1985 Cookstown Navigation

Article reprinted from Carsport 1985
Report by Gilmore Magee

Northern Ireland Navigation Rally Championship.


Sydney Meeke Motorsport employee Ian Cuddy, ably partnered by his brother Walter, won the first round of the 1985 Northern Ireland Rally Championship run by the Cookstown Club on the night of 11th January. The event attracted forty-one crews, the best entry list seen certainly in quality if not in quantity on a navigational event in the last couple of years. The newly introduced club championship with some clubs even entering two teams and the Cookstown Club’s reputation for simple, no-nonsense events undoubtedly helped.

But on the night, with thick freezing fog and slippery roads, the field was whittled down to twenty-nine starters, some crews literally withdrawing on the line. Nevertheless, the Clerk of the Course, Ian Giboney, stuck to his guns, ran the event and in a compact route of just over seventy miles east of Cookstown the promoting club managed to man twenty-eight main and secret time controls and eleven vias, no mean feat on such a filthy night.

Number one seeds Elkin Robinson from Donemana and Derek Smyth in the Peugeot 205 Diesel led the field away from the Stewartstown start venue, followed by Portadown’s Marshall Allen partnered by last year’s championship navigator Drew Todd in a Maestro, into the first section. This section probably had the thickest fog and every crew lost time on it, but by the end of the first five competitive sections it was found that four crews tied on three minutes down. They were Robinson/Smyth followed by Omagh’s Ken Graham/Godfrey Crawford.

They were in a Sunbeam which was previously owned by the Clerk of the Course so it had an intimate knowledge of the Cookstown lanes even if the crew, like many others, professed not to be able to see where they were going. Then came the RS2000 of fellow Omagh man Denzil McKimmon navigated by the grand old man of navigational rallies, Michael Hart, and the Cuddy Brothers, Ian driving Walter’s Metro.

In Class two by this time the Dungannon crew of Alan Jardine/Alan Lutton had established a class led they were to maintain to the finish. The event also had its first retirement when Ivan Zwecker’s Escort had an indiscretion with a tree stump shortly after the start.

Two more competitive sections took the crews to the relaxed section through Moneymore. By then the Cuddy Brothers had slipped one ahead with Robinson/Smyth and McKimmon/Hart equal second. The Graham/Crawford Autopilot malfunctioned, the resulting “off” thankfully not damaging the newly installed lights. Also in bother were Eric Patterson/Alistair Donaldson Peugeot 305 Diesel with navigation sickness and Noel Dickson/Kevin Nixon with three wheel braking after a front disc disintegrated on the BMW.

The eventual second and third place crews in Class two were Keith Doherty/Richard Charlesson in a Granada and Stanley Ballantine/David Smyth respectively. Both had minor indiscretions in the fog. The Fiat of Ballantine/Smyth being returned to the road with the help of one of the Club Stewards. No question of needing a damage declaration for that one!

Up until that point only plot and bash navigation was used. Trace was then introduced for the next portion after the relaxed section and Class one coped admirably. Time loss in this section more likely due to the increasingly slippery roads. The Cuddy Brothers were the only ones to clear this section so consolidating their lead. Robinson/Smyth and McKimmon/Harte were still equal second.

The final section was back to plot and bash. Two cunningly sited secret checks early in it provided the sting in the tail. Those in on time invariably came out late and those in early came out on time. The margin for error was small and only two crews got through these two controls without penalty, one was again the Cuddy Metro.

Still, Robinson/Smyth and McKimmon/Hart were tied. It was only over the closing miles that McKimmon pulled one mark ahead and Cuddy, just to make it a cliff hanger, started to drop time.

Twenty-six out of the original twenty-nine crews were classified as finishers and all deserve praise, together with the marshals for mastering such terrible conditions. Ian and Walter Cuddy won their first championship event and helped Dungannon with the Club Award with Omagh Motor Club in second place. The new faces in the top positions, and the introduction of the Club Championship, promises well for the 1985 championship.

1st overall — Ian Cuddy/Walter Cuddy (Metro) 6 marks:

Class 1
1st, Denzil McKimmon/Michael Hart (RS2000) 7 marks;
2nd, Elkin Robinson/Derek Smyth (Peugeot 205 Diesel) 8 marks;
3rd, Trevor Haydock/Brian Quinn (Lotus Sunbeam) 11 marks;

Class 2
1st, Alan Jardine/Alan Lutton (Sunbeam) 26 marks;
2nd, Keith Doherty/Richard Charlesson (Ford Grenada) 43 marks;
3rd, Stanley Ballantine/David Smyth (Fiat Strada) 45 marks;

Club Award – Dungannon (A) Cuddy/Cuddy, Haydock/Quinn, Patterson/Donaldson.