2008 Erne Safari Rally Report

7 March 2008

Gary Sheridan and Lloyd Cochrane took their first win of the 2008 season with a perfect zero score in the most westerly round of the Energia series. This was generally a low scoring rally, but it is still a very unusual and impressive performance to complete a full route at this level without dropping a single mark. The last crew to achieve this was the Dorman brothers on Rathfriland Motor Club's Tour of the Mournes 2006. This was the only time they ever managed this feat on a championship rally during their successful career, and we have to go back to Dungannon Motor Club's Moonraker in 1999 to see the previous zero total, when the then top crew of Eric and Glenn Patterson attained a clean score.

The rally was organised by Enniskillen Motor Club and started from McAleer's Filling Station in Irvinestown. The route started out north in the direction of Ederney and Lack, then turned south in the direction of Tempo before returning to base in Irvinestown.

There was very little separating the top crews as they stopped at the relaxed section. Sheridan and Cochrane survived the consistent rain to reach the halt without penalty, with current champions Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum just behind on 1 mark. Leslie Young and Lewis Boyd, running no.1 on the road, were on 3 and were tied with the top Semi-Expert crew of Leslie and Gareth Hawe.

Sheridan/Cochrane kept their relentless consistency they had shown thus far on the rally as the tempo of the event increased towards the finish. The organisers had tried hard to catch the crews out. There were 20 sections in total, a lot of them quite short, no fewer than 55 manned controls, and on only one occasion was the first secret more than 1 mile from the preceding Time Control. Yet with all this, Sheridan and Cochrane failed to drop any marks on the second half, and so did not give their competitors the chance to steal the win from them.

McKeown/McCollum stayed second with a total of three marks, and tied on 5 were Young/Boyd and the young Hawes. The Hawes claimed third overall courtesy of staying clean for longer than the Omagh crew, and won their class by a country mile.

Hubert and Elaine Scott made a rare appearance in the series and finished fourth overall, beating Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart into 5th in the process. Murphy/Taggart showed some of their previous form by only dropping 1 mark in the second half, but earlier errors were too costly for this to have any real effect on their finishing position.

The best of the rest in the Semi-Experts was Gary and Robert Milligan, despite missing a secret control. They finished on 47, while John and Jonathan Henderson also missed a secret on their way to third in class.

Neil and Rebecca Fletcher once again won the Novice Class, but only after a tie with Raymond and Gareth Deazley had been settled using the further clean rule. They both scored an impressive 3 marks. The further clean rule had to employed again to separate third in class, as William and David Howard had been tied with Barry Gilpin/Denis Morton.

In the Beginner class, Ian and Aaron Johnston kept up their 100% record this year with their third class victory in as many events. Ominously for the opposition, their total score is tumbling as each round passes, and they won the class on this event by a full 62 marks. Second was Graham Brew and John Ricketts, which is an impressive result for a crew that had swapped seats for the night. With this sort of result, there is a danger of the new arrangement becoming permanent. Third was Conor and Tony Kelly. This crew were easily the best in the class at keeping to the required schedule. Unfortunately they were too often keeping their impeccable pace on the wrong roads as they picked up two wrong departures and missed two controls altogether.

Patrick McCollum

Posted by PMcCollum on 13/5/2008; Last updated by PMcCollum on 28/8/2008