1966 Regent Oil Starlight Rally
This article is reproduced from Wheel Magazine January/February 1967 Report and photos by Esler Crawford
On the evening of December 9th, 80 crews out of a record entry of 89 assembled at the Saintfield Road Service Station, for the start of the 11th Larne Motor Club organised Starlight Rally, and which for the third successive year was being sponsored by the Regent Oil Company.
Notable non-starters included Ronnie McCartney (due to family illness), Peter McConnell (car not ready) and Alec Poole (engaged with the opening of the new Hopkirk “goodies” shop in Dublin. In the pouring rain, and after receiving the good wishes of Regent’s “lively one”, the cavalcade was led off on the 300-mile journey by last year’s winners, Adrian Boyd/Beatty Crawford (Cortina G.T.). All eyes, however, were on the Ulster Rally Championship contenders, Noel Smith/Ricky Foott (Cooper S) and Robert McBurney/Harry Johnston (VW-Porsche) who were numbers 2 and 3.
A 35-mile run-in down the M1 led to the start of the first section of the rally at Laghey Corner, just outside Dungannon, but already Neville Johnston’s Toyota 1600s got just as far as the Lisburn Roundabout before succumbing to partial engine seizure. The first section consisted of 2.5 hours of navigation divided into half-hour sections defined by passage controls and timed by the “Targa System”. On this system, each time control marshal sets his watch back by the number of minutes allowed from the start, so that a car running on time should receive the same time at every control.
This was the first time the system was used on a Restricted Rally and it was a great success, with none of the worries connected with “sealed watches”, and not one complaint about the accuracy of timing which has always been one of the drawbacks about timing by marshal’s watches.
The first half-hour used some of the juiciest lanes south of Dungannon and ended near Greystones, with best efforts at cleaning it being by Dessie McCartney/Terry Harryman, Boyd/Crawford, McBurney/Johnston and Smith/Foott – these people were all two minutes down. Immediately after this, Noel Smith slid off irretrievably and thus handed the U.R.C. to McBurney on a plate (provided the latter finished).
Also near here, the heavy rain had flooded the Dungannon-Aughnacloy road and Peter Johnston/Austin Frazer and Brian Boyd/Peter Thompson both lost a lot of time drying out their Coopers’ ignition systems. This section, which headed North via Parkanaur and Galbally to TC3 at Glenbeg, was cleaned by McCartney and McBurney while Crawford Harkness/Roy Davis (Saab) and Jack Bingham/Donald Grieve (1600 TL Beetle) somehow found themselves well off course in Cappagh and the last-named decided to go home at this juncture.
The third half-hour continued North past Pomeroy, including the rugged Mebuoy Lane near Lough Bracken, and finished near Camlough and again only the two “flying Macs” were clean. Adrian Boyd went off the road at 5/726749½, (a spot well known to Robert McBurney from the same rally two years ago) and dropped a passage control to get back on time.
The next half-hour section saw the route swinging West towards Omagh and included the seldom-used lanes at 5/638730 and 5/646730 (which were arrowed). These, coupled with heavy fog, extracted a loss of three minutes from McCartney, with Peter Johnston dropping five, while McBurney probably lost the rally when he dropped eight with the Porsche-wagen running on three cylinders due to blocked jets.
The last half-hour section finished in Omagh and was cleaned by a relatively large number of cars. Mick Dolan/Paddy McGuire (Cortina GT), who had engine trouble, were among those who never reached the welcoming crowd at the Campsie Road Service Station where a 50-minute break was given for much-needed refuelling of cars and crews. At this stage, McCartney/Harryman were leading from McBurney/Johnston with a loss of five minutes against ten.
From Omagh there followed a one-hour section which went through Gortin Gap, explored all the loose whites in the Barnes Gap area and traversed in the opposite direction the Mount Hamilton-Doraville Lodge special stage from last year’s Circuit of Ireland. The section finished at Davagh Forest which was the first special stage of the rally.
Again there was fog on this section and McCartney, who was quickest, dropped three minutes, McBurney dropping four, John Gale/Peter Cullen and Ronnie White/Harold Hagan were both on nine. Adrian Boyd, John McClean/Hal Patton and Norman Thompson/Norman Henderson were all on ten marks lost.
The Davagh stage was 11.5 miles long and the fog made times rather slow while a number of people got too enthusiastic and went off the road, fortunately without any personal injury. One of these was stage marshal Stanley Robinson (Brother of Clerk-of-the-Course Frank!) who managed to put his Triumph 2000 well into the trees.
