EVENT | Bushwhacker Rally 2014

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Irish rallying is mental… The narrow, bumpy and fast tarmac roads are famous across the globe – many famous drivers including Colin McRae, Sebastian Loeb, Mikko Hirvonen have come here in the past to test themselves as well as their machines against these 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 simultaneously was a round of the Northern Championship.

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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.

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It was of no surprise then that a whopping amount of 115 crews entered this rally. All of them rendezvoused at the Silver Birch Hotel in Omagh early Friday morning at the Rally HQ to get the rally underway at 9AM. The crews seemed very calmed and relaxed. While some of the co-drivers were making the final amendments to their pace notes, others were giving tips to the spectators.

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If you have been following Autolifers from the start you’ll know that our editor-in-chief Patrick has nothing but praise for the Omagh Motor Club. Last year Patrick wrote an article with regards to the Spring Rally that takes place in Fivemiletown. Indeed Patrick’s dad is a former winner of the event as is his uncle! Both the Spring Rally and Bushwhacker are organised by the same club so it’s no surprise that the “Omagh Grand Prix” is a rally that many want to compete in and win. The ‘Whacker is often many crews favorite rally of the year.

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Darren McKelvey in his Lancer Evolution VI. Darren is a good friend to us here at Autolifers and we featured his Veilside R34 Skyline in the first few months of being online. Since making the transition to rallying from drifting a few years ago Darren has really progressed rapidly and has even scored an overall win at Lark in the Park.

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My friend who was over from Germany really loved the event and was especially interested in the MkII’s. As you can see he was very excited! It just shows you the worldwide appeal and popularity of the MkII Escort. They are as popular between drivers and spectators alike.

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David Kerr was out in a Peugeot 106. We are use to seeing him in a very rapidly driven 205 GTI and judging by this photo, the 106 is being driven rapidly too! I know Patrick will be very interested in this car!

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Look carefully and you’ll see one of these guys is wearing a race suit belonging to Kris Meeke of the works Citroen WRC team. This is Kris’ brother Barry who is driving this Yellow G4 Escort. Unfortunately for Barry and co-driver Niall McKenna the day would end with gearbox failure on Special Stage 7.

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It’s not always about the MkII Escort as Shane McGirr would tell you and to be quite honest he would go about showing you on the time sheets. The Toyota Starlet he drives gets absolute death every time the countdown hits zero. Shane won Class 6 and his fellow Starlet driven by Maurice Moffett did not fair as well picking up 4 minutes in penalties with a late arrival on Special Stage 4.

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Dermot O’Hagan is a Omagh Motor Club member and drives this Lancer EvolutionVI. Dermot has moved up in power from the Corsa above, now driven by Glen Irwin. Unfortunately for both drivers mechanical maladies would see them exit the event on Special Stage 6 and 7 respectively.

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It would almost not be an Autolifers article without an AE86 in it! Mark Thompson in car 84 and James McGovern would do battle for top AE86 in class 1 with James coming out on top!

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Tarmac or Gravel – the MkII is the clubman’s choice!

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The battle for two-wheel drive honours was going to go to someone in a MkII but you would be a brave man/woman to actually say who it would be. Frank Kelly (first image), Adrian Hetherington and Vivian Hamill are always there or there abouts. It would be Hetherington who would come out on top and finish 8th overall.

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Desi Henry finished 3rd overall and 2nd in GroupN to…

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…Josh Moffett who was literally flying all day having led in his Evolution IX in the earlier part of the day against the…

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… overall winner of the McKelvey Bushwhacker Rally, Martin Cairns in his awesome Subaru Impreza S14.Martin and co-driver Gary McElhinney posted fastest time on all but two of the days stages to come with a 17 second lead from young Moffett. Another fantastic days rallying in the forests around west Tyrone!
 
Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
Words: Reinis Babrovskis & Patrick McCullagh
 
NOTE: We will have more pictures on our Facebook in the coming days!
 

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