2004 Jumping Jack Rally Report

6 February 2004

The Jumping Jack Rally, as ever, kicked off the new season, although it was a much changed rally from previous years. The Clerk of the Course for the QUB Motor Club event, Jonathan Charlesson, made many changes from the norm. For an event that ran in Co Down for years, before moving to Antrim recently, this year it was run along the Derry/Tyrone border, an area that hadn't been seen in the championship since 1994.

The route started in Dungiven, and did a short loop over the Sperrins before heading towards Dunnamanagh. The second half approached Strabane before heading back to Claudy and finishing in Dungiven. The big talking point was the section run at regularity through the closed roads of Banagher Forest. In fact, with the combination of difficult instructions, very tight roads, including a number of private lanes, it was a challenging event for navigators and drivers alike.

It may be a new year, in a new area and used new styles of navigation in the forest, but the result had a familiar ring about it. Phil and Alan Dorman took a decisive victory, and after dominating navigation rallying in 2003, on this showing they do not intend to make it any easier for their competitors to win this year. They won on a total of 65 penalties, which is a sort of winning score that hasn't been seen since the days of the infamous rallies run by Neil Fletcher in Newry.

Their total of 65 was quite amazing considering that they missed the first secret check of the night within half a mile of the first control. But from then, they set a standard that simply could not be matched by the rest of the field. They were running around 10 minutes ahead of the following car for much of the night.

That first secret caught out four of the Expert Class runners, but not Gary Sheridan and Lloyd Cochrane, who took their time at the start made sure they visited every control of the rally. This helped them to finish in second place, albeit on 105 penalties, and made it a successful return for them after a year away from the sport.

Two-time former Northern Ireland champions, Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart, were in 3rd place, making it an all-Vauxhall Nova top three. The Omagh crew of Leslie Young and Lewis Boyd came home in 4th place, on 145 penalties. They had more trouble than most at a particularly tight hairpin. Their Ford Sierra was just never going to make it round, and they had give up and drive past it to find a suitable turning place.

Paul Gray and Jim Smith had something of a baptism of fire on this, their first attempt at the top level instructions. They coped admirably, as they found every control on the route and finished on 155 penalties, which was very close to the scores set by many more experienced crews ahead of them.

John and Jonathan Henderson claimed their first class victory in the Novices in their Talbot Sunbeam. There had been a close battle forming during the first half, with 7 minutes separating the first four crews, and indeed it was William Todd/Maurice Cresswell who led the class at the half way halt. But it was the Henderson father and son team who scored least during the more difficult second half, and they finished on 105 penalties, eight ahead of the Ballymoney crew of John Adams/Mervyn Elder. Mark Cromie/Gareth Jackson finished in third place, but would have won had it not been for a Wrong Approach three miles from the end. They did manage to clean 5 sections of the rally, the most that any of the eighteen-strong field managed. Even the Dormans only cleaned 4 sections.

Todd/Cresswell had an abysmal time during the second half, and decided to go home before the end of the rally.

QUBMC crew Danny Mullan/Ciaran Carey won the non-championship Beginner's Class from another QUB crew of Robert Erwin/Joanne Greer.

Patrick McCollum

Posted by PMcCollum on 23/9/2008; Last updated by PMcCollum on 23/9/2008