- A. Boyd (Cortina GT) 19m 30s;
- D.McCartney (Cooper S) 19m 45s;
- R.McBurney (VW-Porsche) 19m 45s;
- D.Carnegie (Cooper S) 19m 45s;
- R.White (Cooper S) 20m 30s;
- N.Thompson (Imp) 20m 30s.
Another sensation occurred here when the Stewards refused to allow six crews to continue due to having the wrong type of crash helmets. These had been through scrutiny at the start, but there was obviously some “tomfoolery” going on with certain people appearing a number of times with different hats. While we can sympathise with the feelings of those who were thus put out, they can have no real excuse for the regulations in question has been applicable for the past two seasons.
The 8.3-mile Banagher stage followed and this saw the demise of Peter Johnston with drive-coupling trouble, while Clive Doherty and Rob Millard also got no further than this. Around this point the leaders were having fan-belt trouble which resulted in a fractured radiator hose, and were seen effecting repairs in Dungiven.
- R.McBurney 11m 26s;
- D.McCartney 12m 12s;
- R.White 12m 29s;
- J.McClean 12m 31s;
- A.Boyd 12m 52s;
- D.Carnegie 12m 54s.
Cam Forest was another 8-miler and this one spoiled Dermot Carnegie’s chances when he was “off” for a long time while Robin Eyre-Maunsell also came to a halt. After Springwell Forest petrol was available in Coleraine before tackling the final stage at Ballycastle. Here John Gale was in big trouble when he went off on a very slippy straight and lost so much time that he had to go straight to the finish. Reggie McSpadden was having some hairy moments in a VW with collapsed suspension.
- D.McCartney 14m 24s;
- A.Boyd 14m 27s;
- R.White 14m 43s;
- McBurney 14m 53s;
- B.Boyd 14m 55s;
- J.Gale 15m 02s.
- R.McBurney 9m 01s;
- R.White 9m 13s;
- D.McCartney 9m 14s;
- A.Boyd 9m 15s;
- J.McClean 9m 36s;
- N.Thompson 10m 17s;
- B.Boyd 10m 17s.
- A.Boyd 6m 13s;
- R.McBurney 6m 25s;
- D.McCartney 6m 42s;
- J.McClean 6m 49s;
- R.White 6m 51s;
- J.Henry (Cooper S) 7m 19s.
On aggregate, Robert McBurney was fastest on the special stages, followed by Adrian Boyd and Dessie McCartney. John McClean was surprisingly slow which may be attributed to the fact that his Cooper was running on studded tyres on a very wet night. Brian Boyd, in a very well used 998cc Cooper, confirmed his good showing on the Night-Owls, and despite calling himself a non-expert, was sixth fastest overall.
All that now remained was a 45-minute navigation section which included two of the Circuit special stages. These were Torr Head and Orra Lodge sections which were joined by Glendun valley. Despite the continuing fog, this section was cleaned by McCartney, McBurney and Boyd, and there were no more marks lost on the final 20-mile run out to the finish in Larne at about 8.00am on the 10th.
Later that daytime results showed McCartney/Harryman to be the narrow victors from McBurney/Johnston, with Ronnie White/Harold Hagan well back in third place, while Brian Boyd/Peter Thompson took the Non-Experts section. The awards were then presented at a very successful dance in the King’s Arms Hotel.
1966 Regent Oil Starlight Rally.
- D.McCartney/T.Harryman (Cooper S) 257.1;
- R.McBurney/H.Johnston (VW-Porsche) 260.0;
- R.White/H.Hagan (Cooper S) 280.1;
- J.McClean/H.Patton (Cooper S) 295.9;
- A.Boyd/B.Crawford (Cortina GT) 298.8;
- N.Thompson/N.Henderson (Rallye Imp) 300.3;
- M.Johnston/G.Morrison (Cooper S) 313.9;
- R.McSpadden/P.Lyster (VW 1300) 347.5;
- D.Carnegie/N.Davin (Cooper S) 398.3;
- H.Crawford/N.Smith (Cortina Lotus) 423.3;
- E.Ferguson/D.Turkington (Cooper) 440.2;
- J.O’Kane/L.Tiernan (Imp) 447.9
- B.Boyd/P.Thompson (Cooper) 292.2;
- R.Murray/B.Dorman (Cortina GT) 300.9;
- A.Hayes/W.Johnston (Cortina GT) 311.5;
- T.Lawther/H.Brown (Cooper S) 328.5;
- R.Lyons/U.Nknown (Imp) 330.2;
- D.Wilson/W.Fulton (Cooper) 338.1.