Erne Safari Report

3 March 2017


Classic Mini Cooper Splashes to Victory on Safari


On a very wet night veteran campaigner Benny Grainger, with David Howard on the maps, steered his immaculate Mini Cooper to a dominant win on The Elite Tyres and Service Erne Safari Rally.


In absolutely atrocious conditions, not unlike that other Safari Rally [in East Africa] the Mini crew, who also won this rally back in 2013, hardly put a wheel wrong all night and dropped a mere 8 minutes to secure victory from the experienced husband and wife team of Ciaran and Rachel Carey in their reliable Nova. Ballinamallard navigator, David Johnston was on the maps with Sean Devlin in Sean’s latest acquisition, a Toyota MR2, which ran well all night despite the wind, rain and lots of ‘standing water’. They claimed second in Class 2 and fourth overall [Semi-Experts]. The Class 2 win went to John Henderson and Keith Somerville in a Toyota Starlet [which is now for sale!].


In the Novice Class, Class 3, the winners and sixth overall were Wayne and Ashley Boulton in their trusty Vectra with second place going to Billy Strain/Robert Hall in their Golf turbo-diesel.


However Class 4, the Beginners Class, was best supported with some twenty crews in such diverse vehicles as Peter Jennings/Brian Hoy in a Mitsubishi Evo X, Mark McCaffrey/Conor Lappin in a Peugeot 405 and Bryan Gallagher/Gary McGlone in their Proton Gen 2. Also pleasing for Clerk of the Course, Drew Wilson, was the appearance of several father and son crews including Gary and Darragh Sheridan in their Vauxhall Nova Sport, Mark and Kyle Thompson in their MX5 and William Graham senior accompanied by Willian junior in a Honda Civic. This along with other first-timers such as the Johnston brothers Simon and new Dad, Marc,  who sat with Craig Scallon [Ford Focus ST] and Christopher Corry [Ford Fiesta] . Bragging rights on the night fell to Marc who with Christopher Corry finished sixth in Class 4 two places above bother Simon. Mervyn Wilson normally is seen in a variety of MkII Escorts but wheeled out the Mazda 323 and navigator Scott Thompson had an uncharacteristic ‘30’ after Time Control H which left them back in seventh place in class. Mark McCaffrey/Conor Lappin claimed fifth in Class 4 with the 405 Peugeot, now a veteran of night navigation rallies, coping admirably all night with the conditions. Autotest man Jonni McDaid navigated Drew Chambers in their Peugeot 206 to twentieth overall on his first attempt on the maps.  


But there was no denying that the star of the night had to be the veteran crew of Grainger and Howard who had ‘cleaned’ the first half of the rally, not dropping any time till Secret Check 11 just after Time Control G in their iconic night navigation car, the Mini Cooper. Then they dropped only another seven minutes till the finish at Time Control L. At the finish in Mahon’s Hotel in Irvinestown Benny gave credit to CofC Wilson and his team from EMC for running such an enjoyable and demanding rally with great roads and with challenges to suit all competitors from the ‘Expert’ to the ‘Beginner’.  


Wilson finished by thanking all the marshals for manning some thirty-five controls on the night, the twenty-eight crews making this entry the largest for some time for the Safari and he hoped this would continue for years to come. He paid special thanks to Fabian McAleer of Elite Tyres and Service for their sponsorship and use of their premises for the Start and Scrutineering.

Posted by PMcCollum on 7/3/2017; Last updated by PMcCollum on 7/3/2017