1979 Newry Mourne Rally

Photo: Derek Smyth
Ernest Kidney and Nicky Moffett, seen here on the Permapost Rally, snatched the win on the last stage of the Newry event.

Drama in Ireland as Kidney snatches win.

Ernest Kidney and Nicky Moffett snatched a dramatic last stage win on Newry & District Motor Club’s Mourne Forests Rally on Saturday. This was the second round of the 1979 Goodyear Belfast Telegraph Ulster Stage Rally Championship and followed the newly devised format of 25 stage miles with minimal road mileage, which proved successful on the Permapost three weeks before.

However, the Newry organisers did things slightly differently, compacting the entire event into three hours with a noon start and, to keep co-drivers from falling asleep, target timing was used for the first time on an Ulster forest event – and to good effect.

Reigning champions Robin Lyons and Seamus MeCanny headed the entry with their Sunbeam, now straightened out after its Permapost roll, while behind them came top Group 1 seeds Sean Campbell and David Gray (Escort RS2000). Ronnie McCartney/Peter Scott, winners of the opening round, should have been at number three with their Escort RS1800, but Ronnie sold the car earlier in the week and turned up in an Avenger generously loaned, by Ronnie Foreman, so the slot was taken by late entry Freddy Patterson and Roy Kernaghan in the former’s ex-Coleman MarkI Escort RS; McCartney started at number 13.

Due to forestry allocation problems the Newry club found themselves running their rally in County Derry this year, but being away from home did not impair their efficiency and the start at the Brown Trout Inn at Aghadowey was well organised. They even managed to fit in a briefing session for co-drivers on the mysteries of target timing — something which many were glad of.

The first stage was over almost before it had begun, three quarters of a mile of Gortnamoyagh where number 11 seeds Robert Copeland and Gerry Campbell set the pace with their Group 2 Escort RS2000, a surprising two seconds clear of Robin Lyons and Ernest Kidney.

Robert Copeland and Gerry Campbell in their modified RS2000 led the event until the very last stage. Photo is from the Permapost rally three weeks earlier.

Stage two, Altduff, came next, all 1.5 miles of it and here it was Copeland again from Lyons, with Kidney and Logan tying for the third fastest. John Lyons’ run ended here, the Escort grinding to a halt with a broken half-shaft. In trouble too was the 1300cc Escort of Stanley Orr which went off for nearly four minutes, the excursion costing him an almost certain place in the top ten.

Cam Forest came next, a real stage, just over seven miles long. Lyons got it all together here to take fastest with Copeland and Logan tying for second ahead of Kidney. Brian Kirk’s Escort – with backing from a life assurance company (!) assaulted a tree rather solidly on this one and took no further part in proceeedings.

The short smooth and almost straight Kiltinny, another 1.6 mile affair, saw Derek Boyd take the honours, with Kidney, Copeland, and McCartney all one second slower and the rest of the pack hard on their heels. At service Copeland led six seconds clear of Lyons with Kidney third from Logan, Boyd and McCartney, but on the twisty slippery three miler at Benevenagh (named Hell’s Hole for the occasion), Lyons vanished near the start to record his second off in two consecutive events. Kenny Cairns (Escort RS2000) also mingled with the scenery here and neither were seen again.

Kidney by now was making serious inroads into Copeland’s lead and by the start of the seventh and final stage, a different version of Cam, 7.3 miles long this time, he was just one second behind.

After a delay while the stage was changed they set off. Copeland tried hard reaching the finish in 8mins 33secs, but was dismayed to find that Kidney had taken only 8mins 09secs to do the same thing, so the Permapost man won the day. Several people were inclined to disbelieve Kidney’s time until it was revealed that John Lyons, his Escort RS2000 now in possession of a full set of half-shafts, had done the stage for fun and taken only 8mins 06s. Enough said! McCartney struck trouble with his tarmac suspended Avenger, bending the rack on the ford halfway through the stage and dropped at least one place as a result. Others in trouble included Sean Campbell, who had broken a gear-lever, the second time this has happened in two rallies – strong man Sean.

So Kidney took the honours and the championship lead with Copeland a strong second. Logan took the Group 1 section with a strong third place, just nine seconds behind Copeland. A good one, roll on round three.

  1. Ernest Kidney/Nicky Moffett (Escort RS1800) 30m 03s;
  2. Robert Copeland/Gerry Campbell (Escort RS2000 3Om 26s;
  3. Jimmy Logan/Peter Irvine (Escort RS2000 30m 35s;
  4. Freddy Patterson/Roy Kernaghan (Escort RS2000), 30m 41s;
  5. Derek Boyd/Warwick Parkinson (Avenger) 30m 42s;
  6. David Francis/William Carse (Escort RS2000) 30m 43s;
  7. Sean Campbell/David Gray (Escort RS2000), 30m 56s;
  8. Bettie Law/Lenny Weir (Chevette) 31m 01s;
  9. Ronnie McCartney/Peter Scott (Avenger) 31m 05s;
  10. Brian Boyd/Bert Rush (Escort RS1800} 31m 28s,