2004 Tour of the Mournes Report

15 October 2004

Phil and Alan Dorman came out on top of a closely fought battle during the Tour of the Mournes.

The penultimate round of the Northern Ireland Navigation Rally Championship had its headquarters in Rathfriland, with the route comprising of two roughly similar loops starting in Hilltown and travelling over the western part of Mourne Mountains towards Rostrevor, Warrenpoint and Mayobridge and ending in Rathfriland. A few late entries swelled the starting list to 31 cars, who enjoyed good conditions during the first loop, but had to contend with some rain in the second half.

The four crews in contention of the championship were the class of the field, and held the top four spots at the midway halt. Stephen Wishart/Jonathan Charlesson dropped 3 minutes when they had to stop to tighten wheel nuts, while double champions, Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart, dropped an early minute when they were stuck behind a local resident travelling slowly on the road. Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum (Corsa) and the Dormans (Nova) were tied for the lead at the half way.

A wrong approach to a passage check put paid to any chance Wishart/Charlesson had of winning the rally, but then a wishbone broke on their Peugeot 106, and they could only limp home to finish 6th. This also put an end to their championship hopes.

On three separate occasions during the second half, McKeown/McCollum dropped a minute at the first secret check on a section, and this was enough to push them down to third by the finish. The first navigation error in the whole rally for the Dormans was on the very last section, where they dropped a single minute at the half mile secret. Murphy/Taggart had no such problems, and it ended in a tie between the current champions and Murphy/Taggart. The earlier penalty for Murphy/Taggart meant they lost out in the further cleaner rule.

Clifford Auld/John Lindsay clinched the Semi-Expert title for 2004 with a most emphatic class victory. They were out in an unusually modern car for Clifford. With the Rover P6 succumbing to head gasket failure in the previous weekend's Circuit of Ireland Retrospective trial, Clifford was driving his 1.9 Peugeot 205 GTi. They used the car to good effect, even though the trip meter had failed before the rally started, and finished on 18 marks, 120 marks ahead of 2nd in class. This was also good enough for fourth overall, which was their best ever finish.

In fifth place were Gordon Simpson/Derek Graham. They were out in a Vauxhall Meriva, which would hardly be an obvious choice of navigation rally car. In 7th and 8th were Gerald Greene/Michael McElwee and Paul Gray/Jim Smith respectively.

George and Stephen Wallace (Ford Sierra) won the Novice Class on 32 marks, ahead of John and Jonathan Henderson (Sunbeam) on 36. Nigel Campbell/Colin Harkness finished on 39 marks in third place, but rued the costly mistake of approaching a time control from the wrong direction and in doing so picked up 15 marks. William Todd/Maurice Cresswell and Pat and Conal McCartan filled 4th and 5th in class. Finishing in 6th were James Woods/Chris Ragg, but this was enough to win the class championship in their Ford Sierra Estate.

Not only were the Semi-Expert and Novice Classes decided at this rally, but the team award has also been decided in favour of QUBMC. This makes it 7 wins for the club in 10 years. It is just now a question of which QUB team wins. It still could be either Team A (Phil Dorman/Alan Dorman; Clifford Auld/John Lindsay; Stephen Wishart/Jonathan Charlesson) or Team B (Willlie McKeown/Patrick McCollum; James Woods/Chris Ragg; George Wallace/Stephen Wallace).

For the overall championship, it is now down to a straight fight between Phil and Alan Dorman versus Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum. If both crews start the final round, then a win for McKeown/McCollum in the Firecracker Rally will give them the championship, and if they don't, the Dormans pick up their second consecutive title.

Patrick McCollum

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