Tough Tour of Antrim
This report and pictures by Esler Crawford first appeared in MotorWeek 7 February 1970.
During the past few months night navigation rallies have become a somewhat neglected activity with the disturbances in the Province, making daylight special stages more acceptable to the authorities. Because of this, Larne Motor Club decided to make a change in their normal programme and brought their March event, which is usually a speed event of some description, forward to January and run it as a purely night navigation test.
This, it was reckoned, would be a welcome change for out of practice navigators and exercise those who were con- templating the Gallaher Circuit. Accordingly Gordon McBurney and Beatty Crawford were given the task of finding an 80 to 90 mile route in the area fairly close to Larne. Not an easy task as this area is not renowned as ideal navigational territory. However they set about the task with a will and came up with a route which they thought would extract a loss of time from most people.
They called it the “Tour of Antrim” and it took place last Friday night. An entry of 50 was received — and there would have been more if some people had not taken it upon themselves to ignore the closing date for entries – which was strictly adhered to. Of these, predictably only five were in the Experts class, 15 in the Semi-Experts and the rest classed themselves as Novices.
The plot was simple enough. Between the start at the Dundrod pit area and the finish in Larne the 80 mile route consisted of 15 time controls and 20 route checks with the Semi-Experts leaving out a few of the checks on the few miles of rough roads that there were and the Novices left out all unsurfaced roads but all classes used the same time controls.
Apart from a liberal scattering of neutral sections on easy parts of the route where time could not be made up the route did not appear to be difficult. Nevertheless the Clerks of the Course appeared fairly conﬁdent that the field would be well sorted out. With rain and a hint of fog on high ground the elements certainly seemed to be on their side.
The route initially ran South towards Lisburn and the first section was easily on, being really only a run-in to the serious business. But one crew probably created something of a record by arriving at the first control on time and inquiring where the start was.
The second section was a bit tighter and caused most of the less expert crews a bit of trouble and both David Hastings and an unidentified Cooper went through the same hedge.
The next section explored some rather twisty whites in the Lower Ballinderry region and here even John McClean/Hal Patton, the most expert crew in the event were down two minutes.
Of the Semi-Experts, Peter Teuton/Des Blaney were clean in their BMW 1600 – but missed a check so Derek Hamilton/R. Hunter and Harry Cook in his Imp were best with 2 minutes.
Of the Novices, Agnes and Gordon Parker were still clean in their Cooper and leading the class easily although Reggie McNeilly/David Coles and Rodney Craig/Trevor Hughes were also going well on their first serious rally.
TC6 brought the cars through some more sporting whites around Ballypitmaye and with fog rearing its ugly head at any elevation over 500 feet, John McClean lost another 3 minutes with Joe Pat O’Kane/Ross Bailie, the latter suffering from a touch of sickness, doing even worse with 6 minutes.
Hamilton was still going well as was David Agnew/Roger Packenharn, after a shaky start with their VW1500. Among the Novices Raymond McFaul/Roy Watley were well up and Gwen Bridgham/Joy Baird had a good run to here but unfortunately a disastrous start had almost left them OTL.
After a short petrol stop at Dunadry where RAC Steward Robert McBurney assisted McClean to tighten a slipping fan belt, the route heading towards the high ground at Carnearney Forest where the fog was really bad and at TC10 McClean dropped two minutes. Hamilton, Carson and Gerry Campbell/John Palmer were three minutes down.
In the Novices Tommy Speers, Willie Simpson, Richard McCourt, Steven Thompson and Rodney Craig made the best of the easier route and were all clean.
The route to TC12 used the whites in the Tildarg area and here McClean was down three. Jack Bingham/Frank Robinson had very bad luck to lose their route card out of the window here but then had the most fantastic good luck when they re-traced their steps for three miles and found it, albeit a wee bit second-hand looking;
The last tight section went through some of the infamous whites at the Isle of Glass just behind Carrickfergus where McClean was far ahead of the ﬁeld despite losing four minutes. The Semi-Experts suffered even more and Harry Cook and Wesley Carson were best with nine minutes but the Novices were spared the worst of this section and Speers, Mrs. Parker, McCourt, and Leslie Arthur/Robin McGhee were only down a minute apiece.
After this it was all over bar the shouting but precious few crews checked in at the final control within the half hour time limit and few route checks were visited in the last few sections by some of the hard pressed crews.
Especially unlucky was Rodney Craig, who, after a very good run in his father’s 2000E, got lost almost in his own back yard and dropped a bagful. Maurice Johnston did his usual magnificent job with the results which were announced an hour after the last car finished. They showed, as was expected that McClean/Patton were the best Expert crew, but I am sure the organisers never expected them to drop a total of 15 minutes.
Hamilton/Hunter narrowly pipped Carson/McBurney in the Semi Experts while Agnes Parker/Gordon Parker, after another very good run, was a runaway winner of the Novice class. This lassie will hardly find herself classified as a Novice in future events! All in all most people were heard to express themselves as well satisﬁed with the event and Gordon McBurney deserves congratulations for doing an excellent job on the first rally he has ever organised.
- J. S. McClean/H. Patton (Cooper S), 15 marks lost;
- J. Bingham/F. A. Robinson (Escort GT) 173;
- J. P. O’Kane/R. Bailie (Cor- tina Lotus) 312.
- D. Hamilton/R. Hunter (Escort GT) 32;
- W. Carson, V. S. McBurney (Mini) 45;
- G. Campbell/J. Palmer (Cooper S) 68;
- J. Donnelly/H. McLaughlin (Escort TC) 141;
- H. Cook/A. N. Other (Imp) 162;
- D. Agnew/R. Packenham (VW 1500) 164.
- Mrs. A. Parker/G. Parker (Cooper) 15;
- R. McCourt/S. Thompson (Zephyr) 47;
- R. McFaul/R. Watley (Anglia GT) 48;
- E. Ervine/P. Ervine (Cooper) 81;
- L. Arthur/R. McGhee (Mini) 83;
- J. G. Parkinson/J. Allen 94.