2005 Orchard Rally Report

30 September 2005

Phil and Alan Dorman won the Orchard Rally when the Energia Northern Ireland Navigation Rally Championship visited Armagh.

The North Armagh Motor Cycle and Car Club, led by Jackie Anderson, put on a great route around the tremendous labyrinth of lanes in the south of County Armagh. Often, a series of junctions would appear, separated only by a couple of tenths of a mile each time, which made the navigators' job of simultaneously plotting and navigating very tricky indeed.

The rally route left the Armagh City Rugby Club, and then headed in the direction of Keady, ran along the border towards Middletown, then to Killylea before returning to the ancient cathedral city.

Twenty-six cars left rally HQ, and among them were last year's winners, Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart, who were in an unfamiliar Vauxhall Nova, which had been lent to them by John Henderson. They took a while to settle, and to get used to rallying without a trip meter again, and so they dropped a few minutes in most sections in the first half to reach to break on 16 marks. Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum had managed to set their trip incorrectly and consequently clocked in early to two separate secret checks. This, coupled with losing 6 minutes after missing a junction, left them on 10 marks at relaxed. Two crews with a lucky escape were the Dormans and Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane, who took an incorrect route between TCE and TCF. Fortunately for them, there was no secret check on the correct route, and so they escaped penalty free. Sheridan/Cochrane reached the halt on 2 marks, with the Dormans on 1.

The second half continued in the same vain for Murphy/Taggart, picking up small penalties regularly, and they finished in 4th place on 32 marks. Sheridan/Cochrane didn't have as good a second half as they enjoyed in the first. They were confused by a road that was classified as a wide minor road on the map, but was in reality a narrow minor road. They lost 6 marks in total in this section, and they also picked up a 15 for a wrong approach at a secret check, leaving them on 30 marks at the finish in third place.

The Dormans, running first on the road, twice had to pass car no 2 between TCJ and TCK. And the second time they caught McKeown/McCollum, they found that the Corsa crew were being held up themselves behind a 40 ft articulated lorry crawling along a road barely wide enough to accommodate it. When this obstacle cleared, the Dormans stormed past and still had enough time to make the next control without dropping a minute. This didn't seem to unsettle them, as they completed the second half without any penalties. McKeown/McCollum were also penalty free in the second half, and so their final tally of 10 marks was good enough for second, with the Dormans finishing on just a single mark. Considering the area the rally ran through, and the difficulty in navigating the roads, never mind plotting as well, a score of 1 mark was mightily impressive.

Clifford Auld/John Lindsay took their second Semi-Expert win of the year, just 2 marks ahead of Paul Gray/Jim Smith. The early class leaders were James Woods/Chris Ragg, but they retired their Peugeot 205 with gearbox problems. Auld/Lindsay, who were competing in a Volkswagen Golf GTi, had led the class at half way on 17 marks, but they didn't have a great last quarter. A few expensive navigation errors pushed their total up to 89 marks. Gray/Smith (MK I Escort) were generally the best of the class in the second half, but two missed controls between TCM and TCN were their undoing, and they finished on 91 marks.

The novice class was quite low scoring, which is a sign of the improving abilities of the crews competing, for this would have been far from the easiest rally of the year for them. George and Stephen Wallace (Sierra) had a very good run in this class. They led throughout, and finished on an impressive score of 14 marks. This is their third class win this year, and gives them a healthy lead in the class championship. The Omagh crew of Nigel Campbell/Colin Harkness (VW Golf) equalled their best result of the year with 2nd in class. Another father and son crew, Gary and Robert Milligan, had easily their best run of the year, picking up only 27 marks in their Citroën Saxo, and finished 3rd. Hubert and Elaine Scott, which were one of no fewer than nine crews from QUBMC, were 4th on 30 marks. Linda Kenneway and Rachel Muldoon were the first all female crew to compete on a championship navigation rally since November 2000. They acquitted themselves very well on their first run out together, and ended on 40 penalties, which included a wrong departure from a secret check.

Two more father and son crews took the top spots in the Rallyschool Class. Ronnie/Aaron Mitchell (Subaru Forrester) came out victorious over Desmond and Ryan O'Loan (Citroën Saxo). Brian Dorman had James Cresswell navigating for him this time, and finished 3rd in class, on 129 marks.

QUBMC were the most successful club of the rally, with their "A" team scoring a full 30 points to extend their lead in the Team Championship. The QUBMC "B" team have now moved into second place in the table, ahead of North Armagh.

The Dormans are now starting to edge away in the championship race, although McKeown/McCollum are only 3 points back, with Sheridan/Cochrane still within striking distance in 3rd. Murphy/Taggart, 2002 champions, cannot now win this year. This is the pattern that the Dormans have used in the two previous years. They start the second half of the season lying a few points behind the championship leaders, and then they out-perform everyone else to clinch the title. In the Orchard Rally, they showed what makes the difference between champions and ordinary folk. They very rarely go wrong, but even when they do make mistakes, they have a little bit of luck, but then get straight back on to the route without getting flustered and don't let the error unsettle them which might otherwise lead to more mistakes.

Patrick McCollum

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