Stewartstown pair, Norman Ferguson and Sam Bowden, battled all day on Saturday 4th June at the “Join the Mini Legends” Rally in the North part of County Antrim. The 50 mile event, a mixture of tests and regularity sections, included a section at the Dark Hedges, where Norman would seal his lead over Tyrone neighbour Sam, eventually finishing just one second ahead of him to take third spot overall.
Outright winner of the event, which included one of the original “Flying Finns”, Rauno Aaltonen, was Carryduff driver James Wilson, partnered by Roisin Boyd, and just behind them were Peter Lynch and Frank Fennell. All competitors were driving Minis, to mark the 50th anniversary of the disqualification of the entire BMC Mini Team from the 1966 Monte Carlo Rally.
Beautiful weather made the start procedures and the running of the event a most enjoyable and peasant experience. Bright sunshine greeted the top seed, Rauno Aaltonen as he pulled away from the start line of the first test at Gracehill House, just across the road from the famous “Dark Hedges”. By the time teams had completed the first three tests and one short regularity, Norman Ferguson and navigator Damien Mooney were in the lead with just 2 marks lost.
All was not well with the Stewartstown Mini Cooper S however. The car was overheating bady and had lost all its water. Drastic measures were taken, including driving without the bonnet of the car, and Multiple fill-ups of water along the way. The problems didn’t seem to be affecting his times however.
On the first major regularity over Torr Head, only 10 crews managed to avoid penalty, and most significantly, including James Wilson, Peter Lynch, and popular Galway rally sensation Ray Cunningham. The Tyrone pair of Ferguson and Bowden both picked up some penalties here, Norman attracting 20, and Sam Bowden now moving ahead of him with 15, but now down in 10th and 11th places.
After Lunch, another regularity along the famous rally stage “Glendun” was performed by most crews without penalty, but front runners Ray and Elaine Cunningham in their Galway Mini Centre Cooper S, slipped into one secret check a few seconds early and received a hefty 10 second penalty.
After Lunch, Norman Ferguson had turned up the speed and was best performer of the afternoon, two seconds better than James Wilson, three better than Lynch, and four better than Sam Bowden. It wouldn’t be enough to beat the best all round performance of James Wilson and Roisin Boyd however. They may not have been fastest on the tests, but when the regularities were dialled in, Wilson was the clear winner.
A fantastic event, excellent weather, personalities like Rauno Aaltonen, Paddy Hopkirk, BMC Co-drivers Mike Wood and Terry Harryman, all came together to make the most wonderful of Mini experiences imaginable. And that final test at the Dark Hedges, it was a magical spectacle, and a fitting end to the “Game of Tyrones” where Ferguson came out on top by just one second.
1. J Wilson / R Boyd 6 marks
2. P Lynch / F Fennell 11 marks
3. N Ferguson / D Mooney 23 marks
4. S Bowden / G Clendinning 24 marks
5. R Cunningham / E Cunningham 26 marks
For full results, click here: RESULTS