1970 Manx Trophy Rally

The winning Sclater/Davenport Escort splashes through a ford on SS11.

Article reproduced from AUTOSPORT Magazine 4 June 1970.
Report by John Davenport.

Sclater scores an easy win from Curley and Fidler.

Driving for the first time in the Isle of Man, Chris Sclater drove his Escort TC impeccably to win both the night and day sections of the Manx Trophy Rally on May 22/24 and take first overall by a comfortable 100 secs from last year’s second-place men, Cahal Curley/Austin Frazer, also in an Escort. In third place was Roy Fidler in the Autoextra BMW 2002 Ti, who was accompanied by Richard Morris as Barry Hughes was away trying to reach Mexico in the J. C. Withers V6 Cortina. Local man John Huyton was fourth in the same Lotus Cortina with which he took third place last year, but he left his wife at home this time and took Bob Corrin to read the maps. Next was the Escort of Adrian Boyd Beatty Crawford, whose car had arrived straight from the Austrian Alpine.

The Manx Trophy is the only event held in the British Isles where closed public roads are used for special stages and competitors are not forbidden to carry out a survey of them before the event. They are, however, told that training at speed is frowned upon and possible exclusion awaits the man who wakes too many locals. The rally’s importance as the only true pace-note event in these islands assures it of a full entry every year, and this time no fewer than 122 crews came under starters orders at midnight on the Friday in front of the Sefton Hotel in Douglas.

Some were a bit later than others at answering the rally call and Bob Bean and Paul Stephens overslept and reached the ramp too late for their proper start time and had to take a much later number. Their Manx was due for a quick end, as after a few stages the flywheel on their Escort TC became detached and they caught the morning boat back to the mainland.

If strange things were happening to the rally drivers, the rally organisers had their own peculiar problems, for at the start of the first stage Cahal Curley was sent off and then Chris Sclater and the rest of the field held. A marshal had discovered an inebriated gentleman about to press his most personal attentions on a young lady in the privacy of his car, parked in the middle of a road upon which 244 rally drivers were about to be released. Curley was stopped and returned to the start for another run while frantic marshals tried to round up the naked pair who had taken to the fields in fright. The stage got underway eventually, but the third stage had to be scrubbed to put the crews back somewhere near the scheduled time, otherwise, the road closing order would have run out for the later numbers.

This was not the end of the drama on SS1, for G. Ritterband/D. Greenwood smashed their Imp into the notorious bridge and suffered minor injuries which caused some further delays, while in the first half-mile of the test Peter Hughes Evan Jones rolled their Imp and littered the road with glass. At the front of the field, it was Boyd who made the best time although on SS2 and SS4 Sclater made sure of an early lead by taking best times, although his rear shock absorbers were bothering him; after the fifth stage he stopped and changed them. The next stage was cancelled, and then on the next, he had a puncture, so seconds still separated the three Escort drivers.

The Clarke & Simpson Escort entered for Jill Robinson/Mike Giles had recced the World Cup with Tony Fall and the Austrian Alpine with Ove Andersson, so it is not surprising that it developed all kinds of maladies, gearbox following alternator to cause retirement. On SS8, David Cowan/Tony Mason suffered a dropped valve in their Cooper S, while the similar car of Rob Lawrence David Stephenson was beginning to sound rough and retired with gearbox failure on SS11. On SS10, a difficult junction which involved a brow plus hairpin left in front of a bridge, caught all but the local crews. Adrian Boyd visited a farmyard and Sclater had to reverse off the bridge, while the Pelling/Lord Escort created a sensation by carrying on, following some motor-cycle arrows and going straight to the end of S11 to find Doug Baird/Adrian Hundleby (Cooper S) hard on their tail when they should have been miles in front of them.

The 12th stage was the longest and saw Curley managing the Druidale bumps in fine style to take the lead from Sclater. On the 13th, George Hill/Ian Buckley in their borrowed 1071 Cooper S, tore away the tie bar and retired, while Mr Hill’s well-known partner, Keith Wood, who was navigating in Cecil Offleys Sprite on this occasion, retired on the following stage when they stripped a half shaft. Curley was really motoring by this stage and claimed seven best times in a row, but his countryman Boyd, in an attempt to pull back what had been lost on SS10 jumped a bank on SSl6 and lost time while locals un-hinged the gate so that he could drive hack onto the road He also punctured and ruined a racing tyre which he could not replace, so for the rest of the event he ran on Goodyear “Ultragrips”, while Carley and Sclater had the same company‘s “High Speeds”.

