2005 Tour of the Mournes Report

14 October 2005

Phil and Alan Dorman completed a hat-trick of hat-tricks on Rathfriland Motor Club's Tour of the Mournes rally. They have now won this rally three years running, and it was also their third successive rally victory in the 2005 Energia Northern Ireland championship. But most importantly, they have now become NI champions for the third year in a row. This is a feat that has only been achieved once before, when Eric and Glenn Patterson won the championship from 1998 to 2000.

In the wider historical context, only one driver and one navigator have ever won more than three championships. Back in the road rallying era, Robert McBurney won the driver's title 5 times, in 1959, 1961, 1965, 1966 and 1967. In the other side of the car, Drew Todd is the most successful navigator, winning titles in both the road rallying and navigation rallying eras, picking up the championship in 1979, 1980, 1984 and 1992.

In an unusual coincidence, on the event that saw the Patterson's impressive record equalled by the Dormans, Eric returned to the championship to drive for Patrick McCollum. Patrick's usual driver, Willie McKeown, had taken ill, and has been ruled out of both this and the final rally of the series, but such was his commitment to the competition, he organised for Eric to borrow his car and compete in his place.

At the start of the rally, three crews were still in with a chance of the championship title, as both McCollum and Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane could deny the Dormans winning. As it turned out, things could hardly have been closer for these crews in the rally. There was very little drama throughout the rally to concern any of them, although they each had the odd moment of concern. The very first section caused Patterson/McCollum a brief worry. They took a while to plot the circular herringbone, and Sheridan/Cochrane had passed them before they got going. But the first secret was far enough away to allow them to get back on their minute. Then, on the first section after relaxed, both the Dormans and Sheridan/Cochrane had a bit of a scare. They both originally plotted the short route round a triangle, but on closer inspection realised that the route instructions were continued on the reverse of the page, and so had to turn to drive the long way round said triangle. They arrived into the secret check with only seconds to spare before being penalised.

The final section was a particularly difficult one to plot, and the Dormans were even passed on the road by Patterson/McCollum at one point. But they sorted themselves quickly enough to get through without picking up any penalties.

The only score that could separate all three crews by the finish was when Sheridan/Cochrane clocked into a secret check 1 minute early on the first section. Apart from this, the top three crews matched each other wheel for wheel. In fact, they all believed that they were clean on the road, and the only penalties they picked up were due to timing errors.

And so the championship was eventually decided on a tie-break, where the smaller engine capacity gave the Dormans the rally win, and in turn the championship title.

The other Expert crew competing was that of Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart. They were using the same Vauxhall Nova they had borrowed for the last round in Armagh. They had been on the pace at the early stages of the event, but a timing belt broke before the half way halt.

In the Semi-Expert class, the championship battle was between three crews. James Woods/Chris Ragg were the first of these three to find bother. Once again they had transmissions problems in their Peugeot 205. This time they were bemused by a clutch that at times was working fine, then not giving them any drive at all. They struggled on, and ended the rally 3rd in class. William Todd/Maurice Cresswell and John Lindsay/Clifford Auld had a close battle right through the rally, and they entered the last section only 1 point apart. William and Maurice had a bit of a nightmare run through this difficult 11 mile run, and picked up no less than 69 penalties, whereas Clifford and John were clean. The Corsa of William/Maurice still finished second, and Clifford and John then had a very clear win the class. This also means they have successfully defended their Semi-Expert title they first won last year.

Eleven cars did battle for the Novice class. By the halt, two cars had picked up only 2 marks, namely Hubert and Elaine Scott in their Peugeot 106 and Mark Symington/Keith Kirkland (Vauxhall Astra). The second half saw them suffer differing fortunes. Symington/Kirkland were one of several crews to miss a secret between TCJ and TCK, and their total of 38 marks was only good enough for 6th place in the end. John Adams/Mervyn Elder haven't been seen around these rallies for quite a while, but they performed well on their return, picking up 33 marks and finishing 5th. Stuart and Richard Hyland had been the early pace setters in the class at the early part of the year, but while Richard enjoyed great success co-driving in the Irish Tarmac Historic Championship rallies, his form seems to have slipped a bit on the navigation events. They picked lots of small penalties and finished on 15 marks, in 4th place. James Nicol/Neil Ervine had their best run of the year yet, with 3rd place on 12 marks. Second in class were the father and son crew of George and Steven Wallace. This was enough to give them the Novice title for 2005, as they cannot be caught on the last rally. Hubert and Elaine had a great second half, as they stayed clean throughout, to end on a very impressive 2 marks. They seem to be getting stronger as each rally passes. It also meant that QUBMC members won all three championship classes, and they have also won the team award, which now makes it 8 wins out of 11 years for the club.

Ronnie and Aaron Mitchell won the Beginners' Class, with a clear winning margin over the young and fast improving James Cresswell, who is obviously reaping the benefits of navigating for that wise old sage, Brian Dorman.

It has been a truly outstanding year for the Dormans. Not only have they won the NI Championship once again with four wins out of the 7 rounds so far, they also won the Circuit of Ireland Retrospective Trial on only their 3rd attempt, and Alan won all four clubman navigation rallies this year with his dad, Brian, driving. A clear indication of their form can be seen if the last three championship rallies are looked at together. In approximately 250 miles of rallying over 3 rounds, their total penalties come to a measly 11 marks.

And so it is to the Firecracker Rally that we all head to end the season. Unfortunately, all class battles have been decided, but many minor placings are still up for grabs, and of course, it gives us one last chance this year to beat that yellow Nova.

Patrick McCollum

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