1968 Driving Test Championship Decider.
This report is reproduced from MOTORWEEK week ending 18 September, 1968.
CREE IS NEW CHAMPION
- Brilliant comeback by Ian Woodside.
Roger Cree, 25 year-old Belfast garage manager, is the new Ulster Driving Test Champion. In last Saturday’s crucial final round of the championship, organised by Larne Motor Club at Carrickfergus, Cree held on to his vital one-point lead over Stewartstown’s reigning champion, Harold Hagan, and all because Ian Woodside won the event.
In order to tie for the championship, Hagan had to win the final round while Cree’s position, unless he was first, would have no improvement on his score as only the best five scores from eight events were to count.
Hagan set about this task with great verve and in the end defeated Cree by a handsome margin, but he had not reckoned on the presence of Ian Woodside.
After two years in retirement from driving tests, Woodside took his M.G. Midget to an absolutely brilliant win and showed he is still one of the Country’s “natural” drivers. Indeed it was a great day for comebacks for, although his “special” was not eligible for the championship, Dr Thompson Glass took second place overall in his famous “Hayrake”, despite a year-long lay-off.
Robert Woodside, Ireland’s “King” of test driving, also has not been seen this season but on Saturday he drove his VW as brilliantly as ever and could well have won the event were it not for a small error on the final test.
Harold Hagan got off to a great start and after the first of the eight tests was leading the field with 23.0 marks lost. Glass was second on 23.6 and Cree third on 23.8 despite running first car through the tests – a most unenviable position. On test two he would have a comparatively poor run while Hagan drew a spontaneous round of applause from the large crowd with a masterful display of driving.
Hardly had the applause died down when Ian Woodside bettered Hagan’s time and it looked like Hagan had more than Cree on his hands, for Woodside was now second and only 0.4 seconds behind. Then Robert Woodside showed his hand with a terrific drive on test 3, but still Hagan held on to his lead.
By test 4, the half-way point, Hagan had lost his lead to Ian Woodside by 0.2 seconds with Thompson Glass still in third and Cree hanging on in fourth, Robert Woodside in fifth and Ronnie McCartney sixth. Then disaster struck Cree on test 5, a tricky three-garage affair, and with a crippling 20 mark penalty he dropped right out of the running. He could now only hope that somebody would prevent Hagan winning the event.
By now there were two people trying to do just that, for, with a brilliant piece of garaging in his Cooper S, Ronnie McCartney had moved up to share first place with Ian Woodside, while Thompson Glass and Robert Woodside were tied in third, and Hagan now down in fifth.
On test 6 the positions changed dramatically again, with Hagan taking fastest time from Robert Woodside, giving them a “tied-for-the-lead” position and Ian Woodside now in third. On test 7, Ian Woodside and Thompson Glass retaliated and were easily fastest to move back into the top two positions ahead of Robert Woodside and Hagan relegated to fourth again.
Only two seconds separated the top five drivers going into the final test, but it was really only desperate for Hagan who had to win to tie the championship with Cree.
Hagan was first to tackle test 8 and he set a time of 26.0 as the benchmark. Robert Woodside was next, but got out of shape at the last pylon and recorded 28.0, putting him behind Hagan overall. Ian Woodside put the matter to bed with a time of 25.0 to win the event and thus crown Cree as the Ulster Diving Test Champion for 1968.
After this, although a bit of an anti-climax, McCartney’s 26.6 gave him fourth on the day, and Glass, at 26.0, slotted in to second place overall.
What a finish to the 1968 season! Roger Cree was a deserving winner of the Hopkirk Trophy, which was presented to him on the spot by Eric Hopkirk on behalf of donor Paddy.
- Ian Woodside (M.G.Midget) 212.2 marks;
- Dr. Thompson Glass (Hayrake Special) 213.6;
- Harold Hagan (M.G.Midget) 215.2;
- Ronnie McCartney (Cooper S) 215.8;
- Robert Woodside (VW1500) 216.4;
- Ron Mullen (Cooper S) 229.8.