2022 Cookstown NMK Motors Night Navigation Rally
Report and Photographs by Derek Smyth
Forbes’ Bar in Ardboe was a hive of activity on the evening of 25th March as competitors assembled for the Cookstown Motor Club Navigation Rally, sponsored by NMK Motors. 60 miles were promised, made up of regularity navigation sections, and two targa-type tests to be done twice. Clerk of the Course John Nicholl always sets challenging route instructions for the crews, and on this occasion allowed Class 4 (Beginners) to pre-plot the entire route, and have a look at a marked up-map to check they had plotted it correctly. This feature left them ineligible for classification in the overall results, but gave them a better chance of following the correct route and making it to the finish.
Five crews were entered in the combined Expert and Semi-Expert Class, to be led away by Leslie and Gareth Hawe in their MX5. Unfortunately the Mazda refused to run without a bad misfire in the run up to the event and they would be a non-starter on the evening. This left John Henderson and Clifford Auld the first car away, followed by Daniel Hamill, who was teamed up with DMC Snowdrop Rally winning navigator Ashley Boulton. Next away was the Hillman Imp Caledonian of Tim McKie and Gavin Millington, this crew having been Northern Ireland Rally champions together in 1996 and 1997.
The Novice Class was led away by Harry Barr and Malcolm McQueen in their Mazda MX5, but the Class was missing Belfast’s Tony and Jenny O’Kane due to recent close contact with a Covid sufferer, and no chances were going to be taken. Eight Beginners started the event, including a last minute switch from Novice to Beginner for Ryan McIvor as his navigator Daniel Burns was having his first run out.
Things got under way with a 5 mile regularity section from Time Control A at Ardboe to the farmyard test at Norman Ferguson’s. Experts had a plot and bash section of mixed-up, mirror-image tulip diagrams to cope with, while novices had plot and bash map references. Of the experts, only John Henderson and Michael McElwee were penalty free in their Nissan Micra, while three novice crews managed it – Harry Barr/Malcolm McQueen, Hayes Robinson/Keith Hall and Mark and Kyle Thompson. Most of the Beginners managed to avoid penalties, although DMC Snowdrop winner, Martin McKernan, had rookie navigator Joe Elliot on his first rally, and on a really steep learning curve!
Next came the first running of the special test in the farmyard. Although fairly well illuminated, eight crews (including three of the four experts) failed to complete within the maximum time allowed, finding the tight turns required just a bit too tight for some of their cars. Fastest on the test was Chris Nelson/Colin Hazelton in their Mazda MX5, followed by Ryan McIvor/Daniel Burns (MX5) and Neil Fletcher/Rodney McCreedy (Escort RS).
It was back to the maps for the next two sections. Experts had to deal with a long circular herringbone section covering 7.5 miles across the North side of Stewartstown, finishing near Donaghenry. Novices and Beginners had straightforward tulip diagrams. After such a good start, John Henderson and Michael McElwee managed to drop 10 minutes on this section while most others were penalty free.
The third section was where a lot of crews attracted large penalties, despite quite a bit of it being along the Pomeroy Road. Experts had jumbled up tulip diagrams, causing two of the experts to miss a checkpoint completely, while Novices and Beginners were faced with straight-line herringbone, causing all but three to incur penalties for time loss, missing a checkpoint, or visiting from the wrong direction. Best on this section with only 1 mark lost was Robert and Peter Haslett in their Toyota Yaris.
The maps were set aside for the second special test at Watson’s Lane near Rock. This was much simpler than the first test, with only two pylons to be “circled”, but still nine crews were over the maximum time allowed. Fastest here were the Toyota Yaris pairing of Robert and Peter Haslett, followed by Mark and Kyle Thompson and Robin and Caleb Cuddy, both just four seconds behind the Hasletts.
