Clubman Rally Report 2013

5 October 2013

Erne Skip Hire and Recycling 2WD Clubman's Rally 2013




On Saturday afternoon last, Derrygonnelly village and the nearby forests of Lough Navar and Conagher sweltered in brilliant sunshine and reverberated to the roar of rally cars as the 'The Erne Skip Hire and Recycling 2WD Clubman's Rally' hit town!  The ceremonial start to the Rally on Main Street at 'high noon' with its splash of colour and the roar of powerful rally engines coupled with the pungent smell of  Castrol 'R' brought a crowd of spectators all jostling to catch a glimpse of a formidable array of local rallying talent and their magnificent machines on their way to battle for honours in the Fermanagh Forests.


Enniskillen Motor Club had local man Rodney Donaldson at the helm as Clerk of the Course. Rodney and his team had organised what turned out to be a very popular and well-received event with crowds milling in and around Derrygonnelly all day; from Derrygonnelly Autos during Scrutiny in the early morning, to near Old Pal's Bar and then on the outskirts of the village during Service.  A gathering of in-the-know rally fans also gathered at 'The Jump' on the first Stage, Lough Navar, and again congregated at the finish to welcome the victors at the usual Champagne spraying at the finish ramp.


As it happened the pre-event favourites and very on-form pair, Shane McGirr and Jackie Elliott in their very quick and reliable 2-litre RWD Toyota Starlet, stormed to victory with a comfortable cushion of never less than 8 seconds over the  4-Stage event.  Though running no.19 on the Entry List the duo were actually seeded no. 1.  This format, which CoC Donaldson had in place, allowed Classes 1-3 with cars up to 1650cc engines to run first on the road [with Jonny Leonard and Dad Martin running as 0 Safety Car in between] thus getting a smoother run over the loose stages before the more powerful 2-litre plus cars blasted through.


On the day no 2 and 3 seeds [and running 20 and 21 on the road] Jon Armstrong/Karl Atkinson [Ford Fiesta] and Joe McGonigle/Arthur Kierans [Renault Clio R3] failed to complete Stage 1.  Armstrong went out with suspension failure and blocked the stage causing it to be cancelled.  Also out on the Lough Navar Stage were sixth seed Ronan Campbell and Thomas Wedlock.  Ronan had recently rebuilt his 1836cc BDG engine and totally refurbished his Escort shell just before the 'Ulster'.  Having gone off on the Satuday morning of the 'Ulster' he was hoping for a better outing on Saturday.  Unfortunately, an end-over-end roll ended his rally. Ronan and Thomas were shaken but unhurt and EMC wishes them well for a speedy return to the stages.  As a result of all this the remaining cars in Classes 4, 5, 6 and 7 got the same time as McGirr for Stage 1.



By Service McGirr had a lead of some 9.7 seconds over Raymond Johnson [Mk II Escort BDG Appendix 'K'] with McQuaid [Mk II Escort 2-litre Pinto] third, a mere 0.2 seconds behind.  Conor Kelly and David Vance [Nissan Sunny] were leading Class 3 with Mervyn Wilson and Marc McGowan [Mk II Escort 1600 ] 11 seconds behind, but leading Class 2.  They were closely followed by Davy Kerr and sponsor Benny Grainger [Peugeot 205], also in Class 2, a mere 4 seconds adrift.


Apart from McGirr's undoubted speed and domination over the first loop the sensation at Service was newcomer, Connor Woods, who with the experienced Bartley Downey on the Safety Notes in the little Suzuki-engined Nova.  In only his first rally on the loose and just one month after his 17th birthday, Connor led Class 1 by 3 seconds after Stage 1 and was second by only 1.5 seconds to the experienced crew of Drew Chambers and Wendy Blackledge, in Drew's immaculate and rare Talbot Samba, as they entered Service.  Third in Class 1 at Service, also in a rarity on the stages these days, was the Mazda 323-mounted crew of Navigation Rallying stalwarts Scott Thompson and Darran Flanagan.  These positions were to remain unchanged over the final loop.  Woods/Downey were never more than a couple of seconds behind Chambers/Blackledge who eventually claimed the Class win and 14th Overall with Woods/Downey second in Class and 16th Overall just 5 seconds behind with Thompson/Flanagan Third in Class a further 44.9 seconds in arrears. Declan McGarrity and Christopher Corry [Nova] struggled with a lack of traction over the first loop and though they improved their times as the stages dried out later on, they were uncharacteristically off the pace back all day. John Crossle and Averil Morton retired their Mk II Escort at Service, unable to trace a misfire leaving them down on power and unable to continue.


Having a great run to clinch Class 2 was the Mk II Escort crew of Mervyn Wilson and Marc McGowan who had pulled out a 6.9 second lead from Davy Kerr/Benny Grainger over the first loop and maintained that lead despite losing water all day long and running with a container of water in the boot to top up after each stage.  They eventually won Class 2 by 12.4 seconds and finished a very credible 10th Overall.  Third in this Class was the Nova pairing of Sean McAuley and Sam Pearson well over a minute behind.


