Firecracker Rally Report 2010

5 November 2010


It was all about Leslie and Gareth Hawe on last Friday’s Firecracker Navigation Rally.  Not only did they win the final round of the McGrady Insurance sponsored Northern Ireland Championship, but in doing so they won the series and with it the title of Ulster Rally champion.


The rally started in Denis Biggerstaff’s premises in Kinallen with the route heading towards Banbridge, Katesbridge, over Slieve Croob mountain, past Dromara and finishing near Annahilt.


At the start of the evening three crews in contention for the title: the Hawes, Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane and Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum.  McKeown/McCollum were favourites for the title, as they won the previous 3 championships and only needed a top 4 finish to guarantee a fourth consecutive championship. 


The title holders were the only crew to clean the first section, but they had two slow sections before the mid way halt and by the break the leaders were Leslie and Gareth Hawe on 7 marks.  Second were Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd on 12, with McKeown/McCollum on 13, John and Jonathan Henderson 27 and Sheridan/Cochrane on 36.  Over the next 4 sections, the Henderson excelled with a perfect clean run; Young/Boyd dropped time on 3 of them; Sheridan/Cochrane and McKeown/McCollum lost time when they came across a closed gate when trying to use a lane they shouldn’t have been on; the Hawes drove a loop in the wrong direction, but somehow when they came across the secret check on that loop they were there at exactly the right time, so although they dropped 15 for the wrong direction, significantly they picked up no time penalties at this point.


At one stage about 25 miles from the finish, the totals stood at: McKeown/McCollum 26, Young/Boyd 27, Hendersons 27, Hawes 28, Sheridan/Cochrane 36.  It really was anyone’s rally to win.


The Hendersons got a wrong departure soon after to put them back in 5th place as the last section started.  McKeown/McCollum had a 3 minute lead and were and seemingly cruising to the title.  But things started to go wrong for them here as they were unable to fully decipher the route instructions correctly and went about 3 miles off course.  They not only lost a lot of time, but they missed a control completely and got a 30.  This dropped them to 5th with no real chance of improvement left, although they were still were on course for the title, as the new leaders were Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd who were unable to win the championship.  It stayed like this until the very last road of the route.  Young/Boyd were running a bit late and trying to make up time, but on the very last half mile of the championship, they spun the car on a tricky bend and got it stuck in a bank.  Sheridan/Cochrane helped get the car dragged back on to the road, but the time lost here dropped them from 1st to 2nd, and with the Hawes now in first place and McKeown/McCollum in 5th the title went the way of the delighted Dungannon cousins. 


The Hawe cousins have made a very rapid rise through the ranks of the championship.  They didn’t compete regularly in the championship until 2008, making sporadic appearances before that and winning some of Dungannon Motor Club’s non-championship events.  They competed in the 2008 championship in the Semi-Expert class, winning it by some margin with 6 class wins.  In 2009 they graduated to the Expert class and got their first overall victory, which was followed on the very next rally with their second victory.  By the year’s end they were 4th in the championship.  In 2010 they didn’t have the best of starts to the year and by the summer break were some way off the lead.  But a final flourish of 2 second places and then 2 wins brought them a massive haul of points.  A year’s championship covers approximately 750 miles, and the Hawes led the championship for about 0.5 miles of that.  But it was the 0.5 miles that counted!


Back in the rally, Ciaran Carey and Rachel Muldoon won the Semi-Expert class on the night.  Despite this being their second consecutive class win it didn’t stop Neil Anderson/Andrew Hughes winning this class in the championship.  William and David Howard were 2nd, with two missed controls in the first half doing real damage to their result. 


In the Novice class, Richard and Mark Hughes were victorious for the third time in the last three rallies, but second placed David McElroy and Clive Latimer clinched the class title.  Malcolm Johnston and Michael Gilmore were 3rd, with Richard Swanston/Karen Fisher and Ian and Aaron Johnston 4th and 5th.


The Club Team championship went to North Armagh Motor Club for the third consecutive year.  Second were Queen’s with Omagh 3rd. 


And so the championship is over for another year and the competitors all have their own stories to tell.  For some, another year of experience has seen them improve their performances, some had missed opportunities, some triumphs and tragedies, high points and low points, some if onlys, excuses, explanations and reasons for not winning, others unqualified success.  Over the Christmas and New Year break the slate will be wiped clean and it will begin again in January.


Patrick McCollum




  1. Leslie Hawe/Gareth Hawe (Expert, Renault Clio) 39 marks
  2. Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd (Expert, Vauxhall Vectra) 40 marks
  3. John Henderson/Jonathan Henderson (Expert, Nissan Micra) 49 marks
  4. Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane (Expert, Proton) 58 marks
  5. Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum (Expert, Vauxhall Corsa) 79 marks
  6. Ciaran Carey/Rachel Muldoon (Semi-Expert, Vauxhall Nova) 95 marks
  7. William Howard/David Howard (Semi-Expert, Vauxhall Asyta) 143 marks


  1. Leslie Hawe/Gareth Hawe (Renault Clio) 39 marks
  2. Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd (Vauxhall Vectra) 40 marks
  3. John Henderson/Jonathan Henderson (Nissan Micra) 49 marks
  4. Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane (Proton) 58 marks
  5. Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum (Vauxhall Corsa) 79 marks


  1. Ciaran Carey/Rachel Muldoon (Vauxhall Nova) 95 marks
  2. William Howard/David Howard (Vauxhall Asyta) 143 marks


  1. Richard Hughes/Mark Hughes (Vauxhall Corsa) 58 marks
  2. Clive Latimer/David McElroy (Seat Ibiza) 69 marks
  3. Malcolm Johnston/Michael Gilmore (Škoda Fabia) 86 marks
  4. Richard Swanston/Karen Fisher (Citroën Saxo) 109 marks
  5. Ian Johnston/Aaron Johnston (Nissan Micra) 158 marks
Posted by PMcCollum on 6/11/2010; Last updated by PMcCollum on 6/11/2010