Erne Safari Report

11 October 2019

Postponed Erne Safari Rally Drives Ahead


Due to unforeseen circumstances back in March of this year, the Motor Club was unable to run its annual night navigation rally: The McAleer's Spar Erne Safari Rally. Therefore the postponed event was eventually able to run on the night of Friday October 18th.

A total of 17 crews left the start venue, long time sponsor McAleer's Spar at Dromore Road, Irvinestown and finished almost 60 miles later back in Irvinestown in Mahon's Hotel. Clerk of the Course, Drew Wilson had set up the rally with four different sets of instructions to suit the four different classes, namely Class 1: Expert, Class 2 Semi-Expert, Class 3 Novice and Class 4 Beginners.

Going for a hat-trick the veteran crew of Benny Grainger/David Howard led off at the start in their very nimble classic Morris Mini Cooper. Following at number 2 was another veteran crew; that of Omagh's Kenneth Murray with Gordon Noble navigating in a Ford Focus whilst at number 3 came the Micra of John Henderson and Jonathan Henderson who never seem to miss a Safari. At number 5 in the Semi Expert Class came well-known local crew; Ernie Campbell and David Johnston in another classic Morris Mini Cooper; just behind the crew of John Henderson/Clifford Auld in their much modified Mini One [complete with Subaru Impreza front suspension!]. Father and son pairing Mark and Kyle Thompson with a successful year behind them on both Navigation and Targa Rallies started at number 7 and first in the Novice Class in their Mazda MX5 just ahead of the glorious-sounding BDA-engined Ford Mexico of Neil Fletcher/Rodney McCready. First on the road in Class 3 Beginners was the Ford Ka of Ronan Cox and Joe O'Neil, another local crew who have recently tasted plenty of success on the Navigation and Targa Rally scene. A late entry from another Safari stalwart saw Mark McCaffrey at number 17 and last on the road in the Beginner's Class in his evergreen Peugeot 406 with Conor Lappin in the ‘hot seat'. Other local crews included father and daughter pairing of Rebecca and Roy Lindsay - Vauxhall Astra, Gary and son Darragh Sheridan - Ford Fiesta, Darran Flanagan with Scott Thompson in a Lada Riva and Mervyn Wilson and Stephen Taylor in another Ford Fiesta.

Crews left McAleer's Spar at 8.43pm to arrive at the first Time Control on the Kilskeery road south west of Irvinestown. Crews were taken via such well-known areas as ‘The Fingerpost', Topped Mountain and Ballyreagh as the tortuous route twisted around some of the best night navigation roads in Northern Ireland.

Eventual winners were Benny Grainger and David Howard, claiming their hat-trick in fine style dropping only 2 minutes all night. Class 2 was clinched by John Henderson/Clifford Auld with Ernie Campbell/David Johnston second in Class. Mark and Kyle Thompson dominated Class 3 finishing with only 21 penalties. Class 4, the Beginner's Class, was as they say in rally parlance, ‘cleaned' by the Ka crew of Ronan Cox and Joe O'Neil, that is, they had no penalties at all and thus continued their successful run with this perfect result.

At number two in Class 4 came Mark McCaffrey/Conor Lappin, dropping 11 points with Rebecca Lindsay steering her dad Roy to third in Class. Next up was the Sheridans with Dad Gary at the wheel and son Darragh navigating. Hot on their wheels then came the Lada crew of Darran Flanagan and Scott Thompson with Mervyn Wilson and Stephen Taylor two places behind on Stephen's first attempt at a night navigation rally.

The crews and marshals [who were manning the Time, Passage and Secret Controls] retired to Mahon's Hotel for food and the prize-giving. Clerk of the Course, Wilson thanked all the competitors and marshals for taking part, the public in cooperating with the Motor Club, Mahon's Hotel for the welcome late-night food and facilities and the sponsor - McAleer's Spar Irvinestown for their continued support. For further details and full results see or


Posted by PMcCollum on 11/11/2019; Last updated by PMcCollum on 11/11/2019