2020 Erne Safari Rally

Photo: Derek Smyth
Monaghan based Oisin Sherlock and Danny McKenna almost managed a "Zero Penalty" night in their Subaru.

Erne Safari Navigation Rally 2020

It is perhaps fitting that one of the few night navigation rallies still running in Northern Ireland is the Erne Safari Rally, organised by Enniskillen Motor Club.  Although a shadow of its former 200+ miles self, the 50-mile regularity event on 6th March drew in 16 crews for a test of route plotting, navigation, and time and distance management.

Clerk of the Course Drew Wilson had laid on a route in the area between Irvinestown and Dromore, and with nine main time controls and twenty-one intermediate time checks, there was plenty to catch out competitors straying from either the correct route or the 30mph time schedule.

Dungannon crew Hayes Robinson and Keith Hall took second place overall and first in the Novice Class despite a small navigational slip on the third regularity section.

There was just one entry in the Experts Class and none in Semi-Experts.  Loyal night-nav’ regulars, the Father and Son team of John and Jonathan Henderson, led the field away from McAleer’s Spar Complex on the Dromore Road out of Irvinestown just after 9 pm.  Directly behind would be the first of the Novice Class, Hayes Robinson and Keith Hall in a Citroen C2, followed by Harry Johnston and Ash Boulton in a Mazda MX5.  Tony and Jenny O’Kane’s Hyundai rounded out the Novice Class at number 4.

The remaining twelve crews were entered as beginners, presumably hoping that the simpler route instructions in the form of a marked map would give them a better chance to make it all the way round and have an enjoyable night out on the road.  And so it would turn out, with all but two beginner crews qualifying as finishers at the end of the evening.

As the only expert entry, and thus the only crew tackling the most challenging set of route instructions, the Hendersons took the overall winners award despite damaging a wheel along the route and having to stop and change it.  The tricky route instructions took their toll as well and they dropped marks on almost every section.

It was an early bath for Harry Johnston and Ash Boulton after an encounter with a bad pothole caused them two flat wheels.

In the Novice Class, a simpler set of route instructions were provided, with some map references, tulip diagrams, a piece of straight-line, and a couple of sections with a marked map.  Dungannon’s Hayes Robinson and Keith Hall would take the class win with a relatively trouble-free run, while Tony and Jenny O’Kane struggled to get back on schedule after going over their maximum lateness about halfway through, but still finished second in the class nevertheless.

  Harry Johnston and Ash Boulton had a similar problem to the Hendersons, managing to collect two flat tyres on a bad unseen pothole, and only one spare wheel.  They spent the rest of the evening getting help from Ash’s Brother to enable them to get home to Ballymena. 

The Mini Cooper of Evan McCullagh and Connor Woods finished third in the Beginner Class.

In the “marked-map” beginners class, the Monaghan Subaru crew of Oisin Sherlock and Danny McKenna had a near-perfect evening.  A zero score was spoiled only by a lapse at intermediate check 9 and a penalty for being a few seconds ahead of schedule costing them 2 marks, their only penalty of the evening.  Eight marks behind them were Jock Armstrong and Tom Hamilton in a Peugeot 308, while in third was the Mini Cooper team of Evan McCullough and Connor Woods.

The Enniskillen organising team should be very proud of their event, but with thirty manned controls for just sixteen competitors, it isn’t clear just how much longer they can justify the work and manpower for such a small entry.  Night navigation rallying, as it is currently configured, is on life-support, relying on the dedication of a small number of enthusiasts in three Motor Clubs who will run just four events this year.

Jock Armstrong and Tom Hamilton took their Peugeot 308 into the runners-up spot in the Beginner Class.

Erne Safari 2020 Results

Class 1 Experts: 1st John and Jonathan Henderson.

Class 3 Novices: 1st Hayes Robinson and Keith Hall; 2nd Tony and Jenny O’Kane.

Class 4 Beginners: 1st Oisin Sherlock and Danny McKenna; 2nd Jock Armstrong and Tom Hamilton, 3rd Evan McCullagh and Connor Woods. 

Full results can be found here ====> RallyScore