2009 Ballypatrick Stages Report

2 May 2009

Conlon Conquers Ballypatrick Stages


Round 2 of the Pacenotes ANICC 2WD Rally Challenge moved to the forests of Moyle for the Mid Antrim Club's Turtles Ballypatrick Stages. 8 stages were planned for the 70 entered crews in and around the Ballypatrick and Ballycastle forest drives with service in the sun bathed harbour town of Ballycastle.


On the opening test in Ballypatrick, Declan McNaughton's Mk2 Escort's blistering performance put him in to the initial rally lead ahead of the Subaru WRC of George Robinson. However, the Subaru driver slowly started to pull away by a few seconds on the remaining stages to eventually win the event by 33 seconds from the Escort driver. Third and fourth places went to local men, Gerard and Brian McFall, ahead of the top Pacenotes 2wd finishers, Michael Conlon and Declan McKenna.


A few of the earlier fancied competitors were also fast out of the blocks, with Rodney White and Alistair Cochrane posting impressive times early on, but both drivers didn't reach the finish of the second run in Ballypatrick, both being reported to have left the road on the 5 mile test. Also lighting up the first stage was David Christie, but for all the wrong reasons. The Nutts Corner man's car caught fire after the back axle ruptured the fuel tank after a collision with a bridge close to the famous water splash. Despite the quick reactions of nearby marshals and spectators the car was destroyed within a few minutes as the crew watched on helplessly. It has also been reported that this was the first time David had competed in the car. Meanwhile in the Pacenotes 2wd Challenge, Michael Conlon's 5th place overall gave him the top finish on the event, his pace putting him ahead of many more powerful and more modern machinery in what was a totally dominant class performance.


For the overall Challenge lead however, the battle was going to be between Drew Stewart, the leader after the first round, Andrew Bushe, Gary Price and Mervyn Williamson.


On stage 1, Williamson and Price were equal on 5.36 with Stewart only 1 second slower, but on the short 2nd stage in Ballycastle, Price slipped 1 second ahead of Williamson with Stewart a further 4 seconds in arrears. The front wheel drive Saxo of Andrew Bushe dominated class 3, but in the early stages was never able to get on terms with the pace of the Williamson/Price battle for overall positions.


Drew Stewart's hopes of retaining that Challenge lead literally deflated when he arrived at the finish of stage 3 with two punctured tyres and a stage maximum time. The rest of his day was spent trying to salvage what points he could before the next round.


After first service the battle raged on with Williamson taking 7 seconds off Price through Ballypatrick. Price responded by clawing back 1 second over stage 4 and both crews were equal again on stage 5. After another service, Price upped the ante, taking a second or 2 of Williamson on each stage, but a 20 second road penalty meant that he was going to have to settle for 9th overall behind his rival. Meanwhile, Bushe had also upped the pace in the screaming French Saxo and was now posting times similar to his title rivals, but he would rue the time lost early on in the event to finish 12th at the end of the event.


In the overall standings after round 2, Andrew Bushe overtakes Drew Stewart to lead the Pacenotes ANICC 2wd Challenge by 4 points, with the battling Gary Price and Mervyn Williamson in third and fourth with Ballypatrick maximum points scorer Michael Conlon in fifth after a non finish at round 1 at Kirkistown.


Class 1

Due to the fire on the opening stage, all the class 1 crews received equal stage times, but from stage 2 on, Eamon McLaughlin set the pace, eventually finishing ahead of Barry O'Neill and Kevin Lynam in the Omagh Collage backed Skoda Felicia. Third place went to the similar Felicia of Wesley Johnston and Sam Magill. The class win for McLaughlin secures an 8-point class lead ahead of the Johnston/Magill Skoda crew with O'Neill/Lynam drawing level with the non-starting Arnold Lutton in third place.

Class 2

Paddy McToal and Connor O' Loan brought their Ford Escort home at the top of class two, but as they were are not registered, Banbridge's John and Gavin Devlin made it two maximum scores on the trot in the series, leaving them at the top of the points table. Brian Quigley's Peugeot 205 returned to the Ballycastle finish in third ahead of Paddy Quinn. In challenge terms, Quinn's third place on the event moves him up to 2nd behind the Devlin's with the non-finishing Mark Robinson still in third.

Class 3

Andrew Bushe again dominated class 3, the S1600 Saxo driver setting the top class times on all the days stages to finish 12th overall. Class rival Raymond Doyle set consistent stage times throughout the day to keep the pressure on Bushe, eventually bringing his Escort G3 home 14th overall. John Sweeney finished the class in third ahead of the Corolla of Portferry's Brian Vance. Alan Cassells started the event hoping for some points to kick of his Challenge campaign, but an 'off' on some gravel pulled out by a previous driver on the first loop spelt retirement at first service.

Class 4

Mervyn Williamson topped the up to 2000cc class, ahead of Strabane's Alan Acheson. Mark and Sinead McGrath took to the series for the first time, and third place points were their reward for a good days work. Paul Mogey led the class into round two, but Mervyn Williamson's win moves him to the top of the class leader board, with Acheson slotting in to second ahead of the non starting Mogey.

Class 5

Gary Price and Sharon McCarter took the early lead in the multivalve 2000cc class 5, but hard charging Michael Conlon had other plans. By stage two Michael had the lead, keeping Gary at bay for the rest of the event. Bob Riddles from Donmana made his first appearance in the Challenge to finish third in class. Drew Stewart had been in second early on, but the two punctures on stage 3 left him down in fifth.



Ballypatrick Stages Rally

  1. George Robinson/Tommy Speers Subaru WRC 31.09
  2. Declan McNaughton/Joe Agnew Ford Escort 31.42
  3. Gerard McFall/Damian McAuley Escort Cosworth 32.10
  4. Brian McFall/Ronnie Craig Mitsubishi Evo 32.27
  5. Michael Conlon/Declan McKenna Ford Escort 32.32
  6. Mark Massey/Andrew McVeigh Mitsubishi Evo 32.34
  7. Trevor Moore/Ray Fitzpatrick Ford Escort 32.46
  8. Mervyn Williamson/George Hamilton Ford Escort 32.57
  9. Gary Price/Sharon McCarter Ford Escort 33.08
  10. Bob Riddles/Ian Kidd Ford Escort 33.13

The battle resumes again on July 5th when competitors converge on Moneyglass Demesne, close to the Toome by-pass, for Lough Neagh Car & Tarmac Rally Marshals' Club's Lough Neagh Stages Rally. The popular event is usually heavily oversubscribed so competitors are urged to get their entries in as early as possible.

William Neill

Posted by PMcCollum on 5/5/2009; Last updated by PMcCollum on 8/5/2009