2007 Erne Safari Rally Report

9 March 2007

Leslie Young and Lewis Boyd won the latest round of the Energia Navigation Rally Championship, the Erne Safari Rally organised by Enniskillen Motor Club. The rally was based around Irvinestown and the 75 mile route first looped southwards towards Lisbellaw, Enniskillen and Ballinamallard, and then north towards Dromore in County Tyrone. The rally was characterised by lots of short sections, with lots of secret checks. In fact, there were no fewer than 16 sections, which meant the final competitive section finished at a rarely used time control, namely TCR. Every section had an early secret which meant there was always a chance of penalties if there was any delay in getting the route onto the map. The furthest any of the first secrets were from the time control was 1 mile, with most sections having the first secret on the half mile.

The rally turned out to be a low scoring event. The standard of navigation appeared to be higher than on any other rally so far this year. Up until now, the winner of the rally had been the crew that avoided any major errors in time, or indeed direction penalties. But this rally was won on the smallest of margins. There were three crews that managed to stay right on the pace for the entire route, and it was a matter of just how many single minutes they dropped.

Twenty-eight cars started the rally, and by the time they returned to Irvinestown for a petrol halt, the lead was tied between Young and Boyd in their Peugeot 306 and the Proton Persona of Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane. Both these crews had dropped a total of 2 marks, while championship leaders Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum were on 3. These low scores were despite an evil ploy by Clerk of the Course Drew Wilson, who put a short halt preceding the last section before the interval. That last section was straight forward to plot, but run at 20mph average, rather than 30, which 99% of navigation rally sections are run at. It didn't catch out the first three cars, but many behind picked up a good number of early penalties.

In the final 20 mile loop Young/Boyd had a perfect run, dropping nothing at all to finish the rally on a very impressive 2 marks. Sheridan/Cochrane's total of 4 was still good enough for 2nd, with McKeown/McCollum just behind on 5.

Fourth and fifth places were taken up by Semi-Expert crews, who did well to mix it with those in the Expert Class. Ronnie and Aaron Mitchell had another classy result in their Audi Quattro to make it 3 class wins out of four rallies this year. John and Jonathan Henderson took second in class and fifth overall. They never dropped more than 1 minute behind schedule anywhere on the route, but unfortunately 4 marks for being early in the 20mph section and just too many single minutes dropped kept them behind the Mitchells.

James Woods and Chris Ragg were 6th, after taking two secret controls in the wrong order, and then picking up earlies in the 20mph section. They finished on 24. Eddie Murphy and Barry Taggart had yet another torrid rally. The season just hasn't started yet for the double champion. But it wouldn't be a surprise to see them pick up a couple of wins before the season is out.

Gary and Robert Milligan were out together for the first time this year, and had a reasonable run, picking up 3rd in class after collecting 38 marks. Clifford Auld and Rachel Muldoon once again teamed up for this rally. As in their previous outing, they had one very good half and one not so good. In Enniskillen, they reached the 20mph section holding 6th place overall on 9 marks, but completely failing to notice the slow average speed, and then really struggling in the final 20 mile loop, dropped them to 9th overall on 122 marks. This was just one ahead of Stuart and Richard Hyland, and 3 ahead of William and Maurice Cresswell.

Two crews had very good runs in the Novice Class, with neither David/Kyle Preston nor Nigel Campbell/Colin Harkness dropping more than 1 minute at any control. The Prestons edged the result, finishing on 4, 3 ahead of the Omagh crew. Brian and Victoria Black finished in 3rd which kept them at the top of the championship table for Novices, but it is getting closer with each rally.

Charles Dunleavy and Roy Lindsay were the best of the eleven Beginner Class crews, with their score of 24 being well clear of John and James McCay in 2nd. The crew with easily the least time penalties in this class was Raymond and Gareth Deazley, but a missed control and leaving a competitive relaxed section early accounted for 60 of their total of 78 marks which gave them fifth place.

At this early stage in the championship, there is nobody running away with a big lead. McKeown/McCollum have two wins to the single victory of Chris Ragg and Young/Boyd, with Young/Boyd also claiming 2 runner up positions so far. But as we're not even half way through the year yet, almost anything can happen. In fact, there's probably time and enough rallies still to go for a certain yellow Nova to join in and clinch another title. But let's hope not. Some of the rest of us are enjoying getting the odd win these days.

Patrick McCollum

Posted by PMcCollum on 27/8/2008; Last updated by PMcCollum on 28/8/2008