Cahal Curley and Austin Frazer were runners up in 1969 and again in 1970 in their Escort TC.

A competitor in a Ford Capri overdid things on the Waterworks bend of the TT circuit, which caused some further delays, and SS18 and SS19 had to be cancelled as the road closing orders ran out before the last competitor could attempt them. SS2l was also cancelled because arrows were missing, and Curley must have heaved a sigh of relief at that, for on the previous stage his diff’ had failed and he was barely capable of limping in the few miles to Douglas. Sclater was fastest on SS20, which gave him a lead of about 15 secs on Curley, with Huyton next.

The positions were: 1. Sclater, 552; 2. Curley, 559; 3. Huyton, 566; 4. Boyd, 696; 5. Fidler, 703; 7. Bullough, 718.

Curley obtained a new diff assembly from J C Withers, who incidentally were Sclater’s entrants (!); his mechanics rebuilt the limited-slip into it during the five-hour halt, and morning saw him ready to carry on the battle. Fog and rain had both been promised for the night but had not materialised, and now bright sunshine blessed the island, although
John Heppenstall’s remarks when his Escort broke a half shaft on the first test were not intended to bless anything. On the same stage, Peter Clark/Jeff Smith had a puncture with their Escort TC and lost over 3 mins changing it, which ruined a very good run for them as they had been setting times near those of the leaders.

On the third daylight test came the accident to Mark Ridout and Richard Colley which led to the death of the latter and serious injury of the former. The stage was cancelled, but not before Jim Bullough/Don Barrow had bumped their dry sump so that shortly after it was penetrated by the big end bolts and they became very grateful to have British Vita’s Brian Gilliland on hand to ferry around the quantities of a certain oil that they needed to keep going. Martin Clark/ Ian Cooper in the ex-Jock Russell Porsche 911 had a puncture on SS28 and because the car fell off the jack, lost 800 marks, which dropped them well out of the results. Peter Clark broke his gearbox on SS35 and retired, In the ladies section, Pauline Wynn had retired as her navigator Avonah Ridout, who had gone to the help of her husband, and this somewhat left the field clear for Linda Jackson/Kevin Gormley in their Escort GT, although they did have to change a roil-bar rubber mount at lunch-time. Roy Fidler lost one of his dual braking systems towards the end and the margin by which Sclater beat him over the day sections was small indeed.

The story of the rally, though, came on SS34, which was a descent of the Tholt-y-Will hillclimb continued into the bottom Sulby Glen road. Just yards from the finish, Cahal Curley shot off the road and lost 2 mins while apprehensive spectators pushed him back again. He went like a man possessed to regain time and the possibility of winning, and set best times on all the last stages but it was a hopeless chase. Final antics went to local man Doug Baird who hit the bank just three corners from the end of the last stage but retained a worthy sixth plate nevertheless.

The normal prize-giving was postponed until the Sunday as a mark of respect for Colley and a very sober atmosphere prevailed for the rest of the rally drivers‘ stay on the island. However, no-one felt that the accident was any reflection upon the rally or its organisers, and it was clear that despite the large numbers of force majeure that had to be contended with this year, the rally had gone remarkably smoothly and the 450 marshals plus other hundreds of civil service and voluntary helpers were to be congratulated on providing a good event.



  1. C. R. Sclater/J. Davenport (Escort TC) 831 pts;
  2. C. B. Curley/A. Frazer (Escort TC) 929;
  3. R. Fidler/R. Morris (BMW 2002TI) 995;
  4. J. Huyton/B. Corrin (Lotus Cortina) 1045;
  5. A. Boyd/B. Crawford (Escort TC) 1049;
  6. D. Baird/A. Hundleby (1.3 Cooper S) 1185;
  7. D. Smith/C. Pence (Lotus Cortina) 1194;
  8. J. Bullough/D. Barrow (Escort TC) 1198;
  9. D. Easthope/Mrs H. Walford (Lotus Cortina) 1217;
  10. J. Dodsworth/C. Keannaugh (Escort TC) 1320;
  11. M. Johnston/H. Johnston (1.3 Cooper S) 1327;
  12. K. Leece/Mrs E. Leece (1.3 Cooper S) 1343.