Careys Take Tough Merc-Benz Moonraker
Dungannon Motor Club ran their iconic Moonraker Navigation Rally on Friday 4th September, and a tough night of map reading and time management was in store for the modest entry of eighteen cars. Sponsor Mark Elliot of Mercedes-Benz Truck and Van (Dungannon) was on hand to see and experience Club level motorsport for himself. This form of Club motorsport has been in decline recently, but thanks to a massive effort by the Dungannon Club to bring newcomers to the sport, and sponsorship from Merc-Benz, the Moonraker was able to go ahead while other clubs are forced to cancel theirs. Topping the results at the end of seventy miles were the “wife and husband” team of Rachel and Ciaran Carey from Magheralin in their usual Vauxhall Nova.
The event started and finished at St Andrew’s Church Hall at Killyman. The spacious car park and bright hall were perfect for the technical and document inspections, and with formalities completed, the crews began plotting the main time controls for the evening. Clerk of the Course, David White, had laid on a challenging set of instructions using map references, tulip diagrams, map traces and even directions using clock face language.
One of the most exciting aspect of the rally was the fact that there were eleven beginner teams signed up to compete. Most were graduates from the Rally School run by DMC earlier in the year, and it was great to see them continue to compete and enjoy Club level motorsport. That said, it took thirty five manned checkpoints to allow the rally to run, so there was plenty for non-competing Club members to do on the event.
Top seeds on the event and current NI Championship leaders, Ballygawley’s Leslie and Gareth Hawe, brought along their newly acquired Mazda MX5, and led crews away from the start with Loughgall’s John and Jonathan Henderson at number two in their usual Nissan Micra, and Ciaran and Rachel Carey at three. Only three expert crews, but the situation in the semi-expert and novice class was even worse with just two in each of those classes. Local interest centred on last year’s Overall Moonraker winner, Malcolm McQueen, who was navigated by last year’s beginners class winning navigator, Grace Campbell.
In the largest class, the Beginners, only Mark Stewart was unable to start when his navigator couldn’t make it on the night, so ten rookie teams set off with marked map to do battle in the tricky Tyrone lanes South of Dungannon. It didn’t last long for the Andersons, Kenny and Peter, when their Renault Clio’s alternator stopped working before they even reached Time Control B near the Argory. In the Experts class, the Hawes were also in trouble with penalties clocking up at the secret checks and a total of five marks lost in the first section.
By the end of the second section, which finished near Blackwatertown, the Careys had incurred seven minutes of lateness, while the Hawes missed a check completely. In the beginners class, Hayes Robinson and Keith Hall were the only crew left with a clean sheet, with Kevin McKeown and Ryan Dineen one mark adrift, and the Smyth’s on three in their Mini Cooper.
By the half-way relaxed section between Armagh and Caledon, crews had completed four sections of navigation, and all thoughts of a penalty free winner were long gone. In the lead overall were the Hendersons with 17 marks dropped, just one ahead of the Careys, and the Hawes in big trouble with forty seven penalties. Brian Hanna and Paul Forsythe were leading the Semi-Experts ahead of John Henderson and Keith Somerville. Novices John Boyle and James Woods were ahead of Malcolm McQueen and Grace Campbell, and Beginners Hayes Robinson / Keith Hall were seven minutes clear of Kevin McKeown and Ryan Dineen, and fourteen ahead of Kilkeel’s William Strain and Robert Hall.
After the short break, crews headed North again close to Benburb and just East of Aughnacloy, before swinging East again towards the finish just outside Dungannon. In the Experts Class, the Hawes performed best on the six sections, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the earlier losses. The Hendersons were caught out twice arriving on the minute before they were due, and so the Careys arrived at the end in first place overall. In the Semi-Experts, Brian Hanna and Paul Forsythe kept their lead over John Henderson and Keith Somerville to win their Class and secure fourth place overall. In the Novice Class, John Boyle and James Wood had a disastrous final three sections and so Malcolm McQueen and Grace Campbell ended up easy winners by sixty-five marks.
The Beginners only competed over three of the last six sections. Hayes Robinson and Keith Hall kept their lead all the way to the end in their Skoda Felicia, and the Smyths, Derek and Anne, came up to finish second after Kevin McKeown and Ryan Dineen missed a secret check on the map trace section, and Kilkeel crew William Strain / Robert Hall dropped quite some time in the same area.
The Tyrone lanes showed again that a 30 mph average speed is a real challenge. Clerk of the Course David White complimented crews on their performances during the night, and especially the Beginners Class where only two teams dropped out. There were big smiles at the finish as competitors compared notes on their performances, and even the Hawes were happy that the damage to their Championship hopes was limited to ten points. With a lead of forty two points going in to this event, they will be tough to beat this year!
1st. Ciaran Carey / Rachel Carey 28 Marks
1st. John Henderson / Jonathan Henderson 32 Marks
1st. Brian Hanna / Paul Forsythe 112 Marks
1st. Malcolm McQueen / Grace Campbell 135 Marks
1st. Hayes Robinson / Keith Hall 20 Marks
2nd. Derek Smyth / Anne Smyth 44 Marks
3rd. Aideen McGirr / Brian McGirr 45 Marks