2006 Orchard Rally Report

29 September 2006

Phil and Alan Dorman won the Orchard Rally, and in doing so, are almost certainly going to retain the title of Energia Navigation Rally champions. They only have to start the next event to earn the single start bonus point to be sure of the title. In fact, short of emigrating, they will be crowned champions. Even if they did emigrate, it would still take Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum to win both remaining rounds to steal the title, and that's not very likely to happen. They would more likely just find someone else to finish runner up to.

An excellent field of thirty-eight cars started the rally from the Armagh Rugby club on a lovely clear and dry night. There was much evidence of the storms from the previous week as many of the roads were covered in a carpet of branches and leaves, but Jackie Anderson and his team from the North Armagh club had done a sterling job clearing the worst of the debris to make the roads passable.

The rally was held to the south-east of Armagh, around the Markethill and Hamiltonsbawn area. It was a fantastically challenging rally for the drivers and navigators alike. There were 15 sections and 51 controls making up the 85 mile route, and coupled with some tricky, but never impossible, instructions, it kept the crews extremely busy. It was clear it was not going to be a low scoring rally.

Well, it was clear to anyone except the Dormans. The Carrickfergus brothers ended up winning by a margin of 40 marks, and were in a different league from the rest of the field in the second half of the rally in particular. They only dropped 2 minutes in the last 40 miles, with the next best crew dropping 28 minutes over the same distance. Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum were runners up once again. There had been a tight battle for the lead during the first half of the rally, with Eddie Murphy and Barry Taggart reaching the half way break in the lead. Their score at this stage was 11, with McKeown/McCollum on 13 and the Dormans on 15. The second half was a different story. Murphy/Taggart had a disastrous map trace and final herringbone section which dropped them back down to 5th place. McKeown/McCollum dropped small penalties in most sections, but even though they missed the last secret of the night, they were able to hold on to 2nd place.

Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane, in their Proton, had a good second half, but they had been off route too often during the early part of the rally to finish any higher than 3rd place, on 64 marks. They were at least the best dressed crew of the rally. They turned up sporting striking yellow Proton motorsport clothing. Unfortunately the effect was rather spoiled as they went through a particularly muddy section with the windows down with rather obvious consequences.

Clifford Auld and John Lindsay were out in an Audi Coupe for this rally, which is the fourth car they have used this season. They survived getting stuck in a ditch for a short while to finish in 4th place, which is their best result of the year.

<br />Hubert and Elaine Scott were the best Semi-Expert crew, and beat the local crew of John and Jonathan Henderson into second place, with William Todd/Maurice Cresswell finishing in 3rd. There is a very close battle raging for the Semi-Expert championship. Jonathan, with 3 wins, and Maurice are currently tied on 57 points each, with Elaine, who also has 3 wins this year, only 6 points behind.

The Novice Class was won for the first time by another local crew, Brian and Victoria Black in their Peugeot 306. They had an excellent score of 15 marks, which was 5 clear of Gary and Robert Milligan in second place, and well clear of the championship leaders Ronnie and Aaron Mitchell on 48. These were the only three crews to find all controls, as everyone else in the class picked up at least one "30". Linda Kenneway and Rachel Muldoon finished 4th on 53, and are now 9 points behind the Mitchell's in the championship race.

From the thirty-eight starters, there were 9 crews in the Beginners Class, and a very healthy 13 in the Rallyschool class, for those graduates from the recent Rallyschool held in Tandragee. Aidan O'Connor and Ian Regan won the Beginners Class from Ivor Barker and David O'Neill, with George Wallace and Christopher McCulla in 3rd.

The rallyschool crews had something of a baptism of fire by starting their navigation rally career on the Orchard Rally. If the rally was a challenge for the experienced crews at the head of the field, it must have been quite an adventure for the first timers. Considering the difficulty of the rally, Neil and Rebecca Fletcher did very well indeed to win by finishing on 107 marks. This result comes just one week after they won the twelve car rally that marked the end of the rallyschool. Two class wins in their first two events is quite a start to a career. Interestingly, this meant that three out of the five classes in the Orchard Rally were won by female navigators. Although it was Rebecca's first timed rally, her father can't really be described as a novice. He has been competing for a good number of years, and even won the drivers title in this championship in 1989 and 1990. Of course, they won in a Ford Escort MkI, a car with which Neil is synonymous. Ian and Elaine Crozier finished second in this class, with Raymond Linton and Barry McCarte in third.

In the team championship, Queen's University Motor Club now occupy first and second places, as North Armagh were ineligible to score on their home round. Both QUBMC teams are on 114, with North Armagh still within striking distance on 102.

<br />Patrick McCollum

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