Report by P.J. Winters as published in Rallyboy April 1968.
Omagh Motor Club’s Pre-Circuit Rally attracted an entry of 40 cars, 10 of which were in the Experts class, 8 in Semi-Experts, and the remainder in the Novice Class. Unfortunately, four were unable to take their place at the start.
The format of the event deviated slightly from the usual thing we have been accustomed to in closed, club rallies. The idea behind this was to give intending Circuit of Ireland competitors some chance to re-familiarise themselves with the “Tulip” type navigation which they will meet on the Circuit’. The other factor which the organisers had in mind when laying out the course was the fact that the bulk of their entries were in the Novice class, and so the rally was entirely of a non-damaging nature.
The first 60 miles of the rally gave very few crews any trouble and reminded many of them of the joys of rallying once again after a lay-off of five months.
After re-fuelling at Eakin’s Garage, the crews set out on the final stage of the rally which provided the interesting part of the event. The roads were now slightly greasy after some drizzle and some crews were experiencing handling difficulties with their cars. John Preston, navigated by Bill Saulters, were seen in their B.M.C. Cooper “on their roof” at one point, but despite this they managed to only drop ten minutes.
There was a rather interesting jump at 5/659½ 675, and also on the same stretch of road where the rough joined the tar at 5/665 672. One driver hit this latter jump so fast that his totally unprepared navigator almost lost his set of teeth, as well as having a clearing of his sinus on landing.
To nobody’s surprise, only Ronnie McCartney and Mike Hart were without penalty at the end of the rally.
The hard luck story from the event concerns Robin Lyons and Ian Turkington, who accidentally clocked in at the final control two minutes early after an otherwise penalty-free run. They picked up 30 penalty marks and scuppered their night.
John Eakin and Peter Johnston in their 1098cc B.M.C. Cooper, which they will use on the Circuit of Ireland, had to retire close to the end with suspected drive-coupling problems, but this turned out to be nothing more than a wheel not fully tightened. They handed in their time cards and were classified as finishers having covered more than two-thirds of the total route.
There were nine non-finishers, two from the semi-expert class, and unfortunately seven of the Novices did not complete the event. The provisional results were announced very quickly at the finish at Altmore House Hotel, Cappagh.
1st Overall – Ronnie McCartney/Mike Hart (0 marks lost)
Class 1 (Experts):
- Harry Cathcart/Geoffrey Morrison and Ronnie White/Harold Hagan (2 marks lost)
Class 2 (Semi-Experts):
- Milton Thom/Alistair McConnell (11 marks lost)
Class 3 (Novices)
- Jimmy Conlon/Ian Winters (1 mark lost)
- Hugo McDaid/Liam Sheerin (6 marks lost)
- Jan Sloan/Dary Atkinson (7 marks lost)