2002 Circuit of Down Report

22 March 2002

Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum took their Mini to victory in the Circuit of Down Rally, Newry and District Motor Club's round of the Northern Ireland Navigation Rally Championship.


On what competitors described as the most difficult rally of recent times, crews had to navigate through 90 miles of South Armagh lanes, many of which were barely wider than their cars. If the roads themselves were a challenge, then the taxing clues and patches of fog only added to make the event memorable for those competing.


David Erwin and Alan Dorman opened up an early lead, due mostly to the section that was described by a series of five map traces. With every other crew struggling on this section, Erwin/Dorman cleaned it and were only on 12 penalties by the half way halt. Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart were next on 28 minutes, with the rest of Class 1 very close behind. Class 2 were now only down to one representative, with both Trevor/Ricky Reid and Gordon Simpson/Derek Graham retiring just before the halt.


A control eight miles from the restart proved significant, as only Erwin/Dorman and McKeown/McCollum were able to approach it from the correct direction, but only after the Mini had taken a wrong turn, entering a field by accident. There was just enough traction and no more to get the car out again, but it was a narrow escape. From here to the end it was McKeown/McCollum who performed best, as the penalties began adding up at an alarming rate for all competitors. Their final tally of 77 minutes penalties gave them the victory from John Henderson/Lloyd Cochrane, who also ran strongly after that wrong approach. They finished second overall on 97 minutes. Erwin/Dorman ended up 3rd overall, and the only Class 2 finisher. Championship leaders Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart were out in their Ford Escort for the first time this year and were 4th. Robbie McClean/Richard Hicks were 5th and winners of Round 2, Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd, were 6th.


The championship now stands with Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart, Erwin/Dorman and McKeown/McCollum all equal on 26 points.


Stephen Wishart and Jonathon Charlesson continued their dominance of Class 3 with another clear victory, despite stopping by the roadside for over 10 minutes to rectify locking brakes in their Peugeot 106. Colin and Pat Quinn were second, with Paul Gray and Jim Smith 3rd. Clifford Auld/Peter Moore were the early class leaders and indeed still had a big advantage over the rest of the field when they retired 8 miles after the competitive relaxed section. They found themselves in the same field as McKeown/McCollum, but unfortunately the big Triumph could not get out and it took over 2 hours to get it onto the road again. Ironically, by this stage, the marshal that had towed them out had damaged his radiator, and so Clifford had to tow him back to Newry city!


Class 4 was won by the Ballymoney pairing of John Adams and Mervyn Elder in a Peugeot 205. They led for most of the night and finished on 131 penalties, ahead of William Todd/Maurice Cresswell (164), Paul McCulla/Andy Gilmore (233) and Arnold Lutton/Simon Brennan (319).


In the Club Team Championship, Queen's University took a maximum score, with its crews winning in all three championship classes.


Patrick McCollum




  1. Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum Class 1 Mini 77
  2. John Henderson/Lloyd Cochrane Class 1 Talbot Sunbeam 97
  3. David Erwin/Alan Dorman Class 2 Renault Clio 105
  4. Edward Murphy/Barry Taggart Class 1 Ford Escort 113
  5. Robbie McClean/Richard Hicks Class 1 Toyota Corolla 148
  6. Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd Class 1 Ford Sierra 177
  7. Gordon Simpson/Derek Graham Class 2 Peugeot 306 DNF
  8. Trevor Reid/Ricky Reid Class 2 Ford Escort DNF


Class 3

  1. Stephen Wishart/Jonathon Charlesson Class 3 Peugeot 106 48
  2. Colin Quinn/Pat Quinn Class 3 Austin Meastro 103
  3. Paul Gray/Jim Smith Class 3 Ford Escort 208
  4. George Wallace/Steven Wallace Class 3 Vauxhall Cavalier 289
  5. Chris Ragg/Michael Beggs Class 3 Mini 337
  6. Clifford Auld/Peter Moore Class 3 Triumph 2.5 DNF


Class 4

  1. John Adams/Mervyn Elder Class 4 Peugeot 205 131
  2. William Todd/Maurice Cresswell Class 4 Mini 164
  3. Paul McCulla/Andy Gilmore Class 4 Ford Escort 233
  4. Arnold Lutton/Simon Brennan Class 4Vauxhall Cavalier 319
  5. Glenn Millar/Louise Millar Class 4 Volkswagen Golf DNF
Posted by PMcCollum on 24/11/2009; Last updated by PMcCollum on 24/11/2009