2004 Pre-Circuit Rally Report

12 March 2004

Willie McKeown and Patrick McCollum won Omagh Motor Club's Pre-Circuit Rally. This was the second round of the Northern Ireland Navigation Rally Championship, and had been postponed from its original date of two weeks earlier when snow made many of the roads impassable. It took the place of the Newry rally, which was not able to run due to organisational problems. The event used a 70 mile route that started in Omagh, ran past Drumquin to Castlederg and back to Omagh. Thirty-one cars started, and included in the normal collection of Novas and Peugeot 106/205s were a Mk I Cortina, Rover P6, Opel Kadett and Ford Anglia.

A few crews were caught out early on a section which was run to a 25mph average, including the current NI champions, Phil and Alan Dorman. Their penalties from this were enough to deny them a chance of victory. At half way it was McKeown/McCollum leading on 1 mark, then Stephen Wishart/Jonathan Charlesson on 5, the Omagh crew of Leslie Young/Lewis Boyd on 7 and the Dormans in fourth on 8 marks.

The more difficult second half saw instructions that looked more like clues from a Scottish Navigation Rally and one based in Northern Ireland. In this half, the best crew were Wishart/Charlesson, who challenged for the lead in a borrowed Peugeot 106, and indeed they would have won had it not been for a section that was cancelled by the stewards. McKeown/McCollum then claimed the victory by a slim 3 marks, finishing on 9 marks. The Dormans were 3rd on 14, with Young/Boyd 4th on 16.

The semi-expert crews run the same instructions as the Experts, but it clearly shows the benefit of experience, as the leading crews in this class were some distance behind those of Class 1. Gerald Greene and Michael McElwee won on 85 marks, with the Mk I Escort of Paul Gray/Jim Smith finishing 2nd on 110.

Roy Smith, who won the Novice Championship in 1998, but has not competed for the last 4 years, made his return to the Navigation Rallying scene in Omagh with Mark Stirling driving an Opel Kadett. They struggled with wiper problems for a lot of the night, eventually ending up with no wipers at all, but still managed 3rd in class on 135 minutes. Another unfamiliar sight on this rally was Clifford Auld without his infamous green "Big Kyd" Triumph 2.5Pi. Clifford was in a V8-engined Rover P6, and with John Lindsay in the passengers seat, they made it round with 144 penalties to finish 4th in class, one place ahead of the Skoda Favorit of Patsy Branney/Andy Gilmore.

James Woods and Chris Ragg made a great start to their Novice championship after swapping seats after last year. They finished on 9 marks in their Peugeot 205, only 3 ahead of Mark McGirr/Blaise McCarney. In third were the Ford Anglia crew of Alan Jardine/Gareth Hawe and fourth were the early leaders John and Jonathan Henderson.

Other class winners were Roy McCracken/Graeme Campbell and Jimmy Quinn/Willie Howard. Special mention must go to John and James McKay, who finished 2nd in Class 5, which was for Omagh Rally school graduates. This was James' first navigation rally, and as far as we know, he becomes the youngest ever navigator in NI rallying at 12 years and 15 days old.

Patrick McCollum

Posted by PMcCollum on 23/9/2008; Last updated by PMcCollum on 23/9/2008