Winners in Class 3 by 1 minute and 2.1 seconds was the experienced Tyrone crew of Conor Kelly and David Vance in Conor's trusty Nissan Sunny, a car now fading from the rally scene.  But Kelly/Vance were far from fading as they also ended up a terrific 7th Overall! Second place was taken by the Nova of Gregory McDaid and Steven Tierney whilst the Honda Civic piloted by Ashley Rutledge and co-driver Brian Robinson came Third.  Also in this Class Dominic Leonard and Martin Baxter were glad to make the finish despite experiencing engine maladies all day long and this after having to pull out of the recent Bushwhacker due to oil pressure difficulties.


In Class 4, the up to 2-litre 2 valve per cylinder class,  the hard-charging Sean McQuaid with Ivan Wilkinson [Mk II EScort 2-litre 'Pinto'] emerged as the victor and 4th Overall as Hugh McQuaid claimed Second Overall and thus forfeited the Class win. Second in Class 4 a sizeable 1 minute and 6.5 seconds behind was the Mk II Escort-mounted crew of Damian McCaffrey and Liam Slevin. John McIlwraith and Ger Buckley claimed Third in Class some 19.7 seconds further back and delcared entusiastically that they, '..just can't wait to return next year!'


This w as only McQuaid's second rally after a prolonged lay-off. It is good  to see him back 'in his natural habitat'-on the loose.


Local crew,  Damian and Thomas McGauran, experienced gearbox problems on the Bushwhacker in their tasty Toyota Corolla but they managed to shoe-horn a replacement in at the last minute to claim Class 5 a mere 2.3 seconds ahead of Andrew Trotter and Paul Corry [Mk II Escort]. A further 22.9 seconds adrift came Third-placed Tony McKenna and Barry Donnelly [Escort Mk II].


Class 6 went to Damian McAleer, who teamed up in his Group N Toyota Corolla RWD at the last minute, with Paddy McCrudden.  They also put in a storming performance to clinch 9th Overall! Second in Class 6 was regular competitor James McGovern in his ever-reliable RWD Corolla but with newcomer Denzil Jones inthe navigator's seat.  This is only Denzil's second time competing and they finished 17th Overall. 


Class 7 had only one crew competing and the winner here was another rarity on the stages; a 4-door RWD Sierra, crewed by Christopher and Conor Gillespie who finished up 21st Overall.


The Ladies' prize went to navigators Jackie Elliott and Wendy Blackledge.  Notable retirements included Brendan Campbell and Ciaran McAnespy [rolled on Conagher], Neil Harron and Nigel Foster [after Service-engine], Paul McShea  and Stephen Griffith [after Service-engine].


But the day really belonged to the in-form crew of the moment, McGirr and Elliott in their on-song 2-litre Vauxhall-engined RWD Starlet.  They ran out comfortable winners at the end of the day, managing to lift the beautiful Derryveagh crystal trophy as well as the £300 cash prize, by some 33.8 seconds over Hugh McQuaid and Chris Melly [Escort Mk II 2-litre 8-valve].  McGirr kept his cool over the first loop when the stages were very slippery after recent rainfall.  Then he repeated this performance faultlessly over the reminaing two stages with practically identical times and was never bested all day to finish a popular winner with Mc Quaid/Melly claiming Second Overall and a £200 cash prize.  Hot on McQuaid's heels though and a commendable Third Overall with a cheque for £100 was the Ballinamallard father and son team of Raymond and Marc Johnson in their truly immaculate Appendix 'K' Mk II BDG-engined Escort.  This was Raymond's first outing on the loose in this car.  He finished just 1.8 seconds behind McQuaid exclaiming, '...she's a great machine to steer on the loose!' Raymond also revealed that he has also changed the troublesome Kugelfischer Injection system infavour of the more commonly used twin Weber '48s'.  This proved a really good move as he explained that, 'The injection system was supposed to improve top-end power but the on the '48s' I found that I had smooth power right through the rev range today. So, definitely I'll be sticking with them from now on.'


At the finish a packed Old Pal's Bar listened as CoC Donaldson expressed his thanks to all the competitors, spectators, all the marshals and officials who helped to make this rally such a success. He went to say a special thanks to the following: Mr Colin Reilly-Forest Service; Event Sponsors-Mr Declan Magee and Mr Benny Grainger of Erne Skip Hire and Recycling; Stage Sponsor-Mr Paul McShea of McShea Electrical and MAC ALARMS; Stage Sponsor-Mr Seamus McHugh of SMH RallyBitz; Mr Kevin Farrell of Derrygonnelly Autos; Derrygonnelly GAC; Stevie Donaldson of Old Pal's Bar and then very importantly; the residents of Derrygonnelly the surrounding area.


In his victory speech, event winner Shane McGirr expressed his thanks and congratulations to Rodney and all his team at Enniskillen Motor Club plus all the officials and marshals who together put on a terrific 2WD-only event. He stated that, 'Nowadays the 2WD Clubman hasn't really got a chance to win a Rally outright due to the technological superiority advantages of the 4WD supercars of today.'  Final speaker was Benny Grainger of title sponsors Erne Skip Hire and Recycling who rounded off the day by again thanking all concerned with, '..the running of a tremendously successful and compact forestry-rally based in and around Derrygonnelly. I trust that Rodney and his team will be back next year in 2014 with another super event to help Enniskillen Motor Club celebrate their 50th anniversary.'


Gerry Cavanagh

Posted by PMcCollum on 9/10/2013; Last updated by PMcCollum on 9/10/2013