Eamonn “Byrnes” the Rest in BAD Rally.
There was nothing “BAD” about Eamonn Byrne’s win on the Ballynahinch And District’s Autumn Lanes Rally. Eight fastest times out of the nineteen tests saw him lead the rally from Test 2 to the finish and was never threatened during the day. Partnered on this occasion by Derek Smyth, his lead at the end of the day was a full fifteen seconds.
You might be excused for thinking that the tests and the conditions maybe suited the front wheel drive cars, but behind him was a train of rear wheel drive Mazda MX5s and a Ford Escort, led by Michael Duke. Behind that were Christopher Evans and David Crothers, all of them in Mazdas, and Evans and Crothers finishing on the exact same time.
The organisers had their share of difficulties. At the last minute, two test sites became unavailable, but a quick negotiation secured one of the earlier tests for two additional runs. That test was wisely shortened to avoid an unsurfaced run to the finish, enabling competitors to stop at the finish on the concrete part of the lane.
Christopher Evans perhaps thought he was lining up another easy win when he took fastest time on Test 1, with Duke and Crothers a second behind. Byrne made a cautious start and was a further second adrift. All of them thought they had beaten the target time for the test, but that was to be revised later to reflect the shorter test. On Test 2, Evans had a puncture while Byrne stormed into a lead he would never relinquish.
Showing a great turn of speed was Stephen Whitford and Philip Morrow. Eight test times in the top 3, and running as high as third place in the morning, this looked like the makings of a surprise newcomer to Targa Rally. It wouldn’t last however, and in the afternoon, looking pretty secure in fifth place, he damaged the sump of his Mazda MX5 and lost all the oil. Only four tests from the finish, but that’s rallying for you!
In the Semi-Experts, The Whelan Father and Son Team were controlling the Front-Wheel-Drive Class, and they would finish fifteen seconds ahead of Karl Donoghue and Ian McCullough. In the Rear-Wheel-Drives, David Much and Darren McCullagh led initially, but Stuart Annesley and Stephen Jess got into their stride and overtook them by Test 7. Their lead at the finish was nineteen seconds.
The biggest novice class was of the Front-Wheel-Drive variety. Peter Caldwell and David Lilburn in their Citroen Saxo were twenty three seconds ahead of Peter Dornan and Gareth Evans’ Peugeot 106 by the finish. Only six crews entered in the Rear-Wheel-Drive Novice Class and Chris Henry emerged as winner with Graeme Bailie showing the way.
Despite the quick results, many crews headed home as soon as they passed the finish line, because darkness arrives early these days, and there was a rugby match to be watched later in the evening. Eamonn Byrne and Derek Smyth were happy to stay for the prizes as Eamon picked up another winner’s trophy to join his collection. Next stop: Magherafelt And District Targa Rally, and let’s hope it isn’t MAD.
Full results can be found by clicking here => Results