2007 Pre-Circuit Rally Report

23 February 2007

Willie McKeown/Patrick McCollum took an emphatic victory in the Pre-Circuit Rally, the third round of the Energia Navigation Rally championship. The rally started from Tattyreagh, just south of Omagh, and the 70 mile route did a complete anti-clockwise loop around the Co Tyrone town. A healthy 34 cars started the rally, which included ten crews from Omagh Motor Club's rallyschool, who were competing on their first event after the four week course.

The rally had two distinct halves. The first half was relatively straightforward for most crews, with very little between the crews at the half way halt. Eddie Murphy/Barry Taggart held a slender lead on 2 marks, ahead of the Seat Ibiza of James Woods/Chris Ragg on 4, McKeown/McCollum on 5 and last years winners, Leslie Young and Lewis Boyd on 8. Two navigators were making their first appearance in this years' championship, and both of them struggled with sickness, which is not unusual for navigators who return after a break from competing. Elaine Scott stopped to be sick early in the rally and Rachel Muldoon only felt bad when she stepped out of the car at half way. But it didn't stop either of them, and they continued to the end of the rally.

After the calm of the first half, all hell broke loose on the second half. The sections got shorter, the roads tighter, the instructions harder and the crews started really racking up the penalty marks. The early leaders, Murphy/Taggart, collected no fewer than 113 marks in this half, to leave them well down in 9th at the end. Woods/Ragg and Young/Boyd didn't fare much better, amassing 86 and 89 respectively. But at least Woods/Ragg brought their Ibiza to the end of the rally damage free for the first time this year.

Some did climb the leader board as the rally progressed. Clifford Auld/Rachel Muldoon, who were in a Mazda 323 for this rally, were the 4th best crew in the second half, which gave them a 7th overall finish, and 3rd in class. Runners up in the class were William Todd and Maurice Cresswell. As Maurice collected his trophy, he was treated to a fairly weak chorus of "Happy Birthday" on the occasion of him turning 50. The winners of the class were Ronnie and Aaron Mitchell, who dropped 58 in the second half and earned them another impressive finish in 3rd place overall.

Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane, in their Proton, had a second half total of 39 to give them the runners-up spot on a total of 49 marks. But there was little doubt as to who the winners were. While all around them were missing controls, dropping time and getting wrong approaches or departures, McKeown/McCollum dropped only 1 mark in the second half to give them a total score of 6, a full 43 marks clear of their nearest rivals.

The rally followed a similar pattern for the Novice Class, with a low scoring first half followed by a much trickier second half. Barry Gilpin/Denis Morton took their first class win of the year, with a score of 59 marks. This was 12 clear of the local crew of William and David Howard, and Brian and Victoria Black were a further 6 marks behind that.

Neil and Rebecca Fletcher took another class win in the Beginner Class. They finished on 51 marks in their Mk I Escort, 12 ahead of Terry McCabe/Kevin Lynam in their Nissan Micra.

In the battle of the rallyschool crews, the clear winners were Gordon Simpson/Adam Vance, on 14 marks, ahead of Ashley Donnell/Stephen Moffitt on 30.

Patrick McCollum

Posted by PMcCollum on 27/8/2008; Last updated by PMcCollum on 28/8/2008