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BUSY FEBRUARY

For me anyway last month was quite busy. I attended three varied events. First off it was the Derek Walker Trial, an autotest-type event. Then we had the North Armagh Motor Club’s NI Rally Championship opener based at Kirkistown Race Circuit. Finally it was into the woods for Omagh Motor Club’s Spring Rally.

The MG Car Club’s Derek Walker Trial was based this year at Delamont Country Park near Killyleagh. This was the 27th running of the popular event and apparently I have marshalled at 25 of them, only missing the last two due to illness.

A good entry of 49 tackled the 18 tests. The morning loop of 12 tests took place in the car parks at Delamont and various farmyards and industrial premises in the Downpatrick/Ardglass area. We as a club were well represented and four of us (Fel, Trevor, Steve and me) headed for Test 10, Richard Elliot’s farm near Killough. Unfortunately the weather did its worst and heavy rain persisted for most of the day. Two hours of action saw most of the cars complete our short test with the fastest time of just 46 seconds being set by the Mini of eventual overall winner James Wilson. It was a day for Mini’s, Robert Dickson was second and Sam Wilson third. Other runners included no less than 17 Mazda MX5’s, a Ford Focus driven by former NI Rally Champion, Stuart Biggerstaff and lots of MG Midgets. A total of 44 made it to the finish.

After a lunch of soup and sandwiches back at Delamont the cars tackled a second loop of 6 tests in the Crossgar/Killinchy area. Having done our bit, we were stood down after lunch and I was back home for 4.30.

One week later I was at Kirkistown for the opening round of the 2016 MSA N.I. Rally Championship. The Pacenotes Rally Magazine sponsored event used the same type of tests as the New Year Stages in January. We were marshalling at the permanent chicane again but there were lots of BMMC members signed-on and dotted around the circuit stages. Although cold it remained dry throughout.

Kenny McKinstry beat Derek McGarrity to win this time out, but he had to work hard for victory. McGarrity/Nigel Magee led by 1.3secs after stage one, the biggest gap between the two all day! After stage four McKinstry/Aaron Faulkner led by 1.1secs. Going into the final sixth stage Kenny’s Subaru S14 and Derek’s Ford Fiesta WRC were dead level on times to the tenth of a second! Then as he passed our location, McGarrity’s 1.6 litre car developed a misfire which cost him some 13 seconds to McKinstry’s 2 litre example. Derek was still second overall as third placed Peadar Hurson and Damien Connolly’s Impreza S10 WRC was too far back to capitalise, such had been the pace of the top two!

Top 2-wheel-drive car was the Escort M2 of Galway National winner, Wesley Patterson. He was fourth overall. Another storming drive from Kyle White and Sean Topping saw them take a class win in the Citroen C2 R2. 74 cars started the main event and 61 finished while 4 juniors started and 4 finished.

On Saturday 27 February I was timekeeping with my new friend Peter Caldwell on Omagh MC’s Dickson Insurance Spring Rally. Based at Eskra in Co.Tyrone, the gravel non-championship event used the usual forests to the south of Fivemiletown close to the Monaghan border. We would be on the finish control of Doon, stages 2 and 7.

I had been here before, most recently last year when the weather did its worst with rain, sleet and snow the order of the day! Not today though, although cold it was almost spring-like for once. As a bonus it remained dry all day.

On the first run over the 2.12 miles of Doon, number one seed Mark Donnelly from Omagh was fastest of the 57 runners in his Subaru S10 WRC with a time of 2 mins 21 secs. The Moffett brothers Josh and Sam were equal second in their new Fiesta R5’s, nine seconds down. We had no problems and a clean run (57 in 57 out).

Second time round Donnelly and Josh Moffett had retired leaving Sam Moffett and co-driver Jason McKenna to record the fastest time of 2.25 five second up on the other Mark Donnelly, also from the Omagh area, who was in a Mitsubishi Evo.9. Again we had a clean run 47 into the test and 47 out. Not often that happens! We were finished shortly after 4pm and I was back home in Bangor before six.

So Sam Moffett/Jason McKenna went on to win the rally with Donnelly/Stephen O’Hanlon second 48 seconds down and Naill McCullagh third in an Evo.6. Frank Kelly/Sean Ferris were the top 2-wheel-drive finishers in fourth place with their Escort. Interestingly, the Moffett brothers’ dad Robert made an appearance in the family Fiesta WRC. Having not competed for some time, the Monaghan businessman finished a creditable 13th overall.

59 competitors started the 10 stage event, by the finish in Eskra 39 remained.

LOOKING BACK

Marshalling memories

30 YEARS AGO...........1986

Fred Patterson won the BCF Rallycross Championship at Boyd’s Quarry. The Ballygawley man was driving a Porsche 3.5 in the first two rounds and a Ford Escort in the final two. We marshalled all four rounds. Jackie Harris won the 3-round Kirkistown Rallycross Championship in his 1.5 Metro. The Ballywalter driver had a five point lead over the Fiesta of Armagh’s Ronnie White going into the final round. White rolled early in the proceedings and so Harris was able to cruise to the title, fourth place in the final being good enough. Again we were present at all rounds.

The 1986 Rothmans Circuit of Ireland would take place over the Easter Weekend 28th March-1st April. The five-day event was to start and finish in Belfast with a Waterford halt and Sunday run. Hannu Mikkola/Arne Hertz were number one seeds in an Audi Quattro followed by the Metro 6R4 of Jimmy McRae and Russell Brookes in an Opel Manta 400.

20 YEARS AGO........1996

Victor Lyness was named Motorsport Marshal of the Year 1996 by the Vauxhall/Ulster Motoring Writers Association. A member of BMMC/BRMC for 10 years, Victor was an MSA Race/Rally Rescue licence holder and had marshalled on every round of the NI Rally Championship for the past three years as well as assisting at Kirkistown and Mondello race tracks.

10 YEARS AGO........2006

Seven BMMC/BRMC members plus an ex. member turned out to help me run the Carnearny 2 stage of the Mid Antrim MC’s GMW Forest Stages Rally. This was the fifth year we ran the short half-mile test, situated in the Tardree Forest complex near Antrim town. As in previous years everything ran smoothly and we started each of our three stages bang on schedule. There were only 35 starters but the quality was good with Jonny McKenna taking the win and Trevor Moore top 2-wheel-drive honours. PS see photo on my facebook page.

Rally Diary

SAT. 12TH MARCH BMMC TRAINING DAY

To be held at Kirkistown Race Circuit this is the annual BMMC/BRMC N.I. training day. Sign-on 9.30 with lunch at 1pm and finish for 4.30pm. Jim Whitaker is the Chief MSA Trainer. The event is open to all marshals, members or not. Remember; you always learn something new!

THUR. 7TH-SAT. 9TH APRIL CIRCUIT OF IRELAND

Shakedown at Tardree near Antrim town on the Thursday kick starts this years Circuit. This will be followed by a ceremonial start in Lisburn that evening. The real action starts on Friday up the Antrim coast with classic stages like Cairncastle, Glendun and Torr Head. That evening the Newtownards town stage takes place. On Saturday the Co.Down stages feature including Hamiltons Folly.

Expect a top class entry as the rally will be round two of the International ERC. The National Rally features competitors in three championships, the British, Irish Tarmac and Northern Ireland. BMMC/BRMC members will be on duty in various rolls throughout the three days