YOUNG GUNS AND OLD HANDS
Hayden Paddon may be the first driver from New Zealand to win a round of the WRC but the young gun has been aided by an old hand. Co-driver John Kennard is 55 years old and the Kiwi has been rallying since 1985. Paddon may be only 29 but he produced a mature drive last month on Rally Argentina to beat Sebastien Ogier by 14.3 seconds. Ok perhaps Hayden had the better road position for the first two days but he kept his head to thrash the World Champion’s VW Polo on the final power stage by 11.2s and seal the rally win. Just like Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke had done last year Paddon added his name to the exclusive club of World Championship rally winners and they both did so on the roughest, toughest round of the series.
It was also a great result for Hyundai as this was the first victory for the brand new i20. Well done to Paddon and Kennard who settled his young driver and made him say focused and totally calm throughout the three gruelling days.
Alastair Fisher is another young gun going places. Following his great third place on the recent Circuit of Ireland, the Ford Fiesta R5 driver and co-driver Gordon Noble finished second overall on the latest round of the Irish Tarmac Championship; the Killarney Rally of the Lakes. Fisher was beaten only by a much more powerful 2-litre WRC Ford Focus (which cannot score points this year) so effectively won the rally and took maximum points.
Gordon Noble is 65 and had been co-driving since 1987. The Omagh man has competed in over 400 events. His vast experience has no doubt helped the 26-year-old Fisher steady his game and become a more complete driver. Alastair now leads the Tarmac series.
I shall watch with interest the rest of the season in both the WRC and the Irish series with regard to the progress of Hayden Paddon/John Kennard and Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble.
30 Years Ago.......1986
David Llewellin/Phil Short won the Circuit of Ireland in their MG Metro 6R4. This was the first 4-wheel-drive win and the only 6R4 victory. Russell Brookes/Mike Broad and Austin McHale/Christy Farrell were second and third in Opel Manta 400’s. There were 51 stages over 5 days. Rothmans sponsored the Belfast-based event which over-nighted in Waterford.
20 Years Ago.......1996
Steven Finlay/Robbie Philpott in their Ford Escort Cosworth won the Circuit from Andrew Nesbitt/George Millar’s Toyota Celica GT4. Liam O’Callaghan/James O’Brien also in a GT4 were third. The rally ran for 4 days from Friday to Monday. It started and finished in Bangor with an overnight halt in Limerick on Saturday. This was my second year as Chief Timekeeper.
Kenny McKinstry won the Easter Stages on the Monday in his Escort RS2000 from Derek McGarrity’s Cosworth.
SAT. 7TH MAY McGEEHAN MOTORSPORT TOUR OF THE SPERRINS
84 competitors head into the forests of Derry/Tyrone for this the third round of the Northern Ireland Championship. The Magherafelt and District MC event is also a round of the Valvoline Irish National Forest Championship. We will be assisting with rescue, timing, radio cover and marshals. A 10.30 start from Walsh’s Hotel in Maghera sees the the cars head for 8 gravel stages before the finish at 16.30.
SAT. 21ST MAY LOUGHGALL COUNTRY PARK RALLY
North Armagh MC are running this annual clubman tarmac rally for 2-wheel-drive cars. We will be marshalling and covering radio points as usual. Sign-on is normally 8am.
SAT. 28TH MAY P.M.C. WOODSIDE GROUP TARGA RALLY
The Police MC’s Targa Rally is based at the Ballinderry Inn. Contact John Erwin if you are available to assist. We will be supplying marshals. Sign on 8am.