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by Brian & Liz Patterson

Owen Murphy has won many rallies and Championships over the years, but last weekend’s Killarney Historic victory, co-driven by Anthony Nestor in a Sunbeam Lotus, means as much, if not more, than any of those previous successes. Cork man Owen explained, “My dad Gerry’s first rally as a driver was in Killarney 21 years ago. I was only 9, and we had a great weekend. Dad said then that he thought a Sunbeam could beat the Escorts. Well, here we are in 2018, we’ve done it, and dad is more pleased than I am. He is ready to explode with the excitement and he can’t even think straight for talking about it!” Owen went on to say, “For us the Sunbeam was 100% this time. We had one small problem with a broken back axle mounting, and managed to get it welded up.”

With heavy rain showers throughout the day, the going wasn’t easy, but
Owen kept the Sunbeam’s nose in front all the way through those classic but tough stages, although eventual second placed crew Mark Falvey/James O’Brien in their Escort were never too many seconds in arrears. Owen’s real worry was the very last stage, the 8th on the agenda. Theoretically the entire rally was to be run in daylight, so that drivers did not have the extra expense of having to fit spotlights. On the way to the final stage, a repeat of stage 7 Kilcummin, Owen knew that the daylight was disappearing. When he got to the start of the stage and saw three course cars still to go, he knew he was in trouble and sure enough when it was his turn to start the stage, he really struggled with the lack of daylight. He still had to be cautious, not throw it all away, but when he got to the stage finish and kept his eye on the rear view mirror, he reckoned he had blown it as the Falvey Escort hove into view barely twenty seconds later.

Happily for Owen his unofficial reckoning was close but not disastrous as he had taken victory by just over 1 second. Not a lot following his heroics over stages such as Molls Gap, Ballaghbeama and Caragh Lake, but enough! Neil Williams/Anthony O’Sullivan finished 3rd in their Escort. Several of the top drivers in the Historics retired – Marty McCormack for example retired his Escort in stage 3 with fuel starvation problems, Phil Collins and Melvyn Evans also had mechanical problems with their Escorts. As it was, Welshman Tomas Davies, with Shane Buckley co-driving in their Escort were 4th. Daniel Jones/Gerwyn Barry finished 5th, also in an Escort. Jonnie Greer/Kirsty Riddick were 6th in their newly rebuilt Sierra Sapphire Cosworth. Interestingly, 7th placed Cathan McCourt from Co. Tyrone took 2nd placed points in the Irish Tarmac Championship. This was the opening counter in the 2019 series. Owen Murphy was registered for the Tarmac, so naturally earned maximum points, but the next five drivers weren’t registered.

In the Modified category Donegal’s Declan Gallagher, with John McCarthy co-driving in their Toyota Starlet RWD were extremely quick and took victory by 1m 40s from Enda O’Brien/John Butler (Escort). Another Donegal man, Martin McGee, co-driven by Denis O’Mahony in an Escort, was 3rd. Colin O’Donoghue/Eddie Doherty (BMW E30) led initially and eventually finished 4th. A surprising number of ‘top names’ in the ‘Modifieds’ retired: mostly with mechanical woes. These included Rob Duggan, David Bogie and Gary Kieran. Also in the ‘early bath list’ was Jonathan Pringle. Wesley Patterson non started, due to pressure of work, but Wesley is going to do the Boxing Day Rally at Mondello in an effort to raise funds for an 18 year old wheelchair bound girl Omagh girl Carla Higgins who needs Harley Street treatment.

Also last weekend, the great and the good of NI Motorsport gathered at the Culloden Hotel for their annual celebration of Motorsport charity dinner. Pamela Ballantine, Jenny Scullion and Drew Wylie were the main hosts. Guests included F1 supremo Patrick Head, Kris Meeke and Garry Jennings as well as most of the top motorbike racers. Over £45,000 (at the initial count, money is still coming in) was raised, to help the Action Medical Research, a UK wide children’s charity. This is a very special charity in the field of research and has transformed the lives of many many children.

This week, amongst the various Motorsport Ireland award winners at the Beta Tools sponsored prestigious gathering at Dublin’s Mansion House, Keady’s 24 year old James Wilson was presented with the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Award. James, who campaigned a Peugeot 208 R2 to success this year, including taking the Junior Championship on the MI Valvoline Forestry series, and was also a front runner in the Junior section of the British Rally Championship. James was co-driven by Gavin Doherty. There can only be one winner of the €50,000 Billy Coleman Award, which is a pity, as all the eventual nominees were of the highest calibre, particularly the two other finalists, Jason Black and Jordan Hone. After the event, James told us, “On the run up to the event I was completely calm and told myself, ‘it is what is’. Then about 30seconds before it, I panicked! I was so nervous on stage I couldn’t think straight! It was some experience, I’ll never forget it. And then to receive the Billy Coleman trophy, with all those previous winner’s names – very special! The young Keady man, who works in the Keady garage of his uncle and aunt, well known rally people James and Hilary Wilson, continued, “For next year we intend to use the same Peugeot 208 – it has served us well and given no real problems, it is all about maintenance really. We plan to tackle a few rounds of the Irish Forestry Championship to keep up gravel, loose, experience – the opening round is early, January. And then have a go at the British Championship and try to win the Juniors outright.”

One very special young man is James Wilson, with his feet firmly on the ground.

This weekend coming it is the turn of the Grizedale Rally, and as mentioned last week there are quite a few competitors from here making the trip to the Lake District for this brilliant forest rally. Alan Plum Tyndall is running two more book signings – one in Letterkenny tonight (5th December) at the Station House Hotel (7.30pm) and one on Saturday morning at Creighton’s Garage in Finaghy at 11.00am.

Looking further forward, Birr Motor Club are running one of their very sociable autotests (the Turkey Chaser) on the 30th December at Garahy’s Truck Garage Birr. Tests will be straightforward and not taxing on the brain!


2018 Patterson Agencies

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