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14 Nov 2014

Bushwhacker Rally 2014

Bushwhacker Rally 2014

Rocks and Rolls

Text and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
Irish rallying is mental… The narrow, bumpy and fast flowing tarmac roads are famous across the globe – many famous drivers including Colin Mcrae, Sebastien Loeb, Mikko Hirvonen have come here in the past to test themselves as well as their machines against these challenging roads. 

While Ireland has many tarmac stages on offer, we cannot discount the slippery forest roads with razor sharp rocks and trees on the roadsides. Some of the finest of them were included in the round five of the 2014 Valvoline National Forest Rally Championship, which concurrently was a round of the Northern Championship.
The rally took place in Omagh Co. Tyrone on September 27th. The very picturesque rally was held in the Lough Bradan, Carrickaholton, Slieveadoo and Killeter Forests. The rally, known as the “Omagh Grand Prix” was organised by the Omagh Motor Club. It is well known amongst the motoring enthusiasts, and even though it isn’t the longest rally in the calendar (just over 33 competitive miles), the 11 stages were some of the fastest, most technical and challenging on the calendar. The mixture of complicated stages and the forever changing Irish weather meant the crews were always on the edge sideways, providing a great spectacle for the die-hard rally fans. 
It was of no surprise then that a whopping amount of 115 crews entered this rally. All of them rendezvoused at the Rally HQ at the Silver Birch Hotel in Omagh early Friday morning. The crews seemed very calmed and relaxed ahead of the tough day and were generally enjoying the banter; some of the co-drivers were making the final amendments to their pace notes, while others were giving away tips for the best spectating areas to the spectators.
Many of you will recognise the overalls this driver is wearing, that's right - Kris's brother entered the rally in the Ford Escort.
The rally was given a green light at 9AM sharp and all crews hit the road. With just two short services between the 11 stages, it was certainly a very tight schedule for both the competitors and spectators.

How the action unfolded:
With the drivers reporting very slippery conditions on the loose gravel with big slides it was certain that many crews would take a safer approach and the risk takers would take the glory. First two stages were dominated by the Subaru Impreza WRC piloted by Martin Cairns followed by Josh Moffet in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9. Further 4 seconds adrift was another Evo9 driven by Desi Henry. 
With more confidence under the belt Josh Moffet stepped up the game and did an outstanding run in Stage 3 taking the rally lead by a 6 second margin. The chicane at the flying finish proved tricky to many crews, casualties included the Subaru or Marty McKenna and James Gillen as well as Mark Murphy’s Evo 8; however, the crew managed to get going again suffering a 7 minute loss. Martin Cairns fought back on stage 4 taking out 4 seconds from the Josh, reducing the gap to 2 seconds.
I went to the rally with my friend from Germany who came to Northern Ireland to see the rally and see his favourite local Driver Frank Kelly in action and he did not disappoint – with spectacular speed and slides the Northern Irish man managed to set the 3 fastest time in Stage 4, equal to Hetherington – an unbelievable drive by the 2WD cars on such conditions.

Cairns continued the amazing run in Stages 5 and 6 extending the lead to 13 seconds now. Desi Henry found the very important seconds on the stages and was tied with Josh. Stage 7 was a very short stage leaving the top driver positions unchanged.
Following the service the pace of the cars increased with a clear racing line on the repeated stages available. With some rain showers still in the area the conditions remained a bit tricky for the RWD class. Sadly the chance for the victory for Frank Kelly was shuddered to pieces when the propshafr decided to fail at the start line with only a few stages remaining.
In the last couple of Stages the Subaru Impreza WRC continued the trouble free runs and the Strabane Martin Cairns with the co-pilot Gary McElhinney secured the well-deserved victory on the “Omagh Grand-Prix”. Second place on the podium was taken by Josh Moffett and Jason McKenna while Desi Henry and Liam Moyhinan claimed the third. 
Class Winners
Class 1 (GpN up to 2.0): Daryl McCanny/ Cathain Colton (205).
Class 2 (Gp N over 2.0): Sam Moffett/ James O’Reilly (Evo 9).
Class 3 (Up to 1600 8v): Jordan/ Paul Hone (Micra).
Class 4 (1600 16v): Niall Donnelly/ Eamon Gallagher (Escort).
Class 5 (2000 8v): Paddy McToal/ Conor O’Loan (Escort).
Class 6 (2000 16v): Shane McGirr/ Jackie Elliott (Starlet).
Class 7 (Over 2100): Adrian Hetherington/ Gary Nolan (Escort).
Class 8 (WRC's): Kenny McKinstry/ Kenny Hull (Impreza).
Class 9 (4WD): Pat O’Connell/ Mark Wiley (Evo 9).
Class 11 (Historics): Raymond/ Marc Johnston (Escort).

1 comment:

  1. You never fail to post great shots, Reinis! I can only imagine the checkups and repairs that they have to do to make sure they’re all set for that event. Congrats to all the organizers and participants of the event, since they were able to entertain everyone who watched the rally. Anyway, I’m really amazed by your automobile photos, and I hope to see more in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing all of them! Cheers!

    Felicia Simmons @ Brandon Auto Repair