2007 Moonraker Rally Report

14 September 2007

Clifford Auld and John Lindsay took their maiden rally win in the Moonraker Rally. The established top crews seemed to be trying their hardest to lose the Dungannon Motor Club organised event, and this left the popular crew a clear run to victory. The 85 mile route snaked its way around the countryside from the Dungannon start via Moy, Loughgall, Benburb and Aughnacloy before returning to base.

Even on the first section of this dramatic rally, two of the thirty starters went off. Championship contenders Leslie Young and Lewis Boyd were out on the spot, while Andy Whale and Chris Ragg managed to continue, only to crash out permanently 2 sections later. The following cars stopped to try to help Young and Boyd, but where unable to extricate the car from the bank. Gary Sheridan and Lloyd Cochrane in particular lost some time, but even with this, they were only 3 marks off the lead at the half way halt.

The second section saw championship leaders, Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum, pick up a mass of penalties as they went about 3 miles off route at the very start of the section. Eddie Murphy and Barry Taggart had been going well, and were the only crew to clean the first two sections, but the last stage before the break saw them go wrong, so by half way they were in third place. The leaders at this stage were Auld/Lindsay. They never dropped more than 2 minutes behind schedule, and this steady approach meant that they had collected only 9 marks by the relaxed section.

Sheridan and Cochrane moved into the joint lead early in the second half, but as soon as they had, the water temperature in the Proton had rocketed. They managed to patch up the offending hole in the radiator, but it was only good enough to enable them to limp home.

The next crew to get near the lead was Murphy and Taggart. The former champions were one mark off the lead going into the last section. But the final section was to prove quite a challenge for all crews. This section was made up of three loops, with the middle loop described by a herringbone. It was the approach and departure to and from this loop that defined the other two loops, but that subtle instruction flummoxed just about all the crews. Murphy/Taggart picked up a full 75 marks in this 9.5 mile section alone. From challenging for the win, they dropped right back to 6th place. In fifth were Gary and Robert Milligan, who actually had a very good last section, as they were only beaten by fellow father and son crew of Ronnie and Aaron Mitchell. The Mitchell's may have scored the lowest on this part, but they managed to clout a stone bridge only metres from the end of the rally, which less quite an impression on the hitherto beautiful Audi Quattro.

Local specialists Leslie and Gareth Hawe put in another fine performance to earn 3rd place overall and win the Semi-Expert Class. The points for second place from this rally mean that the Mitchells are now practically assured of the Semi-Expert title, even though 3 rallies remain.

McKeown/McCollum found all three loops in that final fateful section, but not necessarily in the order the organisers had planned. The penalties from this gave them a total of 61 marks, but remarkably, due to the high attrition rate, this was still enough for second place and a healthy haul of championship points.

Even Auld and Lindsay drove only the second and third loops of the last section, but such was the mayhem around them, that they still won with a winning margin of 8 marks. This rally will go down as a difficult one, as the leading score of 53 was the highest winning total since Phil and Alan Dorman won the Co Derry based Jumping Jack Rally back in January 2004.

It is not often that a Mazda is seen winning rallies in this country, but that fact certainly wouldn't put Clifford off trying. The Mazda 323 is only the latest in a very long line of eclectic cars that he can be seen competing in. In the last couple of years alone, he has entered navigation rallies in a VW Golf, a Mini, a Rover P6, a Triumph Vitesse, an Audi Coupe and the current Mazda.

The best of the Novice crews were David and Kyle Preston, who eked out a five mark winning margin over the Toyota Starlet of Kai Young and Jonathan Elliott, who were made to suffer after getting a wrong departure near the end of the first half. The novice class didn't have quite the tricky final section instructions that were written for the top crews, but even so it was a tight rally for them, with the winners picking up 48 marks. Rodney and Helen Ferguson missed out on second place in class by a measly 1 mark.

The rallyschool class was won by Raymond and Gareth Deazley. Their score of 37 marks was the lowest of any crew on the rally, and they won the class by a massive margin from Roy Coulter and Alan Lutton. Ken McDonald /Brian Harte in their MkI Escort were the best of the Beginners, 17 marks ahead of John Boyle and Austin Grimes, with Stephen McClintock and Tom Boden just one mark further back.

The championship stays in Co Armagh for the next round, when the Orchard Rally takes place in two weeks time.

Patrick McCollum

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