1970 Circuit – Autosport

Photo: ECP
Roger Clark opposite-locks the winning Escort-BDA through the Coat Special Stage.

Roger Clark and Escort score a Circuit treble

This report appeared in Autosport magazine on 9 April 1970. Photos, and possibly report as well, by Esler Crawford.

Driving a Group 6 Ford Escort Twin Cam – this was the first time the five-speed ZF gearbox and the new four-valve BDA engine have been used in a competition — Roger Clark and Jim Porter achieved a splendid hat-trick on the Circuit of Ireland over the Easter weekend.

The Goodyear-shod, Castrol-lubricated works Escort was never troubled and, with 180 bhp at his disposal, Clark was able to relax once he had established a big lead, and in fact surprisingly was only fastest on half the 60 special stages. He and Porter won the Circuit in 1968 and 1969, but this year their win was more significant, as for the first time this popular Gallaher-sponsored event was a round of the European Rally Drivers Championship.

As such the Circuit attracted a dozen or so crews and cars from Sweden, but several of these non-started, notably the fast Porsche privateer Jerry Larsson, who was reckoned to be in with a chance of catching Clark, but was competing elsewhere. The best Swede turned out to be Jan Henriksson, who with Lasse Carlstrom in a very quick G2 Open Rallye Kadett finished in third place after a fast if rather wild drive. Compatriots Lars Jonsson/
Alf Quist were fifth in their Saab 96 V4.

The fifth placed Saab V4 of Lars Jonsson/Alf Quist on the Hamilton’s Folly Special Stage.

One of the surprises of the rally was the performance of Barry Lee of rallycross renown who, with John Coles in his G6 Ford Sport 1822cc Escort, held second place for 85 percent of the event, admittedly a long way behind Clark, until the crankshaft broke on Banagher Forest, the third stage from the end.

Their retirement elevated Chris Sclater/ Peter Valentine, who were never spectacularly quick in their Escort TC but showed the value of consistency and reliability by taking a well earned second piace.

Former Ulster rally champion, Robert McBurney, driving a BMW 2002TI with Norman Smith, made a rather slow start to the rally but recovered well towards the end to put in some fast times and claim fourth overall. Likewise John Bloxham, the current RAC and Castrol/MN champion, put up some quick times on the Monday night with Richard Harper in the first Autoextras BMW 2002TI, and was rewarded with sixth place.

The best-placed BMW was the Robert McBurney/Norman Smith car, which finished in fourth place overall.

A very creditable seventh were Adrian Boyd/Beattie Crawford in their Escort TC, which was definitely one of the quickest things on the rally and was fastest on many of the stages; unfortunately Boyd lost half an hour when he went ‘off’ on SS7, Altanamackin, and in fact he only missed exclusion at the end of the stage by 20 secs! Mike Dolan/John O’Brien in eighth place in their Escort seem to have scooped most of the prizes — novice, private entrants, and the Castle Reid Trophy for the best crew from the Republic of Ireland.

The performance of Tony Fowkes/Peter O’Gorman in netting ninth place is a very remarkable one, for their Lotus Cortina is now very ‘long in the tooth’. The top ten were completed by another Rallye Kadett driven by the Swedes Daniellsson and Johansson.

Jan Henriksson//Lasse Carlstrom trying hard in conditions far removed from their normal experience in the third-placed Opel.

Of the 167 starters, 67 finished, and the tales of woe are many and varied. An early retirement was that of Ronnie White/Harold Hagan, prominent Irish rallyists who started at number 10, but who blew the head gasket on their Cooper S on the second special stage.

Not very much luckier were Ronnie McCartney/Rob Pollock, whose similar Mini broke a driveshaft a stage later. Another Mini to retire was the Will Sparrow/Nigel Raeburn car, while Phil Cooper had a nasty crash on SS18 Rochestown, and navigator Chris Nash was taken to hospital – he was later released with no bones broken. The Mervyn Johnston/Ivan Allen car was the highest placed Mini in 12th place, although they had to change their clutch during the rally.

Noel Smith/Ricky Foott aviate their Wolsley Hornet on the Hamilton;’s Folly Special Stage. They ran as high as fourth place during the event.

One of the finest drives in the event was made by Eire champions Noel Smith/Ricky Foott who occupied fourth overall for two-thirds of the rally until the idler gear broke on their Wolseley Hornet. Brian Boyd was going well in the Mini which was used by his cousin Adrian in last year’s event, navigated by Brian Thompson, and was up in the leading ten when the contact breaker spring broke in the middle of a stage; they borrowed another from one of the unusually large number of spectators who followed the rally, but that one too broke later and they had to retire this time. Another Mini driver, Trevor Noble, managed to finish despite the fact that this rear suspension collapsed at one point.

Of the unlucky Escorts, the reigning Ulster champions Cahal Curley/Austin Frazer had the misfortune to suffer a broken throttle cable on the very first stage, and they lost 20 mins completing the stage with Curley holding the throttle and Frazer driving; later the head gasket broke on the very last stage, and they became perhaps the unluckiest retirement after pulling back that 20 mins very well.

The Escort of Chris Sclater/Peter Valentine which took second place, seen here on the Ardgroom Special Stage.

