2022 Mc’S Hot Food Targa

Photo: Derek Smyth
Trevor and Adam Ferguson had a day-long tussle with Eamonn Byrne and Steven Cromie but came out winners in the end.

Trevor’s Home Victory

After a closely fought battle, Cookstown’s Trevor Ferguson emerged winner of the Mc’S Hot Food Targa Rally on Saturday 18th April.  Partnered by his Son Adam, Trevor was the Cookstown Motor Club’s top tip to win the event and he led the field away with the prestigious number 1 on the doors of his Mazda MX5.  Just five seconds behind were Wicklow’s Eamonn Byrne and Daughter Emma in a Toyota Yaris in second place overall.  

Eamonn Byrne and Daughter Emma pressed hard all day and just lost the lead on the last loop of four tests. Photo Derek Smyth

A result nobody saw coming was that of the Dublin/Kildare team of Brothers Matthew and Mark Walsh in their 1966 MGB.  Running almost the last car on the rally, the classic MGB was more than just a novelty day out.  They would finish in third place overall and win Class 6 by over one and a half minutes!

Matthew and Mark Walsh raised a few eyebrows in their 1966 MGB GT, winning the Novice Class over 1400cc and taking third place overall. Photo Derek Smyth

The Cookstown Motor Club had laid on a compact event with four tests performed four times using familiar locations for Targa regulars.  Three of the tests used farm lanes and yards while the fourth was more like an Autotest in Norman Ferguson’s yard.  Just 40 cars lined up to spend the day rallying in Tyrone, suggesting that recovery from the Covid lay-off is going to take some time.

The organising club also welcomed a new sponsor to Targa Rally. MC’s Hot Food Cafe, on Sandholes Road near the cement factory, laid on breakfast for crews as they assembled for the start.  Missing from the starting line-up was local star Norman Ferguson who succumbed to a positive Covid test a couple of days earlier.

Steven Cromie was an early leader but would fall foul of the “stop-astride” lines and seventh place overall would be the best he could do. Photo Derek Smyth

For this event the classes were organised as usual by driver experience/results using Masters/Experts, Semi-Experts and Novices, but instead of further sub-diving by front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive, they were subdivided by cubic capacity of the car, the break point being 1400cc.  The consequence of this was that there was nobody entered in the Experts under 1400cc class, two in semi-Experts under 1400cc, and just one in Novices under 1400cc.

The action got under way at the first farm lane test beside Norman Ferguson’s premises.  The experienced Frank Lenehan, with the equally experienced Ian McCulloch alongside, were quickest off the mark with an impressive 106 seconds.   Dungannon’s Darrell Burns and Luke Mackle steered their Ford Fiesta over the slippy test to next best time of 108 seconds, just one ahead of Eamonn and Emma Byrne, Steven Cromie and Alex Scott (MX5). Semi-Experts Dessie Martin and David Andrew in a Toyota Starlet impressed everybody to stop the clock on 109 seconds.

Frank Lenehan had Ian McCulloch alongside and surprised even himself with fastest time on the first test. Eighth place overall at the end would be his reward. Photo Derek Smyth

In Norman Ferguson’s yard it would be Eamonn and Emma Byrne fastest, two seconds clear of Trevor and Adam Ferguson, and Steven Cromie/Alex Scott, with Ballymoney Semi-Experts Adam and Mark Brogan (MX5) one more second adrift.  There were then seven crews just one more second slower, so it was clearly going to be a day of close competition.

Tests 3 and 4 were Cookstown favourites with first Laverty’s Lane and then Hunter’s lane.  The challenge for clubs at such venues is to set the test so that the 30mph average speed is not exceeded.  In these lanes it invariably involves forcing competitors to come to a stop astride a line at multiple places on the test where they would otherwise be travelling quickly.  Failure to do so involves penalties, and in Laverty’s lane, many were caught out failing to stop completely.  

Eric Patterson and Keith Hall would finish in fifth place overall despite attracting one of those “stop-astride” penalties early in the event. Photo Derek Smyth

For the marshal it can be a tough judgement as the expert drivers are very good at it and the decision “did he stop completely or not?” can be a close one.  Laverty’s Lane had five lines where competitors had to stop-astride and four competitors were judged to have missed stopping completely.  Hunters Lane had three such lines and everybody negotiated them without penalty.

After that first loop of tests, it was Ballynahinch driver Steven Cromie and Alex Scott holding a one second advantage over Trevor and Adam Ferguson and Eamonn and Emma Byrne tied on 328 seconds and then eight seconds back to Darrell Burns/Luke Mackle with Frank Lenehan/Ian McCulloch in fifth.  Already some local crews were in trouble with both Philip and Kim Hunter and Jason and Courtney Stirrup making an error in the pylons on Hunter’s Lane to attract 180 marks.

