2009 Erne Safari Rally Report

6 March 2009

Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum secured their first win of the 2009 season with victory in the Erne Safari. This now means that after three rallies there have been three different winners.

Enniskillen Motor Club's event started from McAleer's in Irvinestown, as it has done every year since 2004. Drew Wilson's route used his familiar formula of a long run before the relaxed section that brought the crews out towards Fintona and Tempo before coming back to Irvinestown. The Novice rally ended here while the Experts and Semi-Experts had another shorter, 17.5 mile, loop to complete that brought them towards Lough Erne via a couple of farm lanes that were used twice within this short run.

The result of this rally seemed to be defined by missed controls. Out of the twenty three starters, only 6 found all the controls they were meant to. Mind you, there were 49 controls to find, so clearly that was just too many for most.

The top three seeds, Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane, Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd and McKeown/McCollum came together at a point on the route that included a track that was to be used by the competitors. Young/Boyd got this bit sorted first, and despite being third on the road at the start of the section, moved to the front and led the trio through this track. They then missed the next secret check just after the end of this track. Sheridan and Cochrane followed them through, but McKeown/McCollum found the secret and avoided the expensive 30 penalty.

By the end of this section, McKeown/McCollum held the joint lead with the winners of the previous round, Eddie Murphy and Barry Taggart. Just 2 marks behind them were Leslie and Gareth Hawe and John and Jonathan Henderson, with both David and Kyle Preston and Ronnie and Aaron Mitchell just 1 behind that.

The Hawes got a puncture in the next section and had to cut some of the route, but they managed to miss just one secret before rejoining. The last section before relaxed caused more mayhem. Sheridan and Cochrane missed another control, as did the Hendersons. The Prestons missed the next secret on the same section and Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart had a near miss. They realised they were wrong, turned to find the secret, but they lost so much time retracing their steps that they picked up 27 penalties through the next sequence of secret checks!

By the relaxed McKeown/McCollum were on 7 marks with the Mitchell's next up on 24 followed by William and David Howard who had had an impressive run during this first half.

The tight and fast second half saw McKeown/McCollum drop time on most sections, but they still found all the controls, which meant that they ended the rally on 15 marks, which was 28 clear of second place. Young/Boyd kept up an excellent standard throughout the entire rally bar that one missed control. 43 was their finishing score, so clearly the 30 made all the difference. Second place was their reward. Third place overall, and top Semi-Experts, went to the Hendersons. They were competing in a Nissan Micra, which was a shock to everyone. It certainly had no adverse effect on their competitiveness, and one week after claiming their first overall win on a non-championship event in Dungannon, they finished in 3rd place, their best ever championship finish. Impressively, they were the only crew to stay within 1 minute of their schedule for the entirety of the route. Murphy/Taggart's total of 49 earned them 4th place, while the Hawes finished in fifth place on 56. Despite missing two controls, Sheridan/Cochrane only scored 68, and cleaned the second half, which was easily the best performance of any crew during that loop. But those pesky 30s dropped them to 6th in the final reckoning.

The Mitchells lost a lot of time during the second half and fell right back to 7th overall as a result. The returning crew of Gordon Simpson and Derek Graham were the other Expert crew out. The Clerk of the Course of the Omagh event was reminded what it felt like to be at the receiving end of the route instructions!

In the Semi-Expert Class, Ken McDonald and Rachel Muldoon were the only crew to find all the controls and picked up second place for doing so. This was one place ahead of the Howards, who missed a secret just after the restart to take the shine off a fine evening's work.

Raymond and Gareth Deazley and Ian and Aaron Johnston fought out the Novice Class. The Johnstons were initially ahead in this battle, but by only dropping 1 mark in their final 30 miles, the Deazley's took a well earned win. The Chambers in their Range Rover were the only other finishers in this class after Richard Beattie and Ian Hawthorne were another victim of a puncture which ultimately led to their retirement.

Another close contest raged in the Beginner Class. Richard and Mark Hughes debut in their Vauxhall Corsa ended with a class win after Philip Somerville and Russell Allen, who had led with one section to go, joined the masses by missing a control and lost out on class victory by 5 marks.

Much was made of the fact that the winner of the Erne Safari never wins the championship. This is mostly true, as the only time in the past 10 years when the winner of this rally has picked up the title has been when Eddie Murphy and Barry Taggart triumphed in 2002. Time will tell if the curse of Fermanagh will strike again this year.


Patrick McCollum



  1. Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum (Expert, Vauxhall Corsa) 15 marks;
  2. Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd (Expert, Vauxhall Vectra) 43;
  3. John Henderson/Jonathan Henderson (Semi-Expert, Nissan Micra) 46;
  4. Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart (Expert, Vauxhall Corsa) 49;
  5. Leslie Hawe/Gareth Hawe (Expert, Renault Clio) 56;
  6. Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane (Expert, Proton Compact) 68;
  7. Ronnie Mitchell/Aaron Mitchell (Expert, Ford Sierra) 77;
  8. Kenneth McDonald/Rachel Muldoon (Semi-Expert, Peugeot 306) 85;
  9. William Howard/David Howard (Semi-Expert, Vauxhall Astra) 92;
  10. David Preston/Kyle Preston (Semi-Expert, Citroën Saxo) 107;
  11. Gordon Simpson/Derek Graham (Expert, Honda Civic) 128;
  12. David Kerr/Maurice Cresswell (Semi-Expert, Peugeot 205) 179;
  13. Neil Fletcher/Rebecca Fletcher (Semi-Expert, Ford Escort Mk 1) 215


  1. Raymond Deazley/Gareth Deazley (Vauxhall Corsa) 21;
  2. Ian Johnston/Aaron Johnston (Nissan Micra) 28;
  3. Steve Chambers/Paul Chambers (Range Rover) 158;
  4. DNF Richard Beattie/Ian Hawthorne (Citroën Saxo) DNF


  1. Richard Hughes/Mark Hughes (Vauxhall Corsa) 81;
  2. Philip Somerville/Russell Allen (VW Polo Coupe) 86;
  3. David Vance/Adam Vance (Vauxhall Corsa D) 214;
  4. Kevin Farrell/Kris Farrell (Proton Persona) 259;
  5. Conor Kelly/Tony Kelly (Nissan Sunny) 277;
  6. John Crawford/Andy Alexander (Nissan Sunny) 529
Posted by PMcCollum on 9/3/2009; Last updated by PMcCollum on 10/3/2009