2004 Orchard Rally Report

1 October 2004

Eddie Murphy and Barry Taggart claimed a hard fought victory on Round 6 of the Northern Ireland Navigation Rally Championship. The Armagh based rally ran out of Armagh Rugby club and first headed to Richhill before running south to the relaxed section near Markethill. The second half headed towards Keady before returning to Armagh City. Jackie Anderson and his team from the North Armagh Motor Cycle and Car Club put on an excellent rally that had all the crews enthusing about the great night's rallying they had just enjoyed. The roads used were such that it was imperative for navigators to get the navigation accurate. It was extremely difficult for drivers to make up any time lost during the sections, and just differentiating private lanes from public roads was a challenge which meant the navigators had to keep a keen eye on the maps at all times.

With the recent rain and farming activity in the area, the surface of the roads was extremely slippery, with some drivers even saying they had driven on ice with more grip! When approaching some of the standing water, it looked on occasion cars could be swallowed whole.

The first half was very straightforward in terms of navigation, with the reigning champions, and last year's Orchard Rally winners, Phil and Alan Dorman taking up their customary position at the head of the event on 1 mark. Murphy/Taggart were just behind them on 2 marks in their Vauxhall Nova. Stephen Wishart/Jonathan Charlesson lay third at this stage in their first run out in a newly built Peugeot 106. The car had in fact only undergone 5 miles of testing before leaving home for the rally. Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum came to the halt with 10 marks already racked up, but still not out of the reckoning.

In the Semi-Experts, a familiar face made his return to the championship. Brian Dorman is a retired navigator of considerable repute, and father of the leading brothers. He was driving his Ford Escort Mk I for Gareth Hawe, a young navigator who looks to have great potential. At the competitive relaxed section, they were lying 3rd in class on 36 marks, just behind the Rover P6 of Clifford Auld/John Lindsay (34 marks). Michael McElwee/Gerard Greene led the class on 21 marks.

The rally really kicked into action during the frantic pace of the last 30 miles from Keady to Armagh. Much of the action was seen a 5 road ends at Tassagh. This was used just before and just after TCM. The spectators at this point enjoyed watching the mayhem of a navigation rally. Firstly, McKeown/McCollum went through in the wrong direction, realised what was wrong just before approaching the time control, and turned. When they arrived back at the 5 road ends to correct themselves, the Dormans where sitting stationary at the junction as Alan could not make sense of the map reference instruction. At the same time, Murphy and Taggart were able to negotiate the hairpin left without the Dormans noticing and move them into contention for the win.

While all crews around them were faltering, Wishart/Charlesson came into their own, and stormed through the second half. It would seem that the QUB crew performed better the more difficult the rally became.

At the start of the final section, Wishart/Charlesson were leading and only 5 and a half miles away from their first victory. Murphy/Taggart were two minutes behind them, with the championship leaders McKeown/McCollum tied for third with the Dormans.

The final instructions were a set of map traces, and as usual with this sort of instruction, Alan Dorman solved it quicker than anyone else to clean the last section and claim 3rd overall by the end. Of the two leading crews, it was Murphy/Taggart who coped better during this last section, and only picked up 5 marks to turn a two mark deficit into a two mark winning margin.

This was the 2002 champions' first victory since last November's Firecracker Rally, and only the second rally in two years not to be won by either the Dormans or McKeown/McCollum.

The championship is much closer after this rally. McKeown/McCollum still lead, but only by a single point from the Dormans, with Murphy/Taggart a further 8 points back. If the one dropped score was taken into account now, things would be much closer, with only 3 points separating the top three crews. With two rounds to go, it is still very much all to play for.

In the semi-experts class, lots of time lost and a missed control dropped Green/McElwee from the lead down to third. Dorman/Hawe also are recorded to have missed a secret check, although this seemed practically impossible from where it was located. This 30 penalty left them in second place to Auld/Lindsay. The Rover P6 crew finished on 79 marks, and was their third class win in a row. The current Novice champions now enjoy a healthy lead in the Semi-Expert Championship.

Eddie Robinson and Alan Shilliday won the Novice Class from the Sierra Estate of James Woods/Chris Ragg. Robinson/Shilliday were able to repeat their class win on the same event one year ago to be the first crew to beat Woods/Ragg this year. Stuart Hyland, with his son Richard, who recently became the Irish Tarmac Historic Champion co-driver, finished third in class, with the Ballymoney pairing of John Adams and Mervyn Elder in fourth.

Patrick McCollum

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