Rally Report by Grace Campbell
Owing to their massive popularity, it comes as no surprise that Mazda MX-5’s took up 3 of the top five places on Dungannon Motor Club’s annual Springfling Targa Rally, sponsored by Donnelly Group. Now widely regarded as one of the best events of this type, the 2019 entry list filled up in little over an hour, leaving many disappointed.
It was one of the MX-5’s that topped the results, with David Crothers and Barbara Kane, five years after their first attempt at the Dungannon event, which ended with them beached in some soft ground and having to await recovery.
After weeks of damp and cold conditions, the weather was kind. A shower of rain wouldn’t have dampened the enthusiasm of competitors as they worked their way around 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, Eamonn Byrne and Joanna Lenehan pulled away from the start to tackle the first loop of six tests.
Dungannon Motor Club had included some of the old favourites in this event, including the return of Stockdales lane, which had been rested last year, and they had reversed the popular Blackwatertown test to add to the challenge for competitors. A continued 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 visited each test to check the standards to which the event was being run.
Loop one completed and the crews were back at the Tamnamore Control, with Steven Cromie and Taylor Gribben in first place. He had opened out a small lead over just six tests, and the smile on his face showed that he was really enjoying it. In second spot was Crothers, followed by Liam Shaw partnered by Conor Shaw in their Mazda MX-5. They too were just ahead of Robert Whelan in his Toyota Starlet with John Whelan in the navigator’s seat, and in fifth place would be the Fiesta ST of David Burns and Connor Murphy.
The Novice leaders in Front-Wheel-Drive were Mark O’Donnell and Anthony Dobbin, running at number fifty two, and driving a Ford Puma, while Tim and Quinton Crean in their Mazda MX-5, were leaders in the Novice Rear-Wheel-Drive class.
There had been only one retirement recorded after the first loop, Jim Allen and Liz Crosby failed to complete Test 1 due a mechanical failure.
Loop two was identical to loop one and upon return to the Cohannon Control for lunch, Crothers had now edged past Cromie and was still in command of the event overall. Mark Francis was now sixth behind David Burns, with Stewartstown NI Autotest Champion Steven Ferguson in seventh. In the other classes, positions remained as they were.
The final loop of six tests brought the day’s rallying to a close back at the Cohannon Inn. Mazda MX-5 was the car to beat this year with the three of the top five crews all steering theirs home with ease. David Crothers and Barbara Kane finished in top spot, followed by Robert and Robert Whelan only one second ahead of Steven Cromie and Taylor Gribben, who finished in third overall. Liam Shaw managed to hold off David Burns to secure fourth place overall.
Sixty-three crews were classified as finishers out of sixty-eight starters, and at the finish, there was universal praise for the quality of the tests and the smoothness of the running of the event. Before the presentation of the awards, Geoffrey Lamont, Site Director for Donnelly Group, thanked everyone for their participation in the event and congratulated Dungannon Motor Club on their execution of a safe day’s motorsport, enjoyed by all. Malcolm McQueen, Clerk of the Course and Geoffrey presented the beautiful Galway Crystal awards to the class winners, and thanked everyone for all their help in running such a professional event.
Full results can be found here ===> RESULTS