Woodside Jr. Dominates A29 Targa Rally
In a dazzling display of rally/autotest driving, Robert Woodside Jr., partnered by the experienced Suz Graham, set fastest time on all but four of the eighteen tests on Saturday’s A29 Service Station Targa Rally. The Cookstown Motor Club had laid on a compact rally with six tests performed three times, and the weather co-operated well by granting a rain-free day.
First car away was the beautiful Mk1 Ford Escort driven by Dubliner Dermot Carnegie, and he would be the one to take the fight to Robert Woodside on a day-long battle for overall honours. Five fastest times, two of them shared with Woodside, and almost never out of the top three all day, just wasn’t enough to take the win, and he ended the day forty one seconds adrift in second place. Mark Woodside and Andy Blair would take third place, just six seconds behind Carnegie, and eleven seconds ahead of top Tyrone driver, Coagh’s Damien Mooney.
Damien Mooney and Tony Anderson were in the usual Citroen Saxo, and as a Semi-Expert crew, would not be expected to be challenging for a podium place. Furthermore, as a front wheel drive car, Damien would struggle as the tests dried out during the day, playing into the hands of the more powerful Mazda MX5s and Ford Escorts. Running in third place overall after nine tests, fourth was still a great result for Damien and Tony, and a fine class win. A move up to the Experts Class would now seem on the cards for future events, and well deserved too!
After a cautious start, newly crowned Northern Ireland Autotest Champion Paul Blair, partnered by wife Olwen, took a win in the Experts Class (front-wheel-drive), and seventh place overall in their Vauxhall Nova. Semi-Experts John and Grainne O’Kane from Swatragh were Class winners in their Mazda MX5, a minute and sixteen seconds ahead of Stuart Annesley and Stephen Jess, also in an MX5.
The real heroes of the day were those entered in the Novice Categories. Over half the competitors fell into these two classes, pretty evenly split between front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive cars. Even so, the top performers will surely be on a fast track up the classes. Winners of the FWD class were Marshall Kennedy and Jim Allen in a Peugeot 106 GTi, and an astonishing (for a beginner) tenth place overall. In the RWD class, Steven Cromie and Trevor Stevenson took their Mazda MX5 to ninth overall.
Other local Tyrone drivers had mixed fortunes. Cookstown’s Gilmore Magee and Mervyn Gregg put in a great performance to finish fourth in Class 4 in their MX5, while Dougie and Simon Millar took their VW Golf GTi to second place in Class 5. Phillip McCrea and Mark Stewart were second in Class 6, ahead of Stewartstown’s Sean Devlin and John Nicholl, both crews driving Mazda MX5s. Harry Barr and Malcolm McQueen picked up fifth place in that class, just ahead of Peter Faulkner and Dungannon’s Anne Smyth in sixth.
Not so lucky on the day were Parkanaur’s Mark and Ivan McKeown. Their BMW 318i Compact was running well until just four tests from the end when the rear suspension failed. Even less lucky was poor Norman Ferguson, from Stewartstown. He and navigator Brendan Mooney only lasted three tests before a clutch failure on his Peugeot 106 sidelined their hopes.
Cookstown Motor Club are to be congratulated on a fine event, setting new standards for fast results, and great documentation. Robert Woodside Jr. and Suz Graham made a point of thanking the timekeepers and officials who had demonstrated a high level of professionalism on the day, and went on to invite crews to the next event of this type on the calendar, the Laharna Targa Rally at Larne on October 3rd.
1st Overall – R Woodside Jr / S Graham (MX5) 1482 marks
Experts FWD – P Blair / O Blair (Nova) 1571 marks
Experts RWD – D Carnegie / M Fitzsimon 1523 marks
Semi-Experts FWD – D Mooney / T Anderson (Saxo) 1540 marks
Semi-Experts RWD – J O’Kane / G O’Kane (MX5) 1598 marks
Novice FWD – M Kennedy / J Allen (106 GTi) 1664 marks
Novice RWD – S Cromie / T Stevenson (MX5) 1644 marks