2005 Firecracker Rally Report

4 November 2005

The Energia Northern Ireland Navigation Rally Championship was rounded off, as usual, by the UAC's Firecracker Rally, and this year it was won by Eric Patterson and Patrick McCollum.

The rally lacked the tension that had been prevalent all year in the championship, as all classes had already been decided during the previous round. But the two main protagonists still turned up to do battle, namely the Dorman brothers, fresh from becoming triple champions, and Patrick McCollum, who once again had Eric Patterson driving in place of Willie McKeown. The Dormans had swept all before them this year so far, but they still felt they had unfinished business. They had yet to win the Firecracker Rally, and never had a four-in-a-row winning run. Both were achievable as they headed the 18-strong field out of Annahilt on the 80 mile route, which had been set by a new clerk of the course, Aaron Mitchell.

The only other crew out in the Expert Class were Brain Dorman and Lewis Boyd in their Mk I Escort. The Semi-Expert class was swelled for this event by some regulars from the Novices' Class, who were out to try the difficult instructions before their promotion to the Semi-Expert class became official.

When the cars reached the half way halt on the slopes of Slieve Croob, things weren't going to plan for the champions, as they had gone awry when a set of grid squares had sent them off in the wrong direction. They collected 5 marks in total by the time they had reached the time control at the end of this section, which left them a couple of marks behind Patterson/McCollum at the break.

Dorman senior and Lewis Boyd were comfortably in third, on 15 marks. The leaders of the Semi-Experts at this point were one of the Novice crews, as James Nicol and Elaine Scott, on 19 marks, were leading from the Clerk of the Course of the previous four Firecrackers, Roy Smith (22 marks). George and Steven Wallace, another Novice crew, were lying in 3rd in class on 30 marks. In joint 4th at this point were Paul Gary/Jim Smith and the Peugeot 205 of James Woods/Chris Ragg.

The big talking point of the second half was the penultimate section, in which many cars were completely confused, and both the Dorman brothers and Patterson/McCollum missed a secret check that was placed on a farm lane. This put daddy Dorman and Lewis Boyd in pole position, but before the crews had even returned to rally HQ, the organisers had realised that the route instructions worked two ways, and hence had no alternative but to scrap the section. This left Dorman/Boyd to finish in 3rd place, on 23 marks.

Even with the Dorman brothers cleaning the second half, it wasn't enough to make up for their earlier misdemeanour, and Patterson/McCollum held on to their lead to end up winning the rally on 5 marks, 1 mark ahead of the Carrickfergus pair. This was McCollum's first Firecracker victory, and his third win of the year, which made the championship a close finish. The Dormans' four wins helped them earn 64 points, as opposed to 62 points of McCollum.

James Nicol and Elaine Scott continued their impressive run to win the Semi-Expert class, and win by quite a clear margin. They finished on 25 marks, which was 13 marks clear of 2nd place. There was more than just a new level of route instruction for Elaine to become accustomed to on this rally. She normally competes with her husband, Hubert, but was out in a different car with a different driver. Maybe she left the husband at home to finish the ironing as she went out rallying for the night. James Woods and Chris Ragg had a great second half, and climbed to 2nd place at the end as they finished on 38 marks. Another impressive run came from the Novices' champions for the year, with George and Steven Wallace finishing 3rd in the Semi-Expert class, with the Semi-Expert champions, Clifford Auld and John Lindsay, coming in behind them in 4th place on 55 marks. The final Novice navigator didn't fare just as well as the others. Rachel Muldoon, with Richard Swanston behind the wheel, finished 7th out of the 9 Semi-Expert crews. Incidentally, Rachel must have set some sort of record, as she competed in 5 championship events this year, with 5 different drivers in 5 different cars in 3 different classes.

Only three cars made it out in the Novices' Class, and of those, Gary and Robert Milligan led all the way in their Citroën Saxo to claim their first class win of the year. With most of their main championship rivals moving up a class for 2006, this result may be a sign of things to come for the Omagh father and son crew. John Stafford and Morris Kyle, in their Mini Clubman, were very happy to claim their prize for finishing second in class.

Raymond Kelly and Colin McDowell won the Beginner Class in their potent Toyota Starlet.

The cars and romers are now put away for their short winter break, after a year in which they were pushed hard across literally hundreds of miles of winding country lanes under the cover of darkness. Once crews have had a bit of rest, and had a bite of Christmas dinner, they'll all gather again in late January as the battle commences in search of the next holder of the Northern Whig trophy and title of Ulster Rally Champion.

Patrick McCollum

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