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Rallying On The Beach!

Last month we were officiating on the final round of the 2018 MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship. The Tyrone Stages Rally was organised by Cookstown Motor Club and sponsored by MJE Wheel Repair Specialists. Although a sealed surface event, the rally took place, not in Co. Tyrone at all, but on private M.O.D. roads at Magilligan Point in Co.Derry as it had done two years ago.

The scenic location was fantastic with the Benone stage running through the sand dunes of probably the best beach in Northern Ireland. This beautiful area on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean is naturally very busy during the summer months, but because it was now October and the closed season, the Cookstown club was able to based rally HQ and the service park in the adjoining Benone Tourist Complex.

Two different challenging stages each around three miles in length were on the menu. The first was “Wilson’s Farm” at 2.65 miles and stage two was the nearby “Benone Beach” running at 3.36 miles. Both stages would run four times with competitors starting at 30 second intervals. In the afternoon the stages were reversed and repeated three times giving a total of 14 tests. First up then was “The Prison Run” the longest stage of the day at 3.58 miles followed by the 2.95 mile “The Old Bailey”.

BMMC/BRMC members were out in force covering rescue, timekeeping, stage marshalling and radio cover. My job for the day (which by the way was excellent for the time of year with dry conditions and temperatures reaching the dizzy heights of 17 degrees) was finish radio on “Benone Beach” and “The Prison Run”.

The rally ran on schedule and without any major incidents. We started at 10.56 and finished at 17.47. Former NI Champion Connor McCloskey dominated the event in his Ford Fiesta R5+. The Kilrea driver and co-driver Noel O’Sullivan led from start to finish and was fastest or joint fastest on all 14 stages. This was McCloskey’s first Northern Ireland Rally Championship win for seven years.

In second place were William Creighton and Liam Regan. This was the Belfast youngster’s first rally in a four-wheel-drive car. His hired DGM Citroen DS3 R5 finished just 11 seconds back and 25 ahead of the similar car of Derek McGarrity/ Paddy Robinson. McGarrity had of course already won the championship on the previous round.

Fourth overall and best of the 2 wheel-drive cars were the husband and wife crew of James and Heather Kennedy in a Mk.2 Escort. The Kennedy’s also sealed the 2WD Championship as their nearest challengers John Devlin and John McCarthy, also in a Mk.2, finished 11 seconds behind in fifth. Another young driver out for the first time in a four-wheel-drive car was another Kilrea man Josh McErlean. With Aaron Johnston on the notes McErlean finished a very impressive sixth overall in a borrowed Subaru N12, winning group N into the bargain! The future looks bright for both Josh and William Creighton providing they can get funding, sponsorship and some lucky breaks!

The Tyrone Stages had 58 starters and 44 finishers. Full and comprehensive results can be found on A rally report and the final championship points table are available on the McGrady Insurance MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship website. Check it out on

Rally Diary

Sat. 3rd Nov.
Kirkistown Stages Rally

Run by Mid Antrim Motor Club this event replaces the organisers planned Glens of Antrim Rally. The single venue event comprises of six sealed surface special stages totalling app. 20 stage miles at the Co.Down race circuit. Sponsored by Carey Cleaning Machines the rally starts at 10am. Marshals are welcome. Sign-on from 7am at the circuit. We are due to be providing rescue cover. There is however a big problem. As I write, with just one day left before entries close, there are only 11 competitors on the list. On that basis I can’t see the event running! Check Mid Antrim website for latest details.

Sat.17th Nov.
C-More Flying Targa Rally

Omagh Motor Club are the organisers of this latest targa rally in Northern Ireland. Based at Carrickmore Flying Club the event starts at 10am. An big entry of 80 plus cars are due to start. Contact Chief Marshal Barry Arrundel if available to assist or go to the club website for more information. Sign-on 8am.