Woodside Makes it Two Springflings in a Row
Despite their massive popularity, only four Mazda MX5s made it into the top ten on Dungannon Motor Club’s annual Springfling Targa Rally, this year sponsored by National Windscreens, and with additional support from Mid-Ulster District Council. Now widely regarded as one of the best events of this type, the 2016 entry list filled up fast, leaving many disappointed, and that despite the number of runners being increased from sixty to seventy. It was one of those MX5 Mazdas though that topped the results, with last year’s winners Robert Woodside Jr and Bruce Drummond making it two-in-a-row.
In the main, the weather was kind. An odd shower of hailstones didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of competitors as they worked their way round three loops of tests, all of them conducted on private properties. The Rally Headquarters was the Cohannon Inn at Tamnamore, and at exactly one minute past ten, Robert Woodside pulled away from the start to tackle the first loop of seven tests.
The Dungannon Motor Club had included three new test locations this year, and thanks to the approval of the Mid Ulster District Council, included the challenging Windmill Wood on two of the loops. A renewed focus on safety also demanded more marshals, and close to seventy personnel were required to be in position for the duration of the event. A special observer had been appointed by the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs, and he was escorted round every test to check the standards to which the event was being run.
Loop one completed and Robert Woodside was back at the Cohannon Control in first place. He had opened out a twenty seven seconds lead over just seven tests, and the smile on his face showed that he was really enjoying it. In second spot was front-wheel-drive Expert, Eamon Byrne, followed one second later by Semi-Expert Steven Cromie partnered by Kielin Webb in another MX5 Mazda. They too were just one second ahead of Dermot Carnegie’s Ford Escort Mk1 with Kevin Fagan in the navigator’s seat. Frank Lenehan and Tim Faulkner were in fifth place and second in the Experts front-wheel-drive class.
The Novice leaders in front-wheel-drive were Darwin Young and Stephen Griffiths, running at number fifty nine, and driving a Ford Puma, while Mark and Ivan McKeown in their BMW 318, from Parkanaur, had a lead in the largest class on the event, the Novice rear-wheel-drive class.
Only one retirement had been recorded so far and that was Dubliner Peter Faulkner, partnered by Johnny McNamee, who’s clutch gave up on test six on the first loop in their MX5. Running nicely in seventh place overall, it was disappointing to have this happen on his favourite event.
Loop two was identical to loop one and upon return to the Cohannon Control for lunch, Robert Woodside was still in command of the event overall, and now maintaining almost half a minute in the lead. Dermot Carnegie was now third behind Eamon Byrne, having moved ahead of Steven Cromie. In the other classes, positions remained as they were. Paul Mooney and Lorraine McMorrow however were recovering from an error on test six, catching up on Frank Lenehan, and were now just two seconds behind him in seventh place overall.
The shorter final loop brought the day’s rallying to a close back at the Cohannon Inn. Paul Mooney had managed to overtake Frank Lenehan and grab fourth place overall. Young Mark Stewart was also on the comeback trail after turning the wrong way on test six and getting stuck. He would finish in twelfth place overall, and left himself wondering what might have been, were it not for that mistake.
By now, reliability problems had claimed Stewartstown’s Norman Ferguson in his Peugeot 106 with a drive shaft failure, and Mark Woodside and Andy Blair were forced to retire their MX5 having been as high as third place overall at one stage.
Fifty nine crews were classified as finishers out of sixty nine starters, and at at the finish, there was universal praise for the quality of the tests, the the smoothness of the organization. Before the presentation the awards, Kim Ashton, Vice-Chairperson for the Mid-Ulster Council, welcomed all the Competitors and Officials to the Council area and congratulated Dungannon Motor Club on their execution of a safe day’s motor sport, enjoyed by all. Stephen Ferguson, representing event sponsors, National Windscreens (Dungannon), presented the beautiful awards to the class winners, and also commended the Motor Club for running such a professional event. Roll on 2017.
Class 1 – Expert FWD
1. E Byrne, J Lenehan, Starlet 27:53
2. P Mooney, L McMorrow, Nova, 28:47
3. F Lenehan, T. Faulkner, Starlet, 29:22
Class 2 – Expert RWD
1. R Woodside, B Drummond, MX5, 27:20
2. D Carnegie, K Fagan, Escort, 28:18
3. D Crothers, B Kane, MX5, 29:13
Class 3 Semi-Expert FWD
1. K O’Donaghue, E Hughes, Starlet, 29:28
2. K O’Rourke, C Sheridan, Starlet, 29:38
3. P O’Reilly, A Lyons, Starlet, 30:22
Class 4 Semi-Expert RWD
1 S Cromie, K Webb, MX5, 28:54
2. J Kelly, A Kelly, Midget, 28:58
3. T Ferguson, D McElroy, MX5, 29:31
Class 5 Novice FWD
1. D Young, S Griffiths, Puma, 30:41
2. J Convery, B Convery, Polo, 30:56
3. K Anderson, P Anderson, Clio, 31.17
Class 6 Novice RWD
1. M McKeown, I McKeown, BMW, 30:35
2. M Duke, C Hollywood, MX5, 30:53
3. K McNamee, R McNamee, MX5, 31:04