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Norn Iron Rally 2008

This was the first staging of this 10 hour rally, organised by IBA Ireland. It took place on Sunday 31st August, starting and finishing at Ballymena Fire Station. It was single-handedly planned and organised by Chris McGaffin, an Iron Butt veteran and previous rallymaster of the inaugural Brit Butt rally.


There were only around a dozen entrants who turned up before 8am to be greeted with a talk about the rules and an envelope with the control points book, a control card and a map showing the approximate location of the controls. We had to be back by 5pm not to incur penalties, and by 6pm to avoid disqualification. At 8 o'clock we opened our envelopes and set about planning our routes - conscious that the clock was already running. I recognised a few of the controls from doing the Photo Rally but most were unknown and I spent about 20 minutes working out a rough route which involved a circuit of Donegal with a variety of finish options before departing for my first stop in Coleraine.


By the third control I was already changing my plan, after working out that I was going to miss a ferry by a couple of minutes and realising that as I had no euros and no cards after losing (or thinking I had lost!) my wallet the day before, I couldn't afford to spend more than 200 miles in Donegal before getting back to Northern Ireland! The weather was also pretty bad as I crossed the mountains and I had a couple of slides from the combination of wet roads, poor surface and pretty worn rear tyre (by the time I got home it had done over 12k and was rather slick-like). But some of the views were brilliant - Donegal felt very much like a smaller version of Scotland and I really enjoyed the roads, especially the track up to Horns Head, and there were some very evocative names - Poison Glen for a start!


Chris had also built in a few bonus options - one was to get an extra 1000 points by getting two controls, one near Enniskillen and the other near Ballycastle - but he would be at the second one for only an hour between 3 and 4pm. As I left the first one at 2.15pm I reckoned I just had time to cover the 90 miles but then coud not find a petrol station - when I did it was a busy Spar which insisted on you paying before filling up and I ended up losing 20 minutes. After a mad dash along backroads for another half an hour I realised I was not going to reach Chris in time and turned off to Cookstown to claim a few fire stations on the way back.


As I got towards the finish I had 40 minutes to go before 5pm and worked out that I just had time to claim two more controls near Stranocum which was about 15 miles north of Ballymena. I decided to go for it as I had seen both the controls on a ride out from Ballymena to the coast the day before. The 40 miles in 40 minutes became a little more concerning as my fuel light came on with 34 miles still to go and it became a race to see if I would finish in time, finish late, or run out of fuel before I got there. In the event I finished with one minute to spare, and later found I had won by more than the 1000 points I had gained by getting those two controls! In the whole day I only stopped the bike tice for petrol and at some of the controls, and finished having eaten half a Snickers and drank a bottle of Gatorade. We were greeted with tea, stew and rolls at the finish.


Half an hour later I was on the road again to get the ferry from Larne to Stranraer, eventually arriving at my dad's house in Cheshire at 2.30 the following morning, before leaving at 7.30 to get to school in time for the start of the Autumn term. (I did pick up one RBR LM at Mow Cop on the way!).


My final route was:


Mountsandel fort 489pts


AA Plaque Downhill 1002pts


Sculptures Strabane 1301pts


Horn Head Donegal 1600pts


Dunlewy church Donegal 600pts


Giant Lobster Burtonport 1605pts


Black pig Fintown Donegal 800 pts


Thatched coffee  shop Beleek 1216 pts


Bishops stone Kiladeas 1460 pts


Omagh Fire station 333pts


Cookstown fire station 406 pts


Ardboe cross Ardboe 744 pts


Glenshesk round tower Glenshesk 665 pts


Dark Hedges Ballymoney 301 pts

Fuel bonus 2000 pts.


It was a great day's riding and Chris did a brilliant job running the event, plus we raised £180 for charity.