Erne Safari Report

7 March 2014



McAleer’s Spar Erne Safari Rally 2014



With an entry list almost double that of last year, Enniskillen Motor Club ran their first event of 2014: The McAleer’s Spar Erne Safari Rally on Friday 7th March.  Clerk of the Course, Drew Wilson was delighted with the large entry, ‘It’s great to have such a good turn-out for the Safari this year. This Rally has been running since 1965 and I’m really pleased that so many crews, especially so many young Navigators in particular, decided to come out and compete in this our 50th year.’


Favourite at the start of the night had to be the winning team from last year, Benny Grainger/David Howard in a Peugeot 206. But aiming to give them a run for their money were N I Championship regulars and current NI Champions, Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd – Vauxhall Vectra; Leslie Hawe/Gareth Hawe – Renault Clio and John and Jonathan Henderson in their Nissan Micra. Also in the running, again in Class 1, for top honours were Ciaran Carey /Rachel Muldoon – Vauxhall Nova. But there was also a welcome return for Gary Sheridan partnered once more by Lloyd Cochrane in the Proton Compact seeded at no 5. The final Class 1 [Experts] seed at no 7 turned out to be the on-form crew of the night to win their first Erne Safari; James Woods and Chris Ragg in their Ford Focus. 


Meanwhile Class 2 [Semi-Experts] had four entrants with Ronnie and Aaron Mitchell running first in Class and at 10 ‘on the road’ in their Mazda MX-5 [one of three such Mazdas entered]. Heading up Class 3 [Novices] was Stewartstown man Sean Devlin partnered by Ballinamallard veteran Navigator and previous CofC, David Johnston, again in a Mazda MX-5. Johnston’s normal driver, Ernie Campbell sitting this Safari out, but vows he’ll be back in his Mini Cooper for the 50th running in 2015! New crew to Class 3 was that of Scott Thompson and Darran Flanagan [EMC’s Champion Navigator 2013] and unfortunately, this was not to be their night as the Astra-mounted crew ended up in last place in Class due to some uncharacteristic ‘30s’ collected early in the route. 


Class 4 [Beginners] was the best supported Class with some 12 crews tackling a reduced route of 62 miles with just a supplied marked map to follow compared to the usual more complex instructions given out at each Time Control to the other Classes.


This Class benefited from the Night Navigation Class run by Drew Wilson assisted again by Richard Hicks before then rally.  A very pleasing sight was that there were three father and son/daughter crews. Running at no 20 was fourth in Class last year Astra crew; Eddie and Ronan McCaffrey, no 25 on their first time out were Darrell Harron and daughter Sarah in their gleaming white Toyota Auris with William Graham and his son William Junior at no 26 in a Citroen Saxo. Other all-Fermanagh crews were; Mark McCaffrey/Matthew McGowan at no 29 [another first-time Navigator], Kevin/Kris Farrell from Derrygonnelly at no 22 in what else; a Proton Compact and Mervyn Wilson/Benedikt Bastion in Mervyn’s beautifully restored Mk II Escort 1600 Sport Sitting in the left seat for a change was Peter Jennings with Ian Howard driving a Mazda MX-5. The period classic navigation car from the 60s was the pristine Ford Anglia 105E of Gerry Cavanagh at no 18 with PJ Mulrine on the maps.


Drew Wilson had a total of 49 manned Controls spread out over the bumpy and twisty back roads of Fermanagh to the south-west of Irvinestown then east and north of Ballinamallard looping eventually south and east of Ballinamallard before streaming north east past Trillick and finally arriving back to Irvinestown. Crews then enjoyed a very tasty and well-deserved supper at Mahon’s Hotel before the results were made final early on Saturday morning.



The early pacesetters in the Experts Class were John and Jonathan Henderson in the Micra dropping only one mark by Time Control C [TC C]. But hot on his wheels were Woods/Ragg and Grainger/Howard only a minute behind. Unusually the Young/Boyd pairing were having a poor start by their standards and had dropped some 14 minutes at this stage to fifth behind the Nova crew of Carey/Muldoon. But the Hendersons dropped a total of 22 marks between TC G and F, a tricky section, which also caught out Sheridan/Cochrane who dropped 22 minutes. This dropped both crews out of the running with Henderson/Henderson finishing 7 minutes down on winners Woods/Ragg and Young/Boyd unable to make up for their errors earlier on, ended up third 2 minutes behind that again. Meanwhile last year’s winners Grainger/Howard were finding the bumpy stretches not to their 206’s liking with the sump-guard working hard a lot of the night! This coupled to accruing some 39 penalties between Controls D and E put them completely out of the running. 


Class 2 at TC D were all level with the 4 crews having dropped one minute. But by TC F a pattern had become clear; Mitchell/Mitchell and Latimer/McElroy were out in front and only 2 minutes separated them at the finish. In third was the Fiat Seicento crew of Neil Anderson and Kathryn Vaux a further 35 minutes back.


Clear leaders in Class 3 were Brian Hanna/Paul Forsythe, only one of two crews ‘clean’ at TC C. Unfortunately a  poor finish over the final three Time Controls led to their downfall, loosing the Class win by 4 minutes to the Devlin/Johnston pairing, one of only 6 crews not collect an early penalty all night. Class 4 got off to a poor start for ‘old stagers’ Cavanagh/Mulrine when mechanical problems caught them off guard in the Neutral Section at the first TC when they booked in a minute early resulting in a hefty ‘30’ minutes dropped. But young teenager Ronan McCaffrey guided his father’s Astra to a blistering start only dropping 4 minutes by TC E and opened a clear lead which they held onto and claimed the Class win; a clear 4 marks ahead of second placed Charlie Dunleavy/Roy Lindsay [another local crew] in their Honda CR-V. Stephen Dickson/Aaron Johnston were third in Class 4 in their Clio a further 3 minutes in arrears. Matthew McGowan did well to navigate Mark McCaffrey to fifth in Class on his first attempt and one wonders what might have been the out come if he hadn’t dropped so many early penalties?

Meanwhile the Father and son duo of Kevin and Kris Farrell accumulated some 28 early penalties marks whilst only dropping 2 lates. This bodes well for this pairing! But the sensation of the Class was the first-time pairing of 13 year old Sarah Harron with her Dad Darrell in his Toyota Auris who came home a very creditable 7th in Class. William Graham junior also made it home on his very first time out, giving his Dad William senior instructions to make nit home on a night where even veteran crews failed to make to the finish with Raymond Elliott and Averil Morton trying out Navigation also for the first time in Raymond’s Suzuki Swift, were one of those crews. 


Therefore a tremendous start was had to EMC’s 50th year in motor sport. At the finish Wilson thanked all the crews, especially the teenagers for putting in such an effort. He paid special thanks as well to the veritable army of officials who turned out to do Time Controls, Secret Checks, Signing on, Scrutiny etc. He finished by paying tribute to the Fermanagh public who so enthusiastically supported the running of this famous and illustrious Navigation Rally for the 49th time and hoped for the same again next year for its 50th. 


The next NI Championship event will be Cookstown’s Donaldson’s Fuels Navigation Rally on Friday 28th March and judging by the reception in Enniskillen a lot of crews will head there at the end of the month.



Gerry Cavanagh

Posted by PMcCollum on 11/3/2014; Last updated by PMcCollum on 11/3/2014