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The first line of a very old traditional song goes something like this “October winds lament around the Castle of Dromore”. Well I was in the countryside near Dromore Co. Down on the 15th of October for the final round of the 2016 Northern Ireland Rally Championship, and conditions were atrocious!

We were covering start radio on stages 2/4/6 of the Rathfriland Motor Club’s Down Rally. Monson-like heavy rain prevailed for the first run but then eased off and we even had sunshine for the final two tests. Some 76 crews started the closed-road tarmac event which comprised of two seven-mile stages each repeated three times. As the start timekeepers didn’t show up, my mate Victor and Stage Commander Steven stepped into the breach so the event could progress. Don’t start me on marshalling manpower issues again this month!

Anyhow the stages ran without any major incidents and 61 cars made it to the finish. Somewhat surprisingly, due to the wet and slippery conditions which should have favoured 4-wheel-drive, Camillus Bradley made sure of the runner up in the Championship by taking a start-to-finish win in his Ford Escort Mk.2 while his “note man” Crawford Henderson became champion co-driver . Second was a similar Mk.2 crewed by Damian Toner and Denver Rafferty.

Early problems with a misted up windscreen meant Derek McGarrity lost time and could only manage third in his Fiesta WRC, but of course he had won the Championship for the fifth year in a row and for the SEVENTH time!

The only other event I assisted on in October was the new Equinox Targa Rally run by the Ulster Automobile Club. Based at Harrisons of Greyabbey in Co.Down the event used to be called the Circuit of Ireland Retrospective Trial. Gone are the days this event attracted over 100 entries and travelled round Ireland from Friday to Sunday. Financial constraints meant that the club have had to rethink and organise a one-day targa rally. Only 40 competitors turned up and we were timing some of the various tests. Overall winners were Christopher Evans and Kevin Fagan in a Mazda MX5.

Full marks to the UAC for the excellent breakfast provide for competitors and officials at Harrisons which I would thoroughly recommend for a lunch stop with its great views of Strangford Lough and Scrabo Tower. We used a new electronic timing system which is ok until it rains, which it did for me on the Clandeboye Sawmill tests!

So that was my experience of October rallying in Co.Down. Two very different events, trying conditions but both were close to home for me, which makes a change!

Rally Diary


Mid Antrim MC return to the actual Glens of Antrim for this event. After being forced to run this rally in the CO.DERRY forests of Cam and Springwell for the past four years, the club have now been able to return to home ground. Based in Ballycastle (where the service park will be located) stages include two runs of Beaghs, Slieveanorra and Ballypatrick. The final round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship has attracted an entry of around 70 cars. We will be providing timekeepers and rescue as well as stage marshals.