1969 Larne August Autocross

Photo: Beatty Crawford
Ronnie White receives the Wills Trophy from Mr Jack Mawhinney, N.I. Sales Manager, W.D & H.O. Wills.

This article is reproduced from Motorweek 16 August 1969.
Report and Pictures by Beatty Crawford


Mechanical bothers plague favourites in Larne M.C.’s event

Ronnie White gained a well deserved, but rather surprising, victory last Saturday in the Wills Trophy Autocross at Newtownabbey at the wheel of his 1310 cc Cooper ‘S’. Not only did he win the W. D. & H. O. Wills sponsored event but, in desperate competition, he gained maximum points for the Ulster Autocross Championship.

This event was the seventh qualifier for the championship. Second to White in the Wills competition was Andrew Irwin and in the Autocross Championship John Jones, both in 1275cc Cooper ‘S’s. The feature of the day was the high rate of mechanical trouble among the fancied runners.

The Larne Motor Club had slightly modified their now well-known course at Church Rd., Newtownabbey. They had added another loop at the top end of the course in an effort to slow down the cars, and there was a tricky ‘S’ bend coming out of this new section leading into the fast downhill straight. Another change was the position of the start-finish line which was on the uphill straight instead of the downhill one.

One of the early departures was John Jones in his 999cc Cooper, parked on top of a bank.

As mentioned above there were two different competitions taking place. The first was for the usual Ulster Autocross Championship and this consisted of 2 heats of 4 laps, the best heat time to count. These times also counted for the class awards. The second consisted of another heat of 4 laps with the twelve fastest drivers competing. The winner of this received the Wills trophy.

With cash awards and championship points at stake it was obvious that the pace over the very dusty ultra fast course would be more fierce than ever. However few people could have foreseen the dramatic events which were to take place.


Peter Shannon takes his 998cc Mini Van round in fine style.

These started in the first practice laps when, with brother Roy at the wheel, the stub axle broke on Robert McBurney’s Beach Buggy. Robert was able to repair the Buggy in time for the timed heats, thanks to Bob Curran who loaned him the stub axle from his own car.

Next Des McCartney, just out of bed with a bad cold, stopped after only half a lap practising. However this turned out to be due to minor mechanical trouble so again he set out to try and qualify. After another 1/2 lap he sustained a puncture. Eventually he was able to complete the two full laps to qualify.

When the first timed heats started there was more drama. John Jones, who had brought with him both his 999cc and 1275cc Cooper, was competing in the first heat of the under 1,000 cc class when his steering locked in a similar manner to that at Claudy, despite changing the steering rack since then. He went straight up on top of a 6-foot bank. Luckily he was unhurt but the car was too badly damaged to continue.


Dessie Boyd continued the excitement when he flipped his Mini and rolled it into a pancake. Amazingly he escaped injury but surely it is time that all competition mini drivers were forced to have roll over bars installed!

Noel Greenaway indulges in a spot of “jumping” in his 1275cc Cooper S.

On the first runs in this class, Ron Mullen (998 cc Cooper) set the pace with a time of 3 mins 13.4 secs and he was closely followed by Will Farren with 3 mins 14.6 secs and Peter Thompson, 3 mins 16.9 secs, both in Coopers.

On the second run Mullen’s Cooper expired with electrical trouble but despite this he was class winner as Farren burst a tyre and Thompson could only improve to 3 mins 14.8 secs. George Windrum retired with a broken oil filter.

Class 2 for cars 1,000 to 1,3000 cc‘s was next and Ronnie McCartney started off a day of bad luck for he and brother Des when the gear lever remote control extension broke on his first run. Des also retired on his first run so Rob Pollock et al changed the remote control from Desmond’s car to Ronnie‘s between the first two runs.

This transfer took less than an hour. It doesn‘t sound a big job until it is realised that it entails removing both engines!

All this work was of no avail since exactly the same thing happened on his second run. Ronnie was really flying low and despite the failure occurring 250 yards from the finish he was able to struggle over the line recording an amazing time of 3 mins 12.8 secs which was enough for 3rd place in the class.

The well-driven Volvo of Brian Falloon comes up to pass the 1498cc Anglia of B. McBride.

John Jones, fully recovered from his prang, really made the dust fly and recorded a great time of 3 mins 01.0 secs to give him the class win, seconds ahead of Andrew Irwin in a 1275 cc Cooper ‘S’.

Cars over 1,300 cc were next to the starting line and it was obvious that Ronnie White meant business as on his first run he recorded 3 mins 01.1 secs. However he was penalised 15 seconds for cutting three course marker flags. On his second run he made no mistakes and lowered his time to 2 mins 56.2 secs which is over a 60 mph average.

