Gerry McVeigh probably had the widest smile of all after running Course Car on the Spring Fling Rally organised by Dungannon Motor Club. When he agreed to be the main sponsor of the rally, he had no idea that it would be so much fun for himself and his co-driving wife to run through the tests before the competitors tackled them. Gerry McVeigh Cars weren’t just pleased to be sponsors, they were visibly delighted, and as Gerry and his wife Bronagh presented the awards to the winning crews, the smiles were still there.
A full entry of 60 cars, and a number of reserves who were hoping for somebody not to turn up, assembled in the early morning at the Cohannon Inn, Tamnamore, for technical and document scrutiny, and then a hearty breakfast before setting out on the event. A clear sky and bright sunshine greeted crews from North and South as they pulled away from the Main Control for what was to be a slick and enjoyable days competition across 25 challenging tests in private lanes in the Dungannon area.
Although the Mazda MX5 still proves to be the most popular car of all on this type of event (there were 25 of them amongst the 60 entrants), the entry still showed a wide range of makes and models from Ford Escorts Mks1 and 2 to, MG Midget, to Toyota Starlet and yes, even a 998cc Mini Cooper. The one thing that they all had in common though, was the wide grins of enjoyment as they tackled the tests and tried to better their rivals in their classes. Six classes in all divided the crews. Three for front wheel drive cars, and three for rear wheel drive. Then each of these are divided into Masters/Experts, Semi-Experts, and Novices, thereby giving newcomers to the sport a chance to test themselves against competitors of similar ability. This was Club Level Motorsport at it’s best, and notably there was a strong presence from the recent DMC Rally School with at least ten of those graduates moving up into this type of event as either navigators or drivers.
On the very first test near Tamnamore, Stewartstown’s Norman Ferguson in his Peugeot 106 GTI tied for fastest time with Robert Woodside Jnr in his MX5. The pair tied again on the second test near Killyman, but unfortunately Norman’s luck ran out on the Starplan test when a driveshaft broke leaving him stranded with a Maximum time. From that point on, Robert Woodside Jnr led the event, but had fierce competitors snapping at his heels. After the first loop of tests, he led Ashley Lamont by a slender 6 seconds. On loop 2 he extended his lead to 17 seconds over Dubliner Dermot Carnegie, and by the end of loop 3 it was 25 with Ashley Lamont back in second place. At the final control, Robert’s lead had extended to just 28 seconds for the day, on average just over 1 second per test, illustrating just how close the competition had been.
The sun shone all day, and although a number of competitors were forced to retire along the way (all but 12 completed the course) even the retirees were full of praise for the slick organization, and the professionalism with which the event was run. Visitors from the Republic of Ireland were amazed by the quality of the tests, and made it known on social media after the event. Dublin based Peter Faulkner summed it up for everyone on Facebook with his comment “I can only say WOW, what a great, well run event with just superb tests. Still smiling on Sunday”. Mark Brien also took to Facebook to say “Well done to the Dungannon team. That’s how it should be done!!”
In his opening remarks at the prize distribution, Clerk of the Course Malcolm McQueen took time to say a special thank-you to the huge army of marshals who turned out to staff the tests. Their professionalism on the day produced a great experience for the competitors and they can be justifiably proud of the way the event ran.