2011 Orchard Rally Report

7 October 2011

Former champions Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum made a one off return to the NI Navigation Championship on the Orchard Rally and duly won the event. Current championship leaders, John and Jonathan Henderson were 2nd, with Leslie Young and Lloyd Cochrane 3rd.


This Orchard Rally, organised by North Armagh Motor Club, was the first round of the championship to run since April, as unfortunately now numbers competing has led to the cancellation of some rounds. All motorsport has struggled with reduced numbers competing this year, with the ANICC Stage Rally Championship, Stage Rally 2WD Championship, Hill Climb and Sprint championships all having to cancel rounds this year. But with the Navigation Championship having lost four rounds so far, it was in danger of not reaching the required minimum number of 5 to avoid the championship from being cancelled altogether.


Eighteen cars made the start from Armagh Rugby Club and the 80 mile route headed south, past Keady and then ran along the border towards Middletown on its return to the host city. There was good weather for the rally although there was evidence of the heavy rain from earlier in the week.


The lead was shared during the night between McKeown/McCollum and the Hendersons. The former champions were out in their new Vauxhall Corsa, after replacing their previous model which served them so well since 2003. They had a steady start, dropping a few marks on the map trace section, so the Hendersons led initially, but they moved to the head of the field before the half way halt. The same pattern occurred in the second half, with the Hendersons starting out better and drawing level with three sections left to go. Again McKeown/McCollum edged out a small lead and then had a storming final section to end up clear victors. With McKeown/McCollum not contesting this year's championship, the Hendersons lead of the series has been strengthened by this result.


Leslie Young and Lloyd Cochrane spent all night in 3rd place, never really threatening to take neither the lead nor being caught by 4th place. This was a new pairing as both their respective rallying partners were unavailable for this event. Another returning crew, Gary and Robert Milligan had a fine run to 4th place, beating Richard Beattie/David Howard, who were not able to replicate their winning form of the previous round in Omagh. Clifford Auld and John Lindsay finished 6th. With the combination of narrow roads and big Triumph 2.5Pi, they spent the night filling, and in some cases exceeding, the full of the road in Clifford's favourite sideways style.


Ciaran Carey and Rachel Muldoon took their second consecutive Semi-Expert win with Clive Latimer and David McElroy, the class leaders in the championship, just behind them in second. In one section, David reckoned the correct route was too straight and easy, so he took the more obvious, but incorrect, longer route and the resulting missed control cost him the chance of victory. Andrew Hughes and Neil Anderson missed the same control as Latimer/McElroy and with an earlier missed control finished 3rd in class.


Malcolm Johnston and Michael Gilmore were the Novice winners for the first time this year, scoring an impressively low total of 28 marks. Richard and Mark Hughes were only behind them on 31 marks and Philip and Kyle Sommerville also close on 39 marks. The standard seems to be improving in this class with no major mistakes coming from a number of crews and the results being decided on who can be that little bit faster to plot and better at map reading. Ian and Aaron Johnston were as good at plotting and finding the roads as anyone, but one missed control and a wrong departure cost them dear. Brian Hanna and Paul Forsythe were next up and Conor/Gavin McElmeel ran beyond their maximum lateness for a while which contributed to a rather high points tally.


Brian Carson and Charlie Deering won the Beginner class by virtue of the fact they were the only survivors. Gerry and Geraldine Cavanagh failed to finish and Gary McDonald/Kerry Moreland put their Vauxhall Corsa off the road after hitting a fierce bump that had all the crews talking about having moments over. They had been leading the class comfortably at that stage.


With McKeown/McCollum finally winning the Orchard Rally, it means that they have now won all the rounds that make up the Navigation Championship at least once. This is a rare feat, as certainly no-one in the last 20 years has done so. The great Alan Dorman, although he dominated the championship and won 4 titles, never won the Erne Safari nor the Firecracker; Glenn Patterson never triumphed in the Jumping Jack and Barry Taggart hasn't won Cookstown Motor Club's round. At least, not yet.


The final round in scheduled to be the Firecracker on 4th November. No dropped scores will be coming in to play as fewer than 8 rounds have run, so the Hendersons have a 3 point advantage over Leslie Young and Lloyd Cochrane. The latter would have to win with the Hendersons lower than 3rd to clinch the title. David McElroy and Clive Latimer have an 8 point advantage in the Semi-Expert race, so that title looks destined to go their way. The Novice Class is as tight as the overall fight with one type of Johnston, Malcolm, with Michael Gilmore navigating, currently leading another type of Johnston, Ian and Aaron. Let's hope the UAC get good support for their rally next month and the championship ends on a good note.


Patrick McCollum




  1. Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum (Vauxhall Corsa) 19 marks
  2. John Henderson/Jonathan Henderson (Nissan Micra) 37
  3. Leslie Young/Lloyd Cochrane (Vauxhall Vectra) 51
  4. Gary Milligan/Robert Milligan (Renault Clio) 110
  5. Richard Beattie/David Howard (Citroën Saxo) 113
  6. Clifford Auld/John Lindsay (Triumph 2.5 Pi) 118


  1. Ciaran Carey/Rachel Muldoon (Vauxhall Nova) 57
  2. Clive Latimer/David McElroy (Seat Ibiza) 66
  3. Andrew Hughes/Neil Anderson (Peugeot 106) 130


  1. Malcolm Johnston/Michael Gilmore (Škoda Felicia) 28
  2. Richard Hughes/Mark Hughes (Vauxhall Corsa) 31
  3. Philip Sommerville/Kyle Sommerville (Toyota Starlet) 39
  4. Ian Johnston/Aaron Johnston (Nissan Micra) 82
  5. Brian Hanna/Paul Forsythe (Renault Clio) 94;
  6. Conor McElmeel/Gavin McElmeel (Vauxhall Corsa) 362


  1. Brian Carson/Charlie Deering (Ford Focus) 413
  2. Gerry Cavanagh/Geraldine Cavanagh (Vauxhall Vectra) DNF
  3. Gary McDonald/Kerry Moreland (Vauxhall Corsa) DNF
Posted by PMcCollum on 9/10/2011; Last updated by PMcCollum on 9/10/2011