1963 Larne Starlight

Reggie McSpadden and John Armstrong in their Volkswagen 1500S tackle the special stage at Carnearney Forest.

This report is reproduced from Autosport Magazine 27 December 1963.
Report by Beatty Crawford.


Reggie McSpadden, in a Volkswagen 1500S, navigated by John Armstrong, won the tough 265-mile Starlight Rally by 1.2 marks from Maurice Acheson/Jack Long (Mini-Cooper S), who in turn were 4 marks in front of John Eakin/Michael Hart in their Austin-Healey Sprite. Robert McBurney/Ian Turkington in their Okrasa VW 1500 Beetle had the misfortune to miss the final Control when in the lead and were relegated to sixth place.

Terry Harryman and Donald Grieve, joint Clerks of the Course, started work seven months ago on this event and this was obviously justified, the Starlight being the best rally of the year without doubt. For the first time on any Ulster rally the Express and Star system of time cards with standard time was employed. Other firsts included the fail system and a pre-start handout of the route. Navigators were especially pleased with this, finding it quite a change from the hectic on-the-spot navigating.

A disappointing entry of just 37 cars arrived for the start at Woodburne House, Dunmurry; one notable non-starter was Ian Woodside who, fighting for the lead of the 1963 Ulster Rally Championship, couldn’t compete due to family illness. His navigator, Esler Crawford, thumbed a lift with Adrian Boyd and Beatty Crawford in their Sunbeam Rapier.

From Woodburne House drivers left to do four driving tests on a short 30-mile route, three hours being allowed to get to Control 1, sited at a Regent Service Station just outside Toome (why Larne Motor Club insisted on driving tests on an event like this is a mystery). Robert McBurney lost no marks on these, the marking system being of the “class-fastest-losing-no-marks” type. Ronnie McCartney/Frank Main (1098cc Mini-Cooper) were next best, losing 1.8, while Ronnie and Doris White (Sebring Sprite) were third with 2 marks lost.

From Control 1, where the Milk Marketing Board had provided hot soup etc., the route proper led north around Lough Beg; the first 8 points were easily on although McCartney/Main dropped a minute at No. 4. At Control 8 Adrian Boyd discovered a hole in his fuel tank and dropped 3 minutes trying to effect a repair with Cataloy loaned by Robert McBurney. From here the route headed to a Tulip card section through Glenshane Forest, This was still at a 30 mph average and the only difference from a special stage was that it was timed to the minute rather than to the second. Boyd/Crawford dropped 3 mins when they wrong-slotted.

Another forestry section at Moydamlaght had to he attempted next, the average being only 27.7 m.p.h. for insurance purposes; this was also easily “on”. Adrian Boyd set up the best time of 9 mins. 13 secs., followed by McBurney with 9 mins. 31 secs, and Reggie McSpadden 9 mins. 35 secs. Many people were too exuberant here, Ronnie McCartney having to retire when his front suspension hit a tree stump, Charles Eyre-Maunsell/Alec Spence hit a wall in their Sunbeam Alpine, the passenger door being very extensively modified; they continued unabated, however after temporary repairs. George Windrum went “off” in a big way, wasn’t too badly damaged but decided to retire.

Ken Shields prepares to tackle a forest special stage in his VX4/90.

At Control 32 petrol was available, and for that matter so was chewing gum – Esler Crawford bought 12 packets to try to mend the petrol leak. At this stage the leaders on the road were Maurice Acheson/Jack Long (Mini-Cooper S) who had dropped only 1 mark, followed by Cecil Molyneaux/Hal Patton in another S-type Mini, a further mark down, while Ken Shields/Norman Henderson (Vauxhall VX4/90) and Robin Steenson/Ian Turkington (Saab) had both lost 5 marks.

From here the route led to a special stage at Davagh via the maze of well-used roads around Crocknamobile and Owenreagh mountains. Twenty-two minutes were allowed for this 11-mile section and this was easily “on”, best time going to Robert Woodside/Brian McMeekin (1295cc Volkswagen) in 17 mins. 59 secs., followed by Adrian Boyd with 18 mins. 11 secs., with younger brother Derek and Bill Beattie next on 18 mins. 59 secs. in their Mini Cooper. By the end of this stage, Adrian’s tank was really gushing petrol and even after getting two gallons from Donald Grieve, plus the offer of more from Noel Smith and Des Bradley, and all of Esler’s chewing gum/Cataloy, he decided to retire. He was at this stage doing about 4 miles to the gallon! Colin Andrew was also in trouble, his battery lead and petrol line having come off, so he and Maurice Johnston decided to cut their losses and went straight to Control 72.

From Control 45 the meat of the event really began, many people getting into trouble at Control 49, the route leading via NE 726 748 1/2, and Control 55 near Capagh, the road at 685 662 not going through but the one at 685 665 being the correct one. From here the route, though rough and tight, was straightforward leading back to Toome where more petrol was available. By this stage John McClean/Robin Bell (Mini Cooper) had retired with lack of bearings, while Ken Shields had lost a bolt from his VX4/90’s front wishbone and was limping home, trying to qualify as a finisher.

All that remained now were a couple of special stages and the run-in to the final Control at Larne. The first of these stages was a two-mile effort at Carnearny and here Robert Woodside was again fastest, although his engine was missing badly; one second behind him came McBurney and McSpadden who tied with 3 mins. 56 secs. These three were the only ones to clean the stage. The next at Tardree was just 1.5-miles and the nearest anyone came to the bogey time of 1 min. 30 secs. was McBurney with 94 secs., Woodside 98, and Ronnie White and Maurice Acheson both on 100. On the run to home, McBurney had the cruel luck of missing the final Control, while Charles Eyre-Maunsell holed his radiator and drove the final 12 miles to Larne without any water.

Norman Thompson and wife Isobel were runners up in their class on the 1963 Starlight Rally.

Only 17 of the starters clocked in at the King’s Arms Hotel, Larne, where an excellent meal was available at a very reasonable price. Here Reggie McSpadden was announced as the winner, while the best navigator was Jack Long – Maurice Acheson’s navigator.

Beatty Crawford.

Larne Starlight Rally December 1963

  1. R.McSpadden/J.Armstrong (VW1500S) 48.2 marks;
  2. M.Acheson/J.Long (Mini-Cooper S) 49.4;
  3. J.Eakin/M.Hart (A-Healey Sprite) 53.4;
  4. C.Molyneaux/H.Patton (Mini-Cooper S) 66.4;
  5. R.Steenson/D.Turkington (Saab) 73.4;
  6. R.McBurney/I.Turkington (VW) 1 fail, 45.0.

1963 Ulster Rally Championship: Ronnie White became Ulster Rally Champion as Ian Woodside was a non-starter on the Starlight. Woodside took second place with 52 points, 9 behind White, while John Eakin was third, one point behind Woodside.