Jonny Greer’s Citroen C3 R5 will make its competitive debut on the first round of this year’s Northern Ireland Rally Championship, the Bishopscourt Stages Rally.
The 2017 NI Rally champion ran the C3 as Bishopscourt’s zero car last year which was the weekend before the West Cork Rally. The Saint Patrick’s weekend rally was set to be the C3’s Irish debut before it became the first event to fall foul of the impending coronavirus pandemic.
Greer is glad to end his year-and-a-half wait to debut the “new” R5 but admitted it is strange to think that Bishopscourt will be its first proper outing.
“It will be interesting to get back into competition again,” said Greer. “It’s one of those things now, a couple of weeks before the rally, I’m more apprehensive than excited.
“But no, I’m really looking forward to getting back out again. I haven’t done much in this car either so I’ll have to learn the car as well as getting back into the feel of competing again.”
There has been plenty of interest in Northern Ireland’s first rally of the year. Ballynahinch Motor Club revealed a fully booked 100 car entry list at the start of June.
Bishopscourt’s competitive top ten includes Desi Henry, 2019 champion Stephen Wright, and Derek McGarrity who is looking for his ninth Bishopscourt win in a row.
McGarrity’s Ford Focus WRC is one of several World Rally Cars expected next weekend but Greer believes there is a chance the circuit-based event might suit his R5.
“The car worked well at Bishopscourt last year so hopefully it will do the same again,” said Greer. “There are a few guys in WRCs with a power advantage so it depends where we’ll end up with them.
“If it is going to be a similar layout to last year then it will work quite well for us.
“We’re all going to Bishopscourt from different places so it will be interesting to see who can do what on the first couple of stages.”
Greer was uncertain about what rallies he’ll sample after Bishopscourt, instead he reckons any plans will need to be flexible given the current climate.
What works in the favour of N. Ireland’s main rally championship is the fact it is used to two single-venue events opening its season. The single-venue Dogleap Stages at Shackleton is down as the championship’s second round in August.
For now, though, all eyes are on Bishopscourt to see how the event runs, who gets out of the blocks quickest, and finally how Citroen’s R5 gets on in Ireland against the other marques.
Greer’s C3 remains in R5 specification as he aims to get himself up to speed with the car before installing further upgrades to bring it to the latest Rally2 variant. The Carryduff driver said he’d consider the Rally2 package, which he explained was mainly aimed at reliability improvements, after he had got some competitive miles under his belt in the car.
Photos courtesy of Roy Dempster and Adam Hall