Bob Bean/Paul Stephens were very well up when gearbox trouble put them out, and Charlie Gunn, who was in a team with Clark and Adrian Boyd, dropped out with ‘run’ bearings. John Heppenstall/Hywel Thomas failed to finish, and so did Fan Harwood who had cylinder head trouble and retired early despite borrowing another from a local.

Of the foremost BMWs, the Roy Fiddler/Barry Hughes Autoextras car was quite fast but not spectacularly so, and eventually lost its gear linkage on the Sunday night. Anders Kullang/D. Karlsson from Sweden were going quickly until they had piston trouble on Ardgroom, and at last retired early on Sunday morning; Reggie McSpadden/Donald Grieve also dropped out with engine bothers in their 2002.

Mervyn Johnston and Ivan Allen brought their privately entered Cooper S into 12th place overall.

Renault R8 Gordini exponents Pat Fay/Frank O’Donoghue went out when they crashed into a non-competing car and Fay injured his knee. Robin Eyre-Maunsell/Norman Henderson rolled their fast ex-works Imp
early on Saturday.

Two interesting class winners were the Sprite of Ken Shields/P. Lyster, which lost its clutch on the first day, and the MGB of Eakin/Beatty, which eventually finished 65th after they realised that every other car in the class had retired and eased off.

Gallaher Circuit of Ireland Rally
March 26 to 30 1970
European Rally Championship (Drivers), round 3

  1. R. Clark/J, Porter (Ford Escort TC), 566.5 pens;
  2. C. Sclater/P. Valentine (Ford Escort TC), 723.7:
  3. J. Henriksson/L. E. Carlstrom (Opel Rallye Kadett), 741.6;
  4. R. D. G. McBurney/N. Smith (BMW 2002), 786.71;
  5. L. Jonsson/A. Quist (Saab 96), 830.9:
  6. J. Bloxham/R. Harper (BMW 2002TI), 837.5;
  7. A. J. L. Boyd/D. B. Crawford (Ford Escort TC), 878.5;
  8. M, B. Dolan/J, O’Brien (Ford Escort TC), 890.0;
  9. A. R. Fowkes/P. O’Gorman (Ford-Lotus Cortina), 896.3;
  10. B. Daniellsson/S. E. Johansson (Opel Rallye Kadett), 93235;
  11. O. Syren/S. 0. Larsson_ (BMW 2002), 953.8;
  12. M. Johnston/I. Allen (Mini-Cooper S), 957.7;
  13. D. S. F. Thompson/M. Isley (Vauxhall Viva GT), 991.2;
  14. M. Ridout/R. Colley (Ford Escort TC), 995.4;
  15. G. O’Gorman/R. P. Conway (Ford Escort TC), 1009.3;
  16. J. McCosh/S. Broadhead (Ford Escort TC). 1023.1;
  17. H. Cathcart/G. Morrison (Mini-Cooper S), 1036.9;
  18. W. A. Poole/K. Johnston (Mini-Cooper S) 1049.4;
  19. R. Plant/M. Wheabton (Ford Escort GT). 1072.3;
  20. G. Waugh/P. Handy (Mini-Cooper S), 1012.5;
  21. Miss R. Smith/Mrs A. Watson (Austin Maxi), 1076.6;
  22. M. O’Connell/Mrs A. 0’Connell (Ford Escort), 1098.2;
  23. C. Vard/P. Phelan (Porsche 911), 1106.6;
  24. D. Agnew/Packenham (BMW 2002) 1139.9;
  25. W. H. Scott/K. Atkinson (Ford Escort TC), 1154.9.

There were 67 finishers.

Class winners:

J. F. Dempsey/A. Foley (Mini),
N. Thompson/E. S. Magee (Sunbeam Imp Sport),
W. A. Poole/K. Johnston (Mini-Cooper S),
J. McCosh/S. Broadhead (Ford Escort TC);
R. D. G. McBurney/N. Smith (BMW 2002);
M. Johnston/I. Allen (Mini-Cooper S);
C. Sclater/P. Valentine (Ford Escort TC);
K. Shields/P. Lyster (Austin-Healey Sprite);
R. U. Eakin/W. C. Beatty (MGB GT). YI947;
R. Clark/J, Porter (Ford Escort TC).

UAC Trophy: Clark/Porter.
Gallaher Trophy: Henriksson/Carlstrom.
Autosport Trophy : Clark/Porter.
Bryson Trophy: McBurney/Smith.
Oonagh Reid Trophy: Sclater/Valentine.
Castle Reid Trophy: Dolan/O’Brien.
O’Connor Rourke Trophy: Miss Smith/Mrs A. Watson,
Paddy Hopkirk Trophy: Miss J. Purchase/Miss M. Walker.
Private entrants award: Dolan/O’Brien.
Novice award: Dolan/O’Brien.

Team award: S.Thompson/M.Isley (Viva GT), P.Thompson/R.Hunt (Viva GT) and D.Bradley/P.Gleeson (Viva GT).

Club Team Award: Belfast, Bangor and Newtownards Motor Club.

Private Entrants Team Award: McBurney/Smith and Boyd/Crawford.