2008 Moonraker Rally Report

5 September 2008

The Energia Navigation Rally Championship resumed after its long summer break with the Moonraker Rally. Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum won the rally by the smallest possible margin from Leslie Young and Lewis Boyd after a tight and fast-paced 80 mile event.

The rally was held on a miserably wet evening, with many of the roads looking more like rivers at times. Twenty-four cars left Dungannon Rugby Club and headed in the direction of Armagh, then turned west towards Caledon before weaving its way north using many of the great roads in the area. It was a feature of the rally that once crews lost a bit of time, it was extremely difficult to get back on schedule.

The crew that started on the best form was Young/Boyd. They were determined to make up for last year when they crashed out on the first section and they had a perfect first half as they reached the relaxed section without dropping a single mark. McKeown/McCollum had a very lucky escape when they incorrectly plotted their way round a small loop, but fortunately for them, and unfortunately for everyone else, the marshal that was supposed to be manning the control on the correct route couldn't find his spot. With this misdemeanour gone unpenalised, they arrived at the halt in second place on 6 marks. Just behind them were Gary Sheridan/Lloyd Cochrane on 7, with most of these coming when they struggled to find the correct white road to use at the start of the fifth section.

With only three sections left, the positions remained unchanged, with Young/Boyd still clean, McKeown/McCollum still on 6 and Sheridan/Cochrane now on 8. Things started to change when the map trace section came along. McKeown/McCollum cleaned this section, but Lewis Boyd has never felt comfortable with trace, and they dropped 4 marks here leaving only a 2 mark leading margin. The penultimate section caused neither of the top two crews any difficulty, but the last section, as is often the case, was described by an awkward clue to solve, and was also run on very tight roads, where making up time was mightily difficult. By the first secret, McKoewn/McCollum had dropped 1, but Young/Boyd had lost 2, to close the gap between them to a single mark. The penalties were repeated at the second secret to bring the two crews level. Then McKeown/McCollum missed the next turn as they hadn't got this part of the route plotted yet. They turned, but had dropped another minute behind schedule to hand the lead back to Young/Boyd. But then Young/Boyd themselves missed a left turn at a crossroads and realised they had gone wrong when they saw the 30mph speed limit signs in Eglish. The managed to correct themselves quickly but even though they only dropped a single additional minute, it was a significant penalty as it meant that with only 2.5 miles to go, they had lost the lead of the rally. The final scores were McKeown/McCollum on 12, with Young/Boyd on 13.

Sheridan/Cochrane, immaculately turned out in their yellow team Proton shirts, dropped time in the last four sections, and finished still in third place on 22 marks. Clifford Auld/John Lindsay were on the pace for all but 3 sections, but when they went wrong, they went really wrong and picked up big penalties.

In the Semi-Expert class, David and Kyle Preston led from start to finish, although after building a lead of 20 odd marks by half way, they had to see off an improving Gary and Robert Milligan. The Milligan's were continually catching during the second half, but they ran out of rally and ended 10 marks behind the class winners. Leslie and Gareth Hawe didn't finish this rally, but this was only a small part of a very busy weekend for them. By the time the rally had started, they had just completed the first leg of the Scally Rally, which comprised a 200 mile run from Belfast to Letterkenny, following the coast road and even visiting Malin Head. They managed to fit in the first half of the Moonraker before retiring, but then headed back to the Scally Rally to continue their 1000 mile trek along the Irish coast roads. Clearly our Navigation Rallies aren't difficult or challenging enough for some people!

The Novice Class had a rough time of it. Neil and Rebecca Fletcher struggled with rain entering the Mk I Escort, then the gear stick broke. They were able to use the short stub of the gear stick to change gear, but removing the cover to get access to this let uncomfortable fumes into the car which understandably made Rebecca's job even more difficult. These problems led to navigation problems, and they were able to report that the visitor's centre at Navan Fort wasn't open! At the end, they weren't really interested in how they got on and went to head home, but the results weren't long in being calculated and to their surprise they managed to win the class, albeit on a fairly big score of 106 marks. Any of the four crews could have won the Novice Class, as William and David Howard were only 11 marks back on the win, Richard Beattie/Ian Hawthorne picked up a late wrong approach penalty, and Raymond and Gareth Deazley had fewer time penalties than any of the others, but one missed control and going OTL finding the last control of the first half really ruined their night.

Only two crews were out in the Dungannon Rally School class. Steven and Paul Chambers had an outstanding run to finish on 26 marks, simply miles clear of everyone else in either of the Rally School classes. With most crews worrying about being too close to the ground with all the standing water about, the Chambers had other concerns in their Range Rover. At one point a low tree actually caused them to lower the air suspension to be able to fit through!

It was a real struggle for those crews in the class 5, made up of graduates from other Rally Schools. It looked more like a case of survival, with all crews going OTL at some point during the rally or missing huge swathes of the route. Conor and Tony Kelly won through with a finishing score of 138 marks, only 8 ahead of Brian and Ruth Barr. The Barrs had led at the relaxed section, but a storming run in the second half by the Kellys gave them the class victory by the end.

Dungannon rallies had long been bogey events for McKeown/McCollum, with countless second place finishes over the years, but victory in the Moonraker finally came in 2008, even if it did take a little slice of luck on the day.

Patrick McCollum


Posted by PMcCollum on 6/9/2008; Last updated by PMcCollum on 6/9/2008