2009 Donaldson Fuels Rally

27 March 2009

The Northern Ireland Navigation Rally championship welcomed the newest members to its winners' club on Friday when Leslie and Gareth Hawe came home in first place on the Donaldson Fuels Rally. The Dungannon cousins have been threatening such a move for quite a while now, and they duly delivered on a wet and stormy night. The last time that a crew claimed their first victory was in Dungannon Motor Club's Moonraker in September 2007, when Clifford Auld and John Lindsay triumphed.

The Donaldson Fuels rally has only been part of the championship since 2006, but in that time has built up something of a reputation for being a difficult rally. Last year's rally was won on 96 marks, so the crews left Coagh with some trepidation. The route scribed a large anti-clockwise lap of Cookstown but didn't include any private lanes like it has done in the last couple of years.

Only three crews managed to complete the first two sections without dropping any time. These were Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum, Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd and Ronnie/Aaron Mitchell. Only McKeown/McCollum made it through the next section while maintaining that clean sheet. Their first worry came a little later when an ominous noise from the drive train signalled the loss of 2nd and 4th gears. This was followed by a very slow plotting of the final section before relaxed, which dropped them to 3rd by the break. Young/Boyd, who seemed to be finally rid of trip meter problems, made a better fist of this section which meant they were 2nd when the crews got the chance to talk about their progress so far. But the best crew by some margin on that final section were the Hawes, who only dropped 4 marks thus far to lead the rally at the half way point.

Of the other crews, Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart had been going along reasonably well, but they made a hash of that last section, dropping 31 on it. Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane, who don't rate this rally as being among their most successful had made three costly errors in the first half alone, and languished well down the field.

Not much was separating the Semi-Experts at the break, with John/Jonathan Henderson holding a slim 1 mark lead over David and Kyle Preston and Ken McDonald/Rachel Muldoon only 6 marks behind that. Already out by this stage were David Kerr/Maurice Cresswell and Neil and Rebecca Fletcher.

The second half saw very few sections being cleaned by anybody, but at the same time no one was making catastrophic errors, which made for an interesting and tight battle. In the end, the top three did not change during this part of the rally, which meant that the Hawes picked up their first ever championship rally victory. It was a win that had been seen coming by many; they had a habit of leading at half way, or having a storming second half after an error filled first half. But on this rally, they kept a winning pace for the duration of the event. It wasn't all plain sailing, as they had been on the wrong route a number of times, but they kept their heads down, didn't pick up any major penalties, and won on a fine low score of 13. It maybe takes a little bit of fortune to get that first win, like not being caught when going wrong, but after the breakthrough has been made, it can often mean the next win comes all the easier.

Second were Leslie Young and Lewis Boyd, who ended up only a single mark behind the Hawes. The next crew home were McKeown/McCollum and this third place marked the end of a run of fourteen consecutive top two finishes, which started on this rally in March 2007. Murphy/Taggart had a really strong second half, being bettered only by Young/Boyd, but their earlier 31 mark section had cost them dear and they finished 5th overall.

The Semi-Experts really mixed it with the Experts in this rally, with David and Kyle Preston finishing a fine 4th overall, with John and Jonathan Henderson second in class and 6th overall and Ken McDonald and Rachel Muldoon claiming third in class and 7th overall. Behind these crews were Sheridan/Cochrane and the early strong runners, the Mitchells, in 8th and 9th.

Raymond and Gareth Deazley have been dominating the Novice Class this year, but a slip meant they missed a control and let Clive Latimer and David McElroy claim their first class win with an excellent total of just 6 marks, the lowest of any crew in the rally. Latimer/McElroy were in fact the only crew among the Beginner Class to get the entire route correct. The Deazley's still did enough for second in class and considering their missed control, a total of 33 was quite some achievement. Another crew with one expensive section was Richard Beattie and Ian Hawthorne. Their entire score of 37 was all collected between TCE and TCF, while David Gibson and William Hamilton collected all but three of their total haul of points for the night in that same section on their way to 4th in class.

As with the Novice Class, only one Beginner crew got the complete route correct, and so Richard and Mark Hughes finished miles clear of the rest of the class on 28 marks. Andy and Michael Gilmore kept closer to the correct schedule than the class winners, but missing two controls put them well out of contention for the class win. They did finish second, although this was only after the further clean rule was applied to separate them from Philip Somerville and Russell Allen.

After four rallies this year there has been four different winners. For fans of statistics, and there are many of those who read this column, the last time this happened was in mid 2007 when the winners, in order, were Young/Boyd, McKeown/McCollum, Auld/Lindsay and Sheridan/Cochrane.

This even spread of winners also keeps the championship close. As things currently stand, Young/Boyd are tied for the lead with McKeown/McCollum and 6 points behind are the Hawes who are just a single point ahead of Murphy/Taggart. In the other classes, the Hendersons have a healthy lead in the Semi-Experts and the Deazleys are clear of Latimer/McElroy in the Novices.

The battle continues in Omagh in three weeks time. Will home advantage play its part for Leslie Young and Lewis Boyd?


Patrick McCollum



  1. Leslie Hawe/Gareth Hawe (Expert, Renault Clio) 13 marks;
  2. Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd (Expert, Vauxhall Vectra) 14;
  3. Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum (Expert, Vauxhall Corsa) 20;
  4. David Preston/Kyle Preston (Semi-Expert, Citroën Saxo) 43;
  5. Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart (Expert, Vauuxhall Corsa) 47;
  6. John Henderson/Jonathan Henderson (Semi-Expert, Nissan Micra) 48;
  7. Kenneth McDonald/Rachel Muldoon (Semi-Expert, Peugeot 306) 59;
  8. Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane (Expert, Proton Compact) 60;
  9. Ronnie Mitchell/Aaron Mitchell (Expert, Ford XR4X4) 77


  1. Clive Latimer/David McElroy (Seat Ibiza) 6;
  2. Raymond Deazley/Gareth Deazley (Vauxhall Corsa) 33;
  3. Richard Beattie/Ian Hawthorne (Citroën Saxo) 37;
  4. David Gibson/William Hamiton (Ford Focus) 42;
  5. Nigel Campbell/Colin Harkness (VW Golf) 72;
  6. Steve Chambers/Paul Chambers (Land Rover) 96;
  7. Ian Johnston/Aaron Johnston (Nissan Micra) 126


  1. Richard Hughes/Mark Hughes (Vauxhall Corsa) 28;
  2. Andy Gilmore/Michael Gilmore (MGZR) 88;
  3. Philip Somerville/Russell Allen (VW Polo coupe) 88;
  4. Jayne Boden/Tom Boden (Ford) 95;
  5. Brian Barr/Ruth Barr (Nissan Micra) 200
Posted by PMcCollum on 30/3/2009; Last updated by PMcCollum on 30/3/2009