Darrell Burns had Luke Mackle to direct him round the tests and their consistently fast pace would bring then home in fourth place overall. Photo Derek Smyth.

The compact route meant that the action was almost continuous at the tests and on the second loop competitors were a bit more confident having had one run over them already.  That said, after one pass by forty or so cars the surface gets even more slippy and errors do creep in.  This time, front runner Steven Cromie was one of seven drivers who fell foul of the stop-astride lines on Laverty’s lane spoiling his day.

Two loops completed and Trevor and Adam Ferguson were now in the lead, eight seconds ahead of Eamonn and Emma Byrne, with Darrell Burns/Luke Mackle third and that MGB of Matthew and Mark Walsh emerging in fourth place overall.  In the Semi-Experts, Adam and Mark Brogan were ahead of Colin Hazelton/Malcolm McQueen, with Ronan Cox/Joe O’Neill in third.  In the Novice category, Matthew and Mark Walsh were well clear of all comers in their MGB with Patrick Johnston/Rory Casey second and Robin and Caleb Cuddy third in their snow-white Toyota MR2.

Malcolm McQueen points the way for Colin Hazelton as he drifts around pylon E in the Hunter’s Lane test. Photo Derek Smyth.

On the third loop of tests, best time overall was set by the Father and Daughter team of Philip and Kim Hunter in their Toyota MR2, six seconds quicker than Matthew and Mark Walsh, and seven ahead of the trio of Eric Patterson/Keith Hall, Steven Cromie/Alex Scott and Jason and Courtney Stirrup.  Although it was another two seconds back to Eamonn and Emma Byrne, the Toyota Yaris pair had now taken the lead of the event from Trevor and Adam Ferguson by two seconds, with the Walsh brothers third.  Steven Cromie’s pace was enough to take him back to fourth place ahead of Eric Patterson’s ageing MX5.

On the fourth loop, the dreaded “stop-astride” lines on Laverty’s lane would spell disaster for Steven Cromie again, along with six others.  Not so for Trevor and Adam Ferguson who pushed hard this time to take fastest time of the loop and take the lead of the event back from Eamonn and Emma Byrne by just five seconds.  Dungannon’s Eric Patterson/Keith Hall and Hillsborough’s Robert Robinson/Hannah McCarthy were just two seconds slower on the loop, bringing Eric and Keith into the top five overall.

Adam and Mark Brogan were best Semi-Experts over 1400cc and came sixth overall thanks to a penalty free run in their Mazda MX5. Photo Derek Smyth.

An amazing performance in a 1966 car saw the Walsh Brothers Matthew and Mark finish in third place in the event, and easily win the Novice category for cars over 1400cc.  A consistently fast run by Darrell Burns and Luke Mackle was rewarded with fourth place overall, just pipping Eric Patterson and Keith Hall by two seconds at the end.

The compact route and lack of any real delays during the day left competitors back at MC’s Hot Food Cafe for a late lunch and the wait for final results.  There are always a few queries to be dealt with but by 3pm the results were declared final and awards distributed by Gary McKeown, the  event sponsor and proprietor of MC’s Cafe.  Blessed with good weather, the event was enjoyed by all, and most got off home before the rain came.

Event Sponsor Gary McKeown congratulates Trevor and Adam Ferguson on a fine win at the Cookstown Motor Club’s Targa Rally. Photo Derek Smyth.

Overall Results – Mc’S Hot Food Cafe Targa Rally

  1. Trevor & Adam Ferguson (MX5) 1240 marks
  2. Eamonn & Emma Byrne (Yaris) 1245 marks
  3. Matthew & Mark Walsh (MGB) 1257 marks
  4. Darrell Burns/Luke Mackle (Fiesta) 1272 marks
  5. Eric Patterson/Keith Hall (MX5) 1274 marks
  6. Adam & Mark Brogan (MX5) 1283 marks
  7. Steve Cromie/Alex Scott (MX5) 1290 marks
  8. Frank Lenehan/Ian McCulloch (Starlet) 1294 marks
  9. Robert Robinson/Hannah McCarthy (MX5) 1308 marks
  10. Martin & Raymond McKernan (MX5) 1330 marks

Class Winners

Overall Winner – Trevor & Adam Ferguson

  • Expert over 1400cc – Eamonn & Emma Byrne
  • Semi-Expert under 1400cc – Dessie Martin/David Andrew
  • Semi-Expert over 1400cc – Adam & Mark Brogan
  • Novice under 1400cc – Anthony & Adam Hammond
  • Novice over 1400cc – Matthew & Mark Walsh
Dessie Martin and David Andrew from Saintfield were winners in the Semi-Experts under 1400cc Class in their Toyota Starlet. Photo Derek Smyth.