2019 Cookstown Navigation Rally

Photo: Derek Smyth
Michael Reid and John Lindsay safely negotiate the river crossing in their tiny MG Midget.

Cookstown Rally No Wash Out

Cookstown Motor Club have the reputation of running tough navigation rallies but on Friday 29th March, all but two crews completed the event, and those two failures were due to mechanical problems.  On a crisp dry night, the mastery of the maps and regularity belonged to Michael Reid from Belfast and John Lindsay from Armagh, competing in a tiny MG Midget.

Despite never being out of the top three on the tests, event sponsor Robin Pitts and Andrew Harkness didn’t make it all the way to the finish.

The Cookstown Car and Commercial Sales Rally was based at Coagh, and after documentation and vehicle checks, the Nissan Micra of John and Jonathan Henderson left the start at a minute past nine and headed down the Ballygonney Road.  The eagle-eyed navigators had already spotted that this road crossed a river and as far as everyone knew, there was no bridge!

In the end, all but one crew made it safely over the river, and ironically it was a Ford that didn’t make it through without drowning out.  Neil Fletcher and Rodney McCreedy had the help of several spectators to dry around the electrics but by the time they were going again, four minutes were lost.

An aggressive approach to the ford was a risk, and for Neil Fletcher and Rodney McCreedy it didn’t pay off.

A loop around Drumbanaway took competitors via two regularity sections to the first special test at Crawford’s Lane.  Best performing over the regularities was the Toyota Yaris of Bert Reid and Austin Burnett in Class 3 with just two marks lost.  On three marks were Jim Allen and Erin McKenna in Class 4, although these crews had slightly easier route instructions to contend with than the Experts in Class 1.  

Once into the special test, a new set of crews came to the fore.  Fastest on test 1 was Philip and Kim Hunter in a Toyota MR2, just four seconds over the target time. The event sponsor, Robin Pitts, navigated by Andrew Harkness, was second in another MR2 setting the same time as eventual rally winners Michael Reid and John Lindsay in that tiny MG Midget.  Several crews collected pylon penalties, and poor Bert Reid and Austin Burnett collected a Maximum for making a mistake in the test.

Philip and Kim Hunter set the fastest time on all the tests but a couple of navigation problems left them fifth in Class Four.

The second test was at Lavery’s Lane, and again Philip and Kim Hunter took the fastest time (83 seconds) ahead of Robin Pitts (85) and Michael Reid (90).  Geoffrey Lamont and Malcolm McQueen matched Reid’s time here.  Michael Reid and John Lindsay were now in the lead of the rally, with Robin Pitts / Andrew Harkness in second place, and Father and Son team Mark and Kyle Thompson in third.

Three more regularity sections saw the Pitts / Harkness combination suffer from navigation problems and several checkpoints were missed dropping them out of contention.  Reid still held the lead with the Class 3 Thompsons from Irvinestown in second, and now John and Jonathan Henderson in third.  Top in Class four for beginners was Quinton and Tim Crean, and lying fourth overall at this stage.

Best beginner on the rally was the father and Son team of Quinton and Tim Crean in their Mazda MX5.

Back to the tests and a repeat of the earlier lanes.  Three crews beat the target time on a re-run of Crawford’s Lane, the Hunters, Robin Pitts, and Jim Allen in the Renault Clio.  The repeat of Lavery’s Lane saw the same three crews beat the target, but Robin Pitts evening would end here with a broken driveshaft and he became one of the DNFs.

At the finish back at Coagh, Michael Reid and John Lindsay were clear winners with 324 penalty marks lost.  The Hendersons (366) moved ahead of the Thompsons (392), as did the Creans (377), who were first in Class 4 and demoted the Thompsons to fourth place overall.  Nevertheless, the Thompsons were the highest placed Class three crew. 

Mark and Michael McElwee were in fifth place, ahead of Geoffrey Lamont and Malcolm McQueen in sixth, and Hayes Robinson and Keith Hall in seventh.   Local crew from Coagh, Colin and Ian McKay, took their Toyota MR2 into eighth place overall and third in Class four for beginners.  The top ten was rounded out by Harry Johnston and Ash Boulton in ninth and Bert Reid and Austin Burnett recovering to take the last place on the top ten.  Full results can be found at ===> Results

Overall Results:

1st  Michael Reid /John Lindsay

2nd John Henderson /Jonathan Henderson

3rd Quinton Crean /Tim Crean

4th Mark Thompson /Kyle Thompson

5th Mark McElwee /Michael McElwee

6th Geoffrey Lamont /Malcolm McQueen

7th Hayes Robinson /Keith Hall

8th Colin McKay /Ian McKay

9th Harry Johnston /Ash Boulton

10th Bert Reid /Austin Burnett

Perhaps the prettiest car of the night was the Classic Cooper S of Trevor and Melanie Barlow.