This was just short of half way through the rally and although not eligible for the overall awards, Beginners Robert and Peter Haslett had the lowest penalties at 138 marks lost. Next up were the Novice crew of Chris Nelson and Colin Hazelton on 147, and tied for third place were Beginners Ryan McIvor/Daniel Burns and Robin and Caleb Cuddy on 151 marks lost. With one second on a test being the same as a minute on the navigation sections, this was turning out to be an event where the tests were clearly going to have a significant impact on the results of the rally.
Maps back in hand, the navigators had two more sections located between Rock and Drum Manor, ending up back at Rock to perform the Watson’s Lane test for a second time. Only one Expert or Novice crew avoided penalty on the first section, that being Harold McClelland and Neil Rodgers. Only three beginners dropped time, one of them being the Hasletts, incurring only their second navigation penalty mark of the night.
The second navigation section was map references for all, although the Experts and Novices had significantly more to plot than the Beginners. Another run at the Watson’s Lane test saw Ryan McIvor set fastest time (64 seconds), with the Hasletts four behind and Neil Fletcher/Rodney McCreedy tied with Martin McKernan/Joe Elliot another second adrift. Six crews still failed to complete the test inside the 100 seconds limit, including Expert crew Tim McKie/Gavin Millington in their sharp sounding Hillman Imp.
Still more mapwork was needed to get from Rock across to the Ferguson’s Farm test for the second time. The first navigation section was pretty much back along the Pomeroy Road and then North on the Cookstown Road to Desertcreat. However, the instructions for Experts were grid square diagrams and this proved tricky. McKie/Millington were the only Experts to get it perfect, while the list of grid squares for Novices and Beginners gave many of them headaches.
By the time crews were back at Ferguson’s Farm, Only four crews had completed the last two navigation sections without penalty: Hayes Robinson/Keith Hall, Mark and Kyle Thompson, Ryan McIvor/Daniel Burns, and Robert/Peter Haslett.
The second run over this test saw Robin Cuddy and Robert Haslett tied for fastest time, just one second faster than Chris Nelson. Despite having had a run over it once already, seven crews were still unable to complete inside the maximum time.
With timekeepers sending their information to rally HQ by WhatsApp during the evening, results were well advanced when the crews arrived back at Forbes’ Bar. Analysis of the results show that the special tests did indeed play a significant role in the results. That said, Chris Nelson and Colin Hazelton had lower penalties on the navigation as well as the tests, and so were most worthy winners.
2022 NMK Motors Night Navigation Rally
- 1. Chris Nelson/Colin Hazelton, Nav 17, Total 218;
- 2. Harry Barr/Malcolm McQueen, Nav 40, Total 251;
- 3. Mark/Kyle Thompson, Nav 50, Total 268;
- 4. John Henderson/Mike McElwee, Nav 31, Total 273;
- 5. Daniel Hamill/Ashley Boulton, Nav 37, Total 273;
- 6. Hayes Robinson/Keith Hall, Nav 35, Total 284;
- 7. Neil Fletcher/Rod McCreedy, Nav 59, Total 285;
- 8. Tim McKie/Gavin Millington, Nav 19, Total 289;
- 9. Harold McClelland/Neill Rodgers, Nav 49, Total 319;
- 10. John Henderson/Clifford Auld, Nav 54, Total 324.
Experts/Semi Experts Combined:
- John Henderson/Mike McElwee, Nav 31, Total 273;
- Daniel Hamill/Ashley Boulton, Nav 37, Total 273;
- Tim McKie/Gavin Millington, Nav 19, Total 289;
- Chris Nelson/Colin Hazelton, Nav 17, Total 218;
- Harry Barr/Malcolm McQueen, Nav 40, Total 251;
- Mark/Kyle Thompson, Nav 50, Total 268;
- Robert Haslett/Peter Haslett, Nav 2, Total 199;
- Robin Cuddy/Caleb Cuddy, Nav 18, Total 213;
- Ryan McIvor/Daniel Burns, Nav 2, Total 214.
19 Starters, 19 Finishers
Full results: Cookstown Rally