2005 Erne Safari Rally Report

1 April 2005

Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum won the Erne Safari, which makes it four wins out of five years in the Enniskillen Motor Club rally. This win puts them back into the lead of the Energia Northern Ireland Navigation Rally Championship as it breaks for the summer.

Thirty-six cars lined up in Irvinestown for the 85 miles around the Tyrone/Fermanagh border.

The first of the leading crews to lose time was Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart (Vauxhall Nova), who picked up 7 penalties before TCD. Even though they only picked up a single penalty in the next 70 miles, they still finished in 4th place overall.

When the crews reached the rest halt in Irvinestown after 60 miles of competition, the surprise leaders were the semi-expert crew of James Woods/Chris Ragg (Peugeot 205) on 1 mark. It is a very rare thing for a semi-expert crew to win a championship rally outright, but Woods/Ragg came very close, as they were still leading with 7 miles to go. The penultimate section, which was described by a mixed set of out of order instructions, was their downfall. They time lost here cost them the win, but they still finished in an impressive 2nd overall.

Third were the local crew of James Thompson/Richard Hicks (Toyota Corolla) on James' first navigation rally, and Richard's first rally for 2 years. They were in contention for the rally win throughout the evening, and indeed if it wasn't for the same penultimate section, they could well have won.

The Erne Safari continues to be a bogey rally for Phil and Alan Dorman. They have never done well in Fermanagh, and this year was no exception. Again, it was the same TCM-TCN section that was the Dorman's undoing, as they had been tied with McKeown/McCollum up to this point. But the 5 minutes dropped meant they finished in 5th overall.

Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane made their costly mistake early on when a tricky numbered herringbone caught them out. They never had a chance to recover, and despite a good second half, they still ended in 6th place.

The semi-expert class was reasonably close for 2nd place, but they were all miles behind Woods/Ragg. The father and son crew of John and Jonathan Henderson came out best of the rest on 68 marks. Clifford Auld/John Lindsay finished 3rd, and were in John's Mini for the rally as Clifford's Rover P6 was still out of commission after failing to finish a clubman rally before Easter. John had previously used this Mini when he drove in the navigation championship, but it had been 6 years since it was last out.

William Todd/Maurice Cresswell (Vauxhall Corsa) were 4th in class, on 74 marks. They had held 2nd in class right up until the very last section, were 7 minutes lost dropped them 2 places.

The biggest class of the rally were the Novices with 13 crews battling it out. Only 2 crews found all the controls on the route and of these two George and Stephen Wallace just edged out James Nichol and Rachel Muldoon (Peugeot 106). They finished on 12 and 19 marks respectively. Next up were Mark Symington/Keith Kirkland (43), then Brian/Victoria Black (47). Both Hubert Scott/Elaine Browne and David/Kyle Preston finished on 50 marks.

The winning Beginners were Charles Dunleavy/Roy Lindsay on 54 marks ahead of Mark Luney/Neal Blelock and Mark McGirr/James Cresswell.

And so it was Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum who came through to win, largely by virtue of cleaning TCM-TCN. This is the third year in a row they have won this rally, the third year in a row they have led the championship at this stage, but if recent history is anything to go by, the second half of the championship belongs to the Dormans, who are aiming for their third consecutive title. Will history continue to repeat itself? We will find out when we reconvene in Dungannon in September.

Patrick McCollum

Posted by PMcCollum on 3/9/2008; Last updated by PMcCollum on 3/9/2008