First win for McGonigle while Mackarel tops NI Forest Rally Challenge points

Following a final stage shootout Niall McGonigle secured a first career win at the McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK NI Rally Challenge opener in Fivemiletown after a day-long race with Vivian Hamill, writes William Neill.

The IN Sport Ford Fiesta R5 driver held the lead by narrow margins right up to the penultimate stage where Hamill nipped ahead by a mere 0.2 seconds at the Samsonas supported event.

“Let’s go for it” McGonigle said to co-driver Caolan McKenna before the final pass of the three-mile Crocknagrally test in an all-out effort to bag a win from their Volkswagen Polo R5 rival, who had got the better of the Clady man at the previous Killarney outing.

“I don’t think words can describe how winning a rally feels – Fivemiletown being a really special one for me, “said McGonigle. “The pace was hot from the word go and we had no choice other than going flat out to the very end.”

Hamill and Lorcan Moore were 0.8 seconds down on SS1 – the first pass of the longest stage at 6.4-mile. It was the repeat (for SS4) before the eventual runner up stamped a fastest time to go on to do it again three more times before the day was out and create that final victory chase.

grey ford focus rally car skids in the mud at mcgrady insurance ni rallyDerek Mackarel sits at the top of the McGrady Insurance NI Forest Rally Challenge points.

Photo: William Neill

A podium place finish was enough for Derek Mackarel to now head the McGrady Insurance NI Forest Rally Challenge in a Class 10-spec Fiesta R5, 19 seconds back from Hamill. A second fastest stage time was the best performance of the day to be unmoved from third in the rally standings throughout. Over the weekend busy co-driver Darren Curran also won his class in the Cavan Motor Club night navigation trial.

Despite a boost issue, a pre-rally test had Skoda Fabia R5 mounted Ryan Caldwell in good form with fourth, aided by a misfire problem for Omagh’s Gareth Mimnagh late in the day. Caldwell and Shane Byrne were 21.4 seconds down on Mackarel’s pace but secured their place by 17.4 seconds to have the top five separated by a minute.

James McCarville and Conal McNulty were sixth all day in a Rally2 edition of the Fiesta while Shane Murray started out ninth and crept up to McCarville, by going faster on two stages in the second-half. Murray’s co-driver, Ben Teggart, described the first outing in a Fiesta R5 as “incredible”. The gap was 8.1 seconds.

Heading home with second in the points, and a class winner in eighth overall, was Paul Britton with Graham Henderson on the notes.



black vintage ford escort takes a fast corner at mcgrady ni rally eventHugh McDaid and Martin Byrne were the fastest two-wheel-drive following a disappointing day for both Shane McGirr and Adrian Hetherington. Photo: William Neill

Hugh McQuaid, with Martin Byrne, said it was his lucky day to win the two-wheel-drive category in a Ford Escort RS1800 by exactly half a minute.

Co-driven by Alan Johnson, Sam Stewart had a good day with second in class, scoring top class points and third overall of the registered drivers following much misfortune for other front runners.

Shane McGirr fronted the category in a Lada Riva until a mechanical exit after SS4 and Adrian Hetherington was among the drivers to slide off the tricky Crocknagrally stage.
red vintage ford escort with modifications spray gravel on a tight corner t ni rally eventTop two-wheel-drive point scorer in the McGrady Insurance NI Forest Rally Challenge, Sam Stewart slides his Ford Escort Mk2. Photo: William Neill


green and white rally car turns toward camera at mcgrady insurance ni rally event
Ford Fiesta Rally4 team Ryan McHugh and Declan Boyle were fastest of the front-wheel-drive runners.
Photo: William Neill

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Ryan McHugh and Declan Boyle were fastest front-wheel-drive and 12th overall in a Ford Fiesta Rally4.

“We have had some brilliant gravel miles under us and the confidence is really coming in the car,” said McHugh at the finish.

In second with a seriously nimble Vauxhall Nova, Stewart McClean and Gerard Neeson won their class by just 0.4 seconds while Ruairi Maguire and Grace O’Brien suffered power steering failure in the closing miles.


Ashley Dickson went off the road on SS2 while in 14th, Owen Mallon rolled on SS3 and differential woes forced Arthur Kierans out on SS7.

A broken half-shaft put Adam Semple on the DNF list while a wheel coming off wasn’t the day Chrisy Corry planned.

  1. Niall McGonigle/Caolan McKenna (Ford Fiesta R5);
  2. Vivian Hamill/Lorcan Moore (Volkswagen Polo R5);
  3. Derek Mackarel/Darren Curran (Ford Fiesta R5);
  4. Ryan Caldwell/Shane Byrne (Skoda Fabia R5);
  5. Gareth Mimnagh/J Barry McCarney (Ford Fiesta R5);
  6. James McCarville/Conal McNulty (Ford Fiesta Rally2);
  7. Shane Murray/Ben Teggart (Ford Fiesta R5);
  8. Paul Britton/Graham Henderson (Subaru Impreza);
  9. Hugh McQuaid/Martin Byrne (Ford Escort Mk2);
  10. Dominic Leonard/Martin Baxter (Mitsubishi Lancer).
  • Class 1: Simon Woodside/Terry Walkingshaw (Ford Escort Mk2);
  • Class 2: Ryan MacHugh/Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta Rally4);
  • Class 3: Ciaran McCanney/Emmet Quinn (Vauxhall Nova);
  • Class 4: Stewart McClean/Gerard Nelson (Vauxhall Nova);
  • Class 5: Andy Magee/Michael Johnston (Ford Escort Mk2);
  • Class 6: Hugh McDaid/Martin Byrne (Ford Escort Mk2);
  • Class 8: Paul Britton/Graham Henderson (Subaru Impreza);
  • Class 10: Derek Mackarel/Darren Curran (Ford Fiesta R5);
  • Class 11: Niall McGonigle/Caolan McKenna (Ford Fiesta R5).


Next up in the four-round series is the Lakeland Stages Rally on September 7. Entries for the Enniskillen Motor Club event will become available from

There is more coverage from round one with an action photo gallery set to feature on the McGrady Insurance Forest Rally Challenge Facebook page.


Full results are available from


Full points will be available from

McGrady Insurance NI Forest Rally Challenge 2024 Calendar remaining rounds

September 7 – Lakeland Stages Rally – Enniskillen Motor Club

September 21 – Bushwhacker Rally – Omagh Motor Club

October 19 – Dogleap Rally – Maiden City Motor Club
November 16 - Reserve date (may be used in the event of a cancelled round)
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EDITOR NOTE: Photography may be used for publication free of charge providing credit is given to the photographer.