Volkswagen wins in Ulster
This report is reproduced from Autosport Magazine, October 18, 1968
ROBERT McBURNEY has won the Ulster Rally Championship five times on the strength of a high degree of reliability coupled with good driving. This year McBurney has been driving better than ever but his VW-Porsche has suffered a succession of breakdowns and out of three championship events there has been a dismal record of three retirements. However, on the night of Friday, October 4, the pattern changed and in the Newry MC’s Frontier Rally McBurney led from start to finish, with Terry Harryman navigating.
Second place was taken by Peter McConnell/Brian Rickerby (Hillman Imp), ahead of the Southern crew of Noel Smith/Ricky Foott in a Mini-Cooper. The only fault in this otherwise excellent rally was that the road sections were a bit too easy and five crews were clean on the road, leaving the result to be decided on the five special stages – and McBurney was fastest on every one.
The 65 starters soon got down to business with the first stage at Narrow Water, two miles from the start in Newry. McBurney soon showed his form by taking fastest time in 3 m 43 s with McConnell close behind followed by Ronnie McCartney’s ex-works Cooper S and Robin Lyons’s ex-McCartney Cooper S. The second stage at Fathom again saw McBurney in the lead with 2 m 45 s, a full l0 secs ahead of Lyons, McCartney and semi-expert John McAlorum’s Cooper S.
The third stage in this group was a new one on Slieve Gullion mountain, which McBurney cleaned in 5 mins dead. Cahal Curley (Lotus Cortina) was next with 5 m 12 s followed by Lyons on 5 m 15 s. McCartney dropped back a bit with a broken brake pipe, but repairs were soon carried out.
Two hours of navigation in the border area of South Armagh followed. This maze of white roads usually extracts a heavy penalty, but with the roads mostly dry the faster cars had little trouble getting to the first petrol halt, near Keady, without loss. However, Charles Maunsell/Alec Spence retired with the front suspension of their Hunter severely deranged following heavy contact with a rock, while Roy McBurney was in all sorts of trouble with his VW-Porsche.
John McClean/Hal Patton never made it out of Slieve Gullion when the drive disappeared on their Cooper. Curley/Frazer were complaining of alternator trouble and Noel Smith was losing fuel, but both got through without loss of time. Not so lucky were Oliver Hadden/Dave Elliot, who dropped 10 mins after a mendacious Tripmaster put them off course, while Charlie O’Rourke/Alec Cheevers lost 5 mins dealing with a puncture and leading semi-experts Sydney Meeke/Bryce Sands were 1 min down.
After refuelling, the ﬁeld had a couple of hours of fun and games in the dreaded region round Deadman’s Hill but with the exception of Curley, who dropped 3 mins, none of the leaders was in trouble. Then, as the route began to wind its torturous way back to Newry, several of the top runners dropped out. McCartney damaged his Cooper very severely when a steering arm broke and the car went end over end, while Derek Boyd was out, though not so spectacularly, when his Lotus broke the crankshaft pulley.
Robin Lyons, who had been going so well, suffered a cruel blow when his Cooper’s clutch gave up. Mervyn Johnston/Beatty Crawford lost 15 mins when a dead short ruined their battery, but a loan from Lyons’ stricken car enabled them to finish.
The timed section finished in Newry and after another petrol halt the survivors headed out to complete the rally with the final two stages at Rostrevor Forest and Mourne Park. Inevitably, McBurney was fastest on Rostrevor with 6 m 36 s and, in an effort to catch second-placed McConnell, Curley was second in 6 m 48 s which pulled back 27 secs on the Imp. On Mourne Park McBurney again demolished the opposition with 7 m 10 s to McConnell’s 7 m 36 s but poor Curley had the dismal luck to break a driveshaft and the maximum penalty incurred dropped him to fifth.
- R. D. G. McBurney/T. A. Harryman (VW-Porsche), 28.5 pens;
- P. G. McConnell/B. Rickerby (Hillman Imp), 39.8;
- N. T. Smith/R. Foote (Mini-Cooper S), 52.0;
- R. White/W. H. Hagan (Mini-Cooper S), 56.0;
- C. B. Curley/A. Frazer (Ford-Lotus Cortina), 57.8;
- C. O’Rourke/A. Cheevers (Mini-Cooper S), 87.7.
- S. Meeke/B. Sands (Ford Anglia GT), 68.7;
- W. J. Ferguson/A. J. Clarke (Ford Escort GT), 79.2;
- B. Reid/P. Long (Sunbeam Imp Sport), 82.5.
- T. Haydock/G. Beatty (Hillman Imp), 34.0;
- P. Lavery/D. Johnston (Ford Cortina) and R. Elwood/M. Watters (VW 1500), 52.0.