RALLYING is set to return in June when the 2021 McGrady Insurance NI Rally Championship bursts into action at the Bishopscourt Race Circuit in County Down. The Ballynahinch & District Motor Club (BADMC) organised event will be the first time in over a year that a stage rally has been held here after the pandemic brought motorsport to a halt in March 2020.
Brian Crawford, Chairman of BADMC, said: “I am absolutely delighted to see the return of rallying and honoured that the championship commences with our club’s Bishopscourt event. We have liaised closely with the sport’s organising body, Motorsport UK, Sport NI and 2&4 Wheels Motorsport, to ensure we could receive the ‘green light’ for rallying’s return”.
McGrady Insurance is confirmed as the headline sponsor of the five-round championship as well as the Bishopscourt round. Strict social distancing requirements will be in force at Bishopscourt and whilst up to 500 spectators are permitted at the event, for the safety of competitors and officials organisers have decided to run the event behind closed doors.
Raymond Linton, Chair of Northern Ireland’s Stage Rallies Specialist Committee, said: “All events will proceed subject to government regulations at the time and the opening round at Bishopscourt will be a tentative first step back for rallying. Everyone is working hard to ensure that we have a safe, Covid-compliant rally. Spectators will not be permitted at Bishopscourt, but fans will still be able to follow the action through the championship’s social media feeds and website which will be updated as the action unfolds throughout the day.”
The championship’s five-round calendar also features two events in August. The Dogleap Stages on the 7th held in Derry at Shackleton near Ballykelly, while the Loughgall Stages on the 21st will take place in the beautiful surrounds of Loughgall Country Park. It is hoped that spectators will be welcome at these events.
Two events held on public roads, closed for duration of the event, will complete the season with the Tour of the Sperrins on October 16, and the Tyrone Stages on November 6. In the meantime, all eyes are focused on June’s McGrady Insurance Stages. Demand for entries is expected to be high and a packed field of around 100 crews is anticipated.
Suzuki Storms ahead with new bike offers
SUZUKI is giving buyers of its V-Storm 650 machine (right) £500 worth of free accessories until the end of June. This is in addition to Suzuki’s current 3, 3, 3 offer, which allows customers, with just a £300 deposit, to choose from a three-year HP or PCP deal at just 3 per cent APR representative.
Customers can opt to put their £500 towards a variety of accessories, from luggage, including top boxes, panniers, and tank bags, to protective components such bash plates and engine bars or styling items such as graphics kits and touring screens. The V-Storm 650 uses Suzuki’s proven 645cc V-twin engine, packed with character and a broad spread of usable torque, and features traction control, low RPM assist, and Suzuki’s easy start system. Prices start from £7,999.
Meanwhile at Ducati they have updated the Hypermotard 950 family for 2022, which sees the entry into the range of a new livery for the SP version. All models become compliant with Euro 5 anti-pollution regulations and will be available in Ducati dealers from June 2021. The design of the Hypermotard 950 revolves around the twin under-seat exhaust and reduced superstructures that leave the mechanical components visible, including the trellis rear frame. The ergonomics of the bike, also derived from the motard world, which is a French design of motorcycling, ensures a riding position with an upright torso and wide elbows which translates into great bike control. The new livery recalls the world of MotoGP, the engine is the 937cc Ducati Testastretta twin-cylinder unit delivering 114 bhp at 9,000 rpm. The gearbox has been revised to give precision gear selection, adopting the same technical solution of the Monster and the SuperSport 950. Prices from £14,900.
Verstappen takes charge in Monaco
MAX Verstappen took the lead in the 2021 F1 Driver’s Championship for the first time in his career with a perfectly judged Monaco Grand Prix win.
Charles Leclerc, who qualified on pole, failed to make the start due to a damaged driveshaft sustained in a crash during qualifying, meaning Verstappen starting from P2 had an unobstructed view to the first corner. When the lights went out, the Dutchman got away well, taking the lead ahead of Valtteri Bottas and, as they powered out of the Sainte Devote corner, Verstappen built a gap to Bottas and then, as the Finn began to take too much life out of his tyres, Verstappen pulled further away. When the pit stops started Bottas’s race unravelled. The Finn pitted at the end of lap 30 but his pit crew couldn’t remove the front right wheel with the wheel nut resolutely stuck and Bottas was forced to retire from the race. Verstappen stopped for hard compound tyres, re-joining in second place just behind teammate Sergio Pérez, who had jumped up the order as the field pitted around him.
One of those to pit ahead of the Mexican was Sebastian Vettel and a good stop saw him jump both Lewis Hamilton and Pierre Gasly. Pérez pitted and was able to re-join ahead of Vettel, in fourth place.
Over the second half of the race Verstappen was flawless as he carefully managed his tyres to take his first Monaco win, ahead of Carlos Sainz in second, Lando Norris third and Pérez in fourth; Vettel was fifth with Gasly sixth ahead of Hamilton. Lance Stroll was eighth, Esteban Ocon ninth and the final championship point went to Antonio Giovinazzi. The victory in Monaco means Verstappen has a four-point lead over Hamilton in the Drivers’ standings and Red Bull lead the Constructors’ Championship with 149 points to Mercedes’ 150.