He was well ahead of anyone else in the class the nearest being Gordon McBurney (T.C. Escort) with 3 mins 13.8 seconds and Ken Carson in the Ford-engined Midget on 3 mins 14.8 seconds.


All eyes were now on the specials class For the battle between Des McCartney in the Scoop and Robert McBurney. However, this didn’t materialise as with only half a lap completed the link pin in the Scoop’s bottom wishbone broke. At the same time, second gear stopped functioning. McBurney’s car was mysteriously down on power and his best time of 3 mins 07.0 secs, although good enough for a class win, was well behind the leaders’ times.

The McBurney Equipe made it a grand slam in this class as brother Roy and brother-in-law Brian Rowan took second and third places in the class in the Buggy with times of 3mins. 14.3 seconds and 3 mins 21.4 seconds respectively.

Gordon McBurney trying hard in the Escort T.C. of J. A. Donnelly.

With the championship runs completed, the top twelve drivers assembled to do battle for the Wills Trophy. This was obviously going to be a fight between White and Jones. The latter didn’t get far on this run and his succession of bad luck continued when a front wheel came off while he was doing 65 mph. Luckily he ground to a three-wheeled halt without further damage. The runaway wheel careered across the course before hitting one of the sponsor‘s cars (that‘s gratitude). Fortunately by this time it had slowed down and didn’t cause much damage.

White didn’t slow down and he went on to record a time of 2 mins 55.2 seconds. Andrew Irwin also speeded up and clocked 3.05.5 to gain second place and Ron Mullen with 3 mins 09.0 seconds was good enough for 3rd, just 3 seconds ahead of Peter Thompson. McBurney’s car was going even slower and this, plus hitting a flag, left him well down the field.

Ken Carson’s M.G. Ford Midget kicks up a wheel.

With the presentation of the Wills Trophy to Ronnie White by Mr. Jack Mawhinney of W. D. & H. O. Wills, so ended another good event.

W.D.& H.O. Wills Trophy:

  1. R. White (1310 Cooper‘S’) 2 mins 52.2 secs;
  2. A. Irwin (1275 Cooper ‘S’) 3 mins 05.5 ;
  3. R. Mullen (999 Cooper) 3.09.0;
  4. P. Thompson (999 Cooper) 3.11.9;
  5. D.Boyd (1275 Cooper ‘S’) 3.14.3;
  6. R. McBurney (Beach Buggy) 3.16.8.

Ulster Autocross Championship:

  1. R. White 2 mins 56.2 secs;
  2. J. D. Jones (1275 Cooper) 3-01.0;
  3. R. G. McBurney (Beach Buggy) 3-07.0;
  4. A. Irwin (1275 Cooper ‘S’) 3-10.1;
  5. R. J. McCartney (1275 Cooper ‘S’) 3-12.8;
  6. R. Mullen (998 Cooper) 3-13.9;
  7. G. McBurney McBurney (Escort T.C.) 3-13.8;
  8. Roy McBurney (Beach Buggy) 3-14.3;
  9. R. Nesbitt (1275 Cooper ‘S’) 3-14.5;
  10. W. Farren (998 Cooper) 3-14.6;
  11. P. Thompson (998 Cooper) 3-14.8
  12. K. Carson (1498 Midget) 3-14.8.

Class 1 (Cars under 1,000 cc)

  1. R. Mullen
  2. W. Farren
  3. P. Thompson

Class 2 (Cars 1001 – 1300 cc)

  1. J. D. Jones
  2. A. Irwin
  3. R. J. McCartney

Class 3 (Cars over 1300 cc)

  1. R. White
  2. G. McBurney
  3. K. Carson

Class 4 (Specials)

  1. R. G. McBurney
  2. R. McBurney
  3. B. Rowan.


With only three events, Coleraine M.C., Queens M.C. and Mid- Antrim M.C. promotions, left in the ten series competition for the Autocross Championship, the battle for the lead is really hotting up. The best six performances by each competitor will count and as seven have been already held the top contenders are already dropping their worst event. In fact, each of the top six drivers has scored zero in one round so that their score has not been affected. From now on however, they will have to drop their next worse performance and thus may have the effect of closing up the scores.

The leaders at present are:

  1. Dessie McCartney 53 points;
  2. Ronnie McCartney 44 points;
  3. Ronnie White 42 points;
  4. John Jones 39 points;
  5. John McAlorum 17 points.