1970 Monaghan/Cavan October Nav

Photo: Bryce Sands
Noel Smith and Ricky Foott in their Hornet 1.3

Reprinted from Motoring News November 5, 1970

Report by Paul Phelan

After the long summer layoff, the first round of the 1970/71 Irish National Rally Championship took place on Saturday/Sunday, October 17/18th 1970, organized jointly by the Cavan and Monaghan clubs.  This was the first qualifying event to be held since the recent decision that RIAC championships will be open to all Irish drivers, and not confined to Southern residents, as hitherto.

Among the 48 entries were all the championship contenders. Seeded at number one, as usual, were Noel Smith/Ricky Foott, the reigning champions, in their 1.3 Hornet, but they didn’t make the start – the car petered out on the way to the start.  At number two were last year’s runner-up, John Bridges, partnered by Brendan Doyle, in a Cooper S, with Eamonn Cotter and Paul  Phelan (l.8 Escort TC), David Yeates/Frank O’Donoghue (Cooper S), Nobby Reilly Des Flanagan in the ex-Smith championship winning Cooper S and Billy Kilroy/Noel Davin (Capri 3-litre) next in line.

Negotiations with some of the forestry oflicials for the use of stages fell through at the last moment, reducing the number of stages before supper from 5 to 3.  As things turned out, the navigation part of the first half was quite comfortably on for most people so the stages assumed added importance.  The first of these, at Bailieboro, was a short, quite fast, 2.5 miler.  Bridges, running first, had a “look off” on a deceptive left-hander, being delayed for over 8 minutes, but to his relief, the timing went awry, and the stage had to be scrubbed.

Cootehill was another fairly fast one, but the arrowing was definitely not up to standard, some of the signs consisting 0f masking tape stuck on a yellow board, which were completely unreadable at anything over 20 mph.  Jimmy Reid and Jim Cusak (Cooper S) were best on the stage, beating all the more experienced competitors handsomely. Hugh O’Brien / Mike Hart, in the ex-Chris Sclater Escort, spent some time off the road, dropping 5.5 minutes, while among those who didn’t get this far were Gerry McNamara / Austin Frazer (Escort TC) and John Tansey/Billy O’Neill (BMW 2002).

Another three-quarter hour of easy navigation brought the field to the very fast 1.6 mile stage at Castle Saunderson, near Redhills.  Reid/Cusack were again best, joined this time by O’Brien/Hart.  A gentle 12 minute section led to the supper halt at Clones, where placings were as follows: Reilly/Flanagan 1.5 marks, Cotter/Phelan 1.6, Robert Meharry/Kenny Johnston 1.7, Yeates/O’Donoghue 1.9, Bridges/Doyle 2.6, and Tom McNally/Derek Johnston (Cooper S) 5.0.  Reid/Cusack had fallen back somewhat due to road penalties.

After supper, things tightened up considerably. Bridges/Doyle dropped 2 minutes at TP9, which was the first point of the second half, while most of the other leaders just managed to remain on time up to Control 8, which was at the start of SS4.  This was an 8.25 mile closed road section, just South of Aughnacloy, and which wrought havoc on the remaining competitors.  First, Yeates/O’Donoghue hit a bridge only 100 yards from the finish, costing them a minute in the stage, and severely damaging the front of the Mini.  Next, Reilly/Flanagan had a very lucky escape when they virtually demolished the ex-Smith  Cooper in a ‘straight-on-at-T”.  Reid/Cusack collected a milk chum stand, while Maharry/Johnston had a go at Yeates’ bridge, but were able to continue. Cotter was fastest, followed by Bridges and O’Brien.

Another short closed road stage followed immediately at Tedavnet.  This was a narrow, twisting affair, with many right-angle comers, which suited the fwd brigade rather more than the previous one. Paddy Farrelly/Ray lnglis (Gordini) were beginning to figure at this stage, having a good, consistent run which stood them well in the final results. Bridges this time got ahead of Cotter with O’Brien still third fastest. At this point, the navigation became tighter, with shorter sections being evident. Yeats  and Maharry were consistently losing time, due to being slowed by their accident damage, while the latter also had loose carbs to contend with.  The first major trouble of the night occurred near Smithborough where an unmarked road just before the correct slot brought crews out in a totally unexpected place. When the proper approach road was discovered, it was a very unlikely looking muddy track.  Yeates/O’Donoghue surprisingly made this on time, while Cotter/Phelan dropped 12, Meharry/Johnston 13, and everyone else either took a wrong approach or missed a control altogether.

The last petrol halt was at Scotshouse, which was also the start of the last special Stage.  This was a winding, narrow, closed-road section of 2.8 miles.  This time it was Cotter from Bridges and McNally.

An obscure slot between two farm buildings caught everyone except Maharry/Johnston, who got it first time; the Farrelly Gordini made a wrong approach which cost it a place at the finish, while Bridges/Doyle missed two controls.  Twenty-three crews made it to the finish where results, which took a good while to appear, showed that Eamonn Cotter had scored his first championship win.  The next round is Munster MC’s Fit Remoulds Cork 20, on November 7/8th.

Written by Paul Phelan.

RESULTS

1. E. P. Cotter / P. Phelan (Escort TC). 25.5 (22 on road);

2. T. McNally / D. Johnston (Cooper S). 84.1 (60);

3. P. Farrell / R. lnglis (Gordini). 91.3 (68);

4. R. S. Maharry / K. Johnston (Cooper S). 92.3 (74);

5. D. Yeats / F. P. O’Donoghue (Cooper S). 97.6 (69);

6. J. H. Bridges / B. Doyle (Cooper S). 120.0 (113);

7. ‘A. J. Lowry / C. G. Orr (Lotus Cortina). 237.0 (202);

8. W. E. Kilroy / N. N. Davin (Capri 3000 GT). 306.4 (275);

9. E. Cassidy / R. McAllister (Mini). 331.2 (295);

10. M. McIlroy / Mrs. M. McIlroy (Imp). 502.0 (464).