Dungannon Snowdrop Gets Rally Under Way Again.
After a long break due to Covid, Dungannon Motor Club ran their Moore & Faloon sponsored Snowdrop Rally on Friday 11th March 2022. Competitors assembled at Tullanisken Church Hall in Newmills, where a light-touch process got the route plotting under way, and the twenty starters headed off to the start control beside The Garden Corner nursery, just off the main Dungannon to Cookstown Road.
First pair away were the Hawe Cousins, Leslie and Gareth, still the reigning NI Navigation Rally Champions since 2015, and winners of this event when it was last held in 2020. Second away were the Loughgall Father and Son team of John and Jonathan Henderson in their trusty Nissan Micra, and at number three was a navigation rally newcomer in the shape of Martin McKernan, navigated by the experienced Ashley Boulton, in a Mazda MX5. More of them later.
The first few miles looped anti-clockwise and across the “Cookstown Road” at Glencor, then headed for a time control at Glencon where all the front runners were penalty free. Not so lucky here were 2019 Snowdrop winners Philip Somerville and Ian Campbell. Their Mini Cooper S was fine on the way up to Dungannon from Armagh, but as soon as they passed TCA, they developed a misfire and would suffer a rapidly depleted battery resulting in an early retirement.
A secret check after Time Control B caught nearly all the fancied runners and 2 marks for being early was applied to all except Mark and Kyle Thompson, but they got their come-uppance at the next Time Control when they were a minute early and most others were on time. They still shared the lead in Class 3 with Sean Devlin and Allastair Kerr, while Mike and John Henderson were clear leaders in Class 4.
After Time Control C, disaster struck the much-fancied Hawes. At first, Leslie thought they might have had a puncture, but upon inspection, it turned out that a rear wheel had lost its wheel nuts and was wedged into the wheel well. By the time a wheel nut was robbed off each of the other three wheels, four minutes had slipped away. Taking it easy, to see how everything was, cost another two minutes, and all chances of another Snowdrop win were gone. By Time Control E, Martin McKernan was in the lead with 6 minutes penalty, and the Hendersons next with 8.
Meantime in Class 3, the Mazda MX5 Thompsons were extending their advantage in the class and by the end of the first leg at Time Control E were ahead by 3 minutes from Sean Devlin and Davy Johnston in their MR2 Toyota, and an additional 4 ahead of Allastair and Jamie Kerr.
In Class 4, Johnny Armstrong and Rachael McCullough (VW Golf) had just 6 minutes dropped at TCE, with Mike and John Henderson on 7, most of which were due to running just a little ahead of schedule time. Just one behind were Robert and Peter Haslett in a Toyota Yaris, and after an early spell of car sickness, Peter was now settling down to a more steady performance. Unlucky at The Control D were Robin and Caleb Cuddy who had their Toyota MR2 in contention only to break a drive shaft coupling and spoil an otherwise promising run.
By now, competitors were in the vicinity of The Rock. The restart would skirt Pomeroy Forest and run South towards Gortavoy Bridge on the Pomeroy Road. After a small loop to the West, competitors then ran East again towards the Cookstown Road, and a finish very close to where they started.
Poor Jonathan Millar from Larne, with Navigator Derek Dixon, called it quits after the restart after a torrid night of navigation difficulties, and headed home to fight another day. At the front of the field, both McKernan/Boulton and Henderson/Henderson were caught ahead of schedule at TCH, but it didn’t affect the final outcome, so McKernan/Boulton took the win.
In Class 3, The Thompsons, Mark and Son Kyle, cruised through the final section dropping only one mark to take the class ahead of Sean Devlin and the legend Davy Johnston. Allastair and Jamie Kerr brought their MX5 into third place in the class.
In Class 4, Johnny Armstrong and Rachael McCullough were somewhat surprised to learn they had won the class and had already gone home by the time the awards were handed out. Mike and John Henderson brought their Mini Cooper into second place ahead of Robert and Peter Haslett, while the all-lady crew of Emma and Kathy Kerr took fourth place in their Citroen C2 Seb Loeb.
Despite not being sure what he was letting himself into, Martin McKernan had Ashley Boulton navigate him to a victory on the 2022 DMC Snowdrop. After the rally Martin expressed his appreciation for the work Ashley Boulton had done on the night. He had no idea how demanding it could be, nor how much fun it could be, and he was surprised by the amount of organisation needed to have the controls and time-points in place.
Top 10 Overall
- Martin McKernan/Ashley Boulton (Mazda MX5) 8
- John Henderson/Jonathan Henderson (Nissan Micra) 10
- Leslie Hawe/Gareth Hawe (Mazda MX5) 19
- Mark Thompson/Kyle Thompson (Mazda MX5) 4
- Sean Devlin/David Johnston (Toyota MR2) 8
- Allastair Kerr/Jamie Kerr (Mazda MX5) 14
- Neil Fletcher/Rodney McCready (Ford Escort) 44
- Harold McClelland/Neil Rodgers (Mini Cooper S) 65
- Tony O’Kane/Jenny O’Kane (Hyundai Santa Fe) 152
- Johnny Armstrong/Rachael McCullough (Volkswagen Golf) 12
Full results can be found here ====> Snowdrop Results