways in places”, Greer’s time was enough to promote him to the top of the order by some 7.3 seconds from Stephen Wright.
Early leader Wright lost almost nine seconds to Greer after he got stuck behind another car for a full lap. The number one seed wasn’t best pleased at the finish with the frustration clearly showing after he set only the sixth fastest time
After stage three, Greer and Mullen e extended their lead at the head of the leader board. With the sun shining, the stage direction was reversed, and Greer was fastest on the drying stage to edge out their advantage to 10.6s over Stephen Wright and Ger Conway.
“We went out on wet compound tyres and struggled a bit on the high-speed sections, but it was OK,” a calm and collected Greer said at the stage finish.
Meanwhile, second-placed Wright was in a bit of a flap as he struggled to get to the stage start on time. A sensor issue with his Fiesta delayed the number one seed but he managed to get there in the nick of time and didn’t incur any penalties.
Wright, also on wet compound tyres, was fourth fastest on the stage, just one-tenth slower than third-placed Phillip Allen. Allen reckoned the stage “felt a bit hesitant…a bit slow”, but he has been slowly closing the gap to his rival. Just two-tenths of a second separates the two Fiesta crews at the halfway point
Early rally leader, Stephen Wright, dropped to fourth in the tricky conditions.
“It was strange,” Wright said. “It looks like it’s drying up but the stage was slippier than earlier.”
Stephen Wright and Ger Conway continued to hold fourth overall, just three seconds behind Derek McGarrity in his Skoda Fabia R5.
“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!”
Wright and Conway held fourth through the sixth and final test. Greer took the win, but McGarrity got the better of Allen to take second.
Next up for the Monaghan/Kerry crew is the Mayo Rally in Claremorris on March 6.
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