1968 Larne Autocross

Photo: Esler Crawford
Dessie McCartney in his "Bucket" set Fastest Time of the Day at Larne.

This report is reproduced from Motorweek 28th June 1968.
Report and Photos by Esler Crawford.

Surprise Comeback by Ian Woodside.

IAN WOODSIDE, the elder of the two well-known Ballynure brothers, made a successful comeback to competitive motorsport at the weekend with a convincing win in Larne Motor Club’s Newtownabbey autocross.

For nearly three years Ian Woodside, a former Circuit of Ireland winner, has been in virtual retirement but was still able to take the main award in his M.G. Midget.

However, Bangor man Desmond McCartney had bad luck for after setting up the fastest time of the day the engine of his Mini Sports Special (nicknamed the “Bucket”) stalled in the final run and put him completely out of the running.

Heavy rain left the 950 yard course at Church Road, Newtownabbey in a damp state and as the cars came out for the timed runs after practice, the surface was like a skating rink, putting delicate throttle control and a good set of “knobbly” tyres at an absolute premium.


But as the afternoon went on, things dried out a little and speeds began to go up and the antics of the cars became more spectacular.

First to sample the conditions were the front-whee1-drive saloons up to 900 c.c., a class composed entirely of Minis. Victory went to the very nippy example of Crawford Leitch with a -time of 2 minutes 48.2 seconds, nearly 1.1 seconds better than second man Charlie Millar. As this was only Leitch’s second attempt at competitive events, it was a doubly commendable effort.

There was fierce competition in the next class which contained no less than 14 very evenly matched 1275 Cooper Ss plus a few 998 Coopers. Eventually the class went to the full race version of Rob Pollock despite apparent trouble getting “on to the cam” coming out of the hairpin bend.


Pollock’s time of 2m 42.0s was a second faster than fellow O»l1L3;g4h man Ronnie McCartney‘s rather heavier rally-equipped Cooper, while the “wee man” from Moy, Ronnie White, was third on 2m 44.2s.

Indicative of the hot pace in this class was the fact that reigning Northern Ireland autocross champion Adrian Boyd could only finish fifth.

In such slippery conditions the rear-engined cars fare comparatively badly, not through lack of traction but more to lack of steering control of the lightly laden front end. Thus Paddy Speer‘s time of 2m 49.0s in winning the small rear-engined class with his very neatly driven Sunbeam Stiletto was a very good effort and way ahead of any of this Imp driving classmates. Indeed it was 0.8 better than Jackie Murray’s winning time in the large rear-engined class which was a VW benefit. Bob Curran took a good class second with his well-used VW 1200 but five-times Ulster Rally champion Robert McBurney simply could not get the power of his Porsche-engined VW on to the track and was well down the finishing order.

By the time the sports cars and specials came out to do battle the track had dried out considerably and Dessie McCartney simply threw his “Bucket” round the course to set the best time to that point and win the class with 2m 36.0s. However, Ian Woodside, probably still the neatest driver in Ireland despite his long lay-off, was not put off by this and promptly set the second best time in 2m 38.6s.

Finally the front-engined rear-wheel-drive saloons showed their paces and after a very close contest the class went to Gordon McBurney‘s venerable Ford Prefect which, under its sober exterior, sports a Cortina G.T. power unit.

Gordon’s time of 2m 48.0s was just 0.6 better than Derek Boyd in the ex-Ernie McMillan Fond Cortina Lotus while Dennis McKeag, after a really out-of-luck day, could only manage a third in class at, the wheel of Tommy Murphy’s G.T.

For the final, the qualifiers were Dessie McCartney (2m 25s), Rob Pollock (2m 33s), Ian Woodside (2m 34.6s) and Ronnie White (2m 35.8s) and as they set off in the final in this order it looked as though McCartney was home and dry.

But first car to come through the start/finish area, in a 70 mph slide, was Pollock’s Cooper, hotly pursued by Woodside’s Midget, while McCartney and White were way back.

McCartney had spun off at the top corner and stalled the engine and his light-weight racing battery could not turn the engine over. White had also spun.

Woodside just got the verdict by 0.6 second and was presented with the Hart Trophy by its donor, Councillor Robert Hart, Chairman of Newtownabbey Urban District Council.

Esler Crawford.

Fastest time of the day – D. McCartney 2m. 25.05.

General Classification

  1. I. Woodside (1275 M.G.Midget) 2 m.27.0s;
  2. R. Pollock (1293 Cooper S) 2m.27.6s.;
  3. R. White (1293 Cooper S) 3m.03.0s;

Class 2 — Front wheel drive up to 900 c.c.

  1. C. Leitch (848 Mini) 2m.48.2s;
  2. C. Millar (848 Mini) 2m.59.0s;
  3. T. Fleming (848 Mini) 3m.00.2s.

Class 3 — Front wheel drive over 900 c.c.

  1. R. Pollock (1293 Cooper S) 2m.42.0s;
  2. R. J. McCartney (1275 Cooper S) 2m.43.0s;
  3. R. White (1293 Cooper S) 2m.44.2s.

Class 4 — Rear-engined up to 1000 c.c.

  1. P. Speer (Sunbeam Stiletto) 2m.49.0s.;
  2. I. McClean (Imp) 3m. 03.0s.;
  3. D. J. McCullough (Imp)) 3m.06.0s.

Class 5 — Rear-engined over 1000 c.c.

  1. J. Murray (VW 1500) 2m.49.8s;
  2. R. Curran (1295 VW) 2m.52.0s;
  3. J. R. McSpadden (VW 1500) 2m.57.2s.

Class 6 — Sports Cars and Specials

  1. D. McCartney (1275 Mini Sports Special) 2m.36.0s.;
  2. I. Woosdside (1275 M.G.Midget) 2m.38.6s.;
  3. K. G. Carson (1500 M.G. Midget) 2m.49.0s.

Class 7 — Front-engine r.w.d. Saloons

  1. G. McBurney (1500 Ford Prefect) 2m.48.0s;
  2. D. D. Boyd (Cortina Lotus) 2m.48.6s;
  3. D. McKeag (Cortina G.T.) 2m.59.0s.