Henry triumphs in start-to-finish Fivemiletown Rally victory

Desi Henry and Paddy Robinson produced a scintillating performance to win the Fivemiletown Rally by 18.9 seconds over gravel rivals Cathan McCourt and Liam Moynihan. Henry grabbed the Fivemiletown lead on its first of nine stages, the notorious Jenkin stage.

McCourt utilised the power of his unique two-litre Ford Fiesta on the second pass of Doon to reduce Henry’s lead by over three seconds on the sixth stage.

The local driver’s threat came too late as Henry stemmed the ambush with his fifth fastest-time on Fivemiletown’s penultimate stage.

Overall, it was a faultless display by Henry in his Ford Fiesta Rally2 to win the first round of Northern Ireland’s Forest Rally Challenge. It was also his maiden Fivemiletown Rally victory.

“We have won the Bushwhacker before but never this one,” said Henry. “This is a completely different nature of a rally, tight and technical, but great stages.

“Cathan was pushing us on all day so we are delighted to win it.”

Vivian Hamill completed the top three in his Mini WRC, 36.3 seconds off Henry’s winning pace. Hamill suffered some issues with the paddeshift system on his first outing in the Mini.

Mark Donnelly, who was returning from an extended break from rallying, had held third after Fivemiletown’s opening stage. The 2014 Fivemiletown winner lost second to Hamill on Stage 2 and dropped down the field to sixth by the end of the day. Still, it was an impressive result for Donnelly who admitted it was taking a bit longer than he hoped to get used to his new Fiesta.

Conor McCourt and Jason Mitchell completed Fivemiletown’s top five with the latter reckoning he was being too cautious at the start of the event.

Gareth Mimnagh lost the guts of two minutes on the start-line of Fivemiletown’s opening stage. He finished within the top four of the remaining stages, ending the rally with a fastest time on Crocknagrolly.

His incredible fightback resulted in finishing seventh overall but he will be left wondering what could have been as he only lost 13 seconds to rally-winner Henry after his Stage 1 disaster.

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Michael Carbin and Conor Mohan were doing some giant killing early on, sitting fourth overall after Stage 3 in their Mitsubishi. Unfortunately they were to only make it through one more stage.

Instead, it was Derek Mackarel who claimed Group N honours in his Evo. The Class 8 pilot was rarely outside the top ten times overall as he finally got a solid finish under his belt in the four-wheel-drive car, ending his run of misfortune.

Two-wheel-drive had been controlled for most of the rally by Lithuania’s Martynas Samsonas. The BMW M3 driver was seventh overall after Stage 6 but he retired with driveshaft failure on the next test.

Last year’s Bushwhacker class winner, David Crossen, picked up the two-wheel-drive lead with three stages to go. In the end, the Class 6 Ford Escort driver finished tenth overall, over a minute ahead of his nearest two-wheel-drive challenger Adrian Hetherington.

Shane McGirr had been Samsonas’s closest two-wheel-drive rival before losing over a minute on the second pass of Doon when he rolled his Toyota Starlet. Still, he managed to make the finish, settling two-wheel-drive’s final podium position.

“The spectators managed to get us back onto our wheels,” commented McGirr. “So we just bulled on and to be honest she doesn’t look that much worse than she did this morning.”

2022 Fivemiletown Rally results

1 Desi Henry – Paddy Robinson (Ford Fiesta Rally2) // 33:40.7s
2 Cathan McCourt – Liam Moynihan (Ford Fiesta S2000 Turbo) // +18.9s

3 Vivian Hamill – Lorcan Moore (Mini WRC) // +36.3
4 Conor McCourt – Caolan McKenna (Skoda Fabia) // +50.1

5 Jason Mitchell – Paddy McCrudden (Fiesta Rally2) // +1:03.8
6 Mark Donnelly – Stephen O’Hanlon (Fiesta) // +1:25.7

7 Gareth Mimnagh – J Barry McCarney (Fiesta R5) // +2:04.7
8 Niall Henry – Barney Mitchell (Fiesta Rally2) // +2:23.0

9 Derek Mackarel – Thomas Wedlock (Mitsubishi Evo) // +2:42.6
10 David Crossen – Aileen Kelly (Ford Escort Mk2) // +2:49.8

Photos by David Harrigan and Mark McCullagh. Interviews by Kevin Glendinning

Adam Hall

Brought up in the Irish countryside, Adam was never far away from the world of rallying. From following local events like the Circuit of Ireland and the Ulster Rally, Adam now puts the stories from stages all around the world into words through his website Rally Insight.

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