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For Lurgan read Loughgall

North Armagh Motor Club organised the Loughgall Country Park Rally last month. Normally held in late May, this year the single venue tarmac event moved to an early July date which the club usually had reserved for the important Lurgan Park Rally.

Due to unforeseen difficulties Lurgan had to be cancelled for 2017 so in came Loughgall instead. A park event yes, but very different to the fast lanes of Lurgan. This venue is tight and technically challenging. Luckily it was one of the hottest and driest days of the summer. So incidents were kept to that of the minor variety! Similar to Lurgan there would be six special stages; SS 1/2 was 3.62 miles long while 3/4 was the longest at 4.41 miles and stages 5/6 ran at 4.05 miles.

Despite four-wheel-drive inclusion for the first time in the 19-year history of Loughgall Ford Escort Mk.2 driver Damian Toner made it three wins in a row. Ryan Moore stepped in as a late replacement co-driver for Toner and helped guide them to a comfortable 46 second victory over the similar car of John Bradley/Cathay Mulgrew. James and Rebecca Kennedy were third in yet another Mk.2. In fact the first seven places were filled by Ford Escorts.

I was covering one of the 8 radio points mid-stage. Although the rally started slightly behind schedule everything ran very smoothly and we were finished on time. 55 cars started and 48 finished (28 of of the starters were in Ford Escorts.

Desi wins Skoda battle in Tyrone

Co. Antrim driver Desi Henry was the surprise winner of the Cookstown based Tyrone Stages Rally on the last Saturday of July. The closed-road event had attracted a huge entry list of 100 cars for the nine-stage rally. As well as being the fourth round of the Northern Ireland Championship the Tyrone Stages also served as a test run for this month’s Ulster Rally for some of the competitors. The three different stages were located in the narrow country lanes between the towns of Stewartstown and Coalisland.

For our part as BMMC/BRMC Marshals we were involved in stage marshalling, rescue and radio cover as well as providing timekeepers. Victor and I were on the stop control at the end of stages three, six and nine. Although the rally started late, time was partially regained during the day and we were finished around 6.15pm. The weather was mixed, warm and sunny for stages 3 and 9 but we had heavy rain for most of the sixth test. From the 94 starters 88 finished stage three. By the time the final stage ended there were just 71 left.

We had quite a few incidents on the very tricky and slippery 4.63 mile test during the day. Indeed there were two separate accidents which held up some of the following competitors and caused timing problems. I suppose the main thing was that no one was injured.

Derek McGarrity as championship leader started at number one in a Subaru S14 but he retired after the first stage. His nearest challenger Jonny Greer then went out with mechanical problems in his Citroen DS3 on stage six. Alan Carmichael who was third in the standings failed to finish when his hired S14 developed problems on stage two.

Peadar Hurson driving a Ford Fiesta WRC was fastest on the short 3.6 mile first stage from young Phillip Allen and Eugene Donnelly in a Mini WRC. Then from stage two [the longest at 6.73 miles] Desi Henry/Liam Moynihan topped the leader board from Hurson/Damien Connolly and Marty McCormack’s newly re-shelled Fabia R5. By the end of the nine stages McCormack and Barney Mitchell had overhauled Hurson and finished 12.6 seconds behind winner Henry. Allen on his first “proper”stage rally finished a brilliant fourth ahead of the vastly experienced Kenny McKinstry who had his old mate Robbie Philpott [home on holiday from the states] co-driving his Subaru S14. Top 2-wheel-drive finishers in sixth place were Damian Toner/Denver Rafferty in the Mk.2 Escort which Toner drove to victory in Loughgall.

Rally Diary

Fri.18th-Sat.19th August

Sponsored for the second year by John Mulholland Motors the Ulster is a round of the British Rally Championship and the Irish Tarmac Championship. BMMC Marshals will be involved as usual. Club members will be marshalling, crewing rescue units and manning radio points. Based in Derry City at Ebrington Square the 14 stages are in counties Derry and Tyrone and are mostly the same as last year.

Sat. 2nd September

Organised by Enniskillen Motor Club this is the fifth round of the MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship. We would usually help with radio cover, rescue and stage marshalling. The gravel forest stages are in the Belcoo/Garrison and Derrygonnelly area of County Fermanagh. Last year the service park was in Belcoo.