Drew Stewart and David White became the second two-wheel drive mounted crew in as many events to win a round of the Carryduff Forklift MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship when they secured victory at last weekend’s Modern Tyre Service Mourne Rally!
The event hosted round five of the 2012 series, and it was Stewart who headed home just 20 surviving crews after a day rallying through the Mourne Mountains.
It was a day that saw the lead change hands on a number of occasions and it was only after stage 10 that Stewart finally moved into a lead that he was never going to relinquish.
Stewart had been in the hunt from the start, but after the opening stage it was Mark 2 Escort crew of David Armstrong and Paul Mulholland that shared the lead with an Evo 9 belonging to Andrew Mullen and Elaine Doherty.
Then Mullen made the lead his own after stage two, while Derek McGeehan and Damien Connolly moved into second position with their Mini WRC. At this point, Drew Stewart was fifth overall, trailing the leaders by eight seconds. However, a stunning time set through stage three, Big Gullion, was set to propel him to the top…
Stewart pulled out all of the stops on the third test, stopping the clocks 13 seconds faster than his rivals over what was a six-mile stage. That propelled him into the rally lead, while Andrew Mullen dropped to third behind Derek McGeehan.
Early leader Mullen started his comeback charge on the following test. Using his Group N Evo 9, within the space of two stages he had transformed a nine second deficit into a one second lead. He continued to set the pace on stages six and seven, while Derek McGeehan managed to nab fastest time on stage eight to promote him to second position ahead of Stewart.
With five stages remaining, 12 seconds separated the top three crews, but it was all change again after stage nine. Another stunning drive through the Big Gullion stage saw Drew Stewart and David White leap from third to first, emerging from the test as joint leaders with Andrew Mullen and Elaine Doherty.
The Big Gullion test was run in reverse for stage 10, and again it was Stewart who dominated. He edged out a seven second advantage, and with another run through what appeared to be his favourite test still to come, the odds were beginning to look in his favour.
Stewart was equal fastest with Mullen on the reverse run through the Camlough stage, and then it was back to Big Gullion where he dominated once again. With one stage remaining, Stewart held a 13 second lead, and the final two-mile Camlough test was just a formality. Stewart kept his nose clean during those final miles and secured his maiden Carryduff Forklift Northern Ireland Rally Championship victory!
In the end, Andrew Mullen and Elaine Doherty had to settle for second overall in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 12 seconds adrift of the rally winners. David Armstrong and Paul Mulholland sealed third overall, with Alastair Cochrane and Ronnie Craig fourth ahead of Derek McGeehan and Damien Connolly. Fintan McGrady and Mark Hanna completed the top six in their McGrady Insurance backed Escort.
Crews now have a one month break before tackling the Hankook Down Rally. This year’s event has switched from its traditional forestry format to a closed road event, and competitors will tackle eight stages surrounding Castlewellan on Saturday 7 July. More details can be found on www.nirally.com.
Modern Tyre Service Mourne Rally Results
1 Drew Stewart/David White Ford Escort Mk2 49:18
2 Andrew Mullen/Elaine Doherty Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 49:30
3 David Armstrong/Paul Mulholland Ford Escort Mk2 49:37
4 Alastair Cochrane/Ronnie Craig Ford Escort MkII 50:00
5 Derek McGeehan/Damien Connolly Mini WRC 50:06
6 Fintan McGrady/Mark Hannah Ford Escort MkII 50:27
7 Chris Simms/Chris Hazley Ford Escort MkII 50:50
8 Trevor Ferguson/David McElroy Subaru Impreza 51:12
9 Robert Erwin/Jimmy Graham Toyota Corolla 51:17
10 Steven Armstrong/Philip Armstrong Ford Escort MkII 51:33
11 Stephen Smith/Paul Finlay Honda Civic VTI 51:34
12 Gerard McFall/Connor O’Loan Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 52:45
13 Jim Feenan/Barry McParland Ford Escort WRC 53:15
14 Hugh McQuaid/Chris Melly Ford Escort MkII 55:07
15 Alyn Spiers/Averil Morton Peugeot 106 GTi 55:51
16 Barry McGill/Derek Heena Ford Escort MkII 56:21
17 Philip Hamilton/Derek Stride Citroën C2 56:31
18 Calvin Beattie/Darragh Mullen Ford Fiesta 57:15
19 Michael Nutt/Sean Topping Honda Civic 59:06
20 Ian Graham/Liam Regan Ford Fiesta 59:39
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