Ronnie White Wins At Last
This report and pictures by Esler Crawford first appeared in Motorweek 28 May 1970.
For the first time in its four years history, the UAC’s May Slalom in Ormeau Park was blessed with good weather and in short-sleeve conditions, a large crowd saw Ronnie White take his rally Cooper S to victory last Saturday. A good second place was taken by Roger Cree’s Sprite which was only 0.8 seconds slower, with more DrivingTest exponents in the shape of Ken Shields, (Sprite) and then Charlie Crawford (Midget) in a tie with Harry Crawford (1293 Cooper S) following closely behind.
The usual rather tight course was used, except that it has suffered somewhat by the fact that the fast left-hander before the finish was now robbed of its spectacle by the placing of the finish box just after its apex. The Ormeau Park Slalom is a splendid idea, and much enjoyed by the drivers, but it is a pity that the course cannot be varied a little and a few faster corners introduced. What about Barnett’s Park?
Practice confirmed many people’s feeling that Ronnie White would be the man to beat with his rally-prepared engine, giving just the right amount of power of medium revs, and sure enough he set fastest time. By contrast, Tony Forsyth’s racing Cooper just crawled away from the slow corners wasting valuable time before it came onto the cam, and for the actual timed runs, a change to a road going MG1300. The same thing applied to Isobel Thompson in Bob Francey’s racing Imp, but she decided to stick it out.
Very impressive were the driving test exponents who were very quick round the tight corners using the handbrake liberally, but Lee Lucas was out of luck when his Viva broke the camshaft belt. However he appeared in another Viva later on. Also out of luck was George Windrum in his racing Imp, which he was sharing with Christine Nemec, blew a piston, but the pair took part in Christine’s road car.
The Ivan McClement’s 1098 Cooper was removed from the list of runners when the co-driver Raymond Donnan removed a wheel by the simple, but rather crude, expedient of clouding the bandstand railing, and I gather that relations between this pair are presently a bit strained.
After a long break for lunch, the proceedings proper got on the way and the first “under 70 second” run was Tom Lawther’s 64.0 with his rally Cooper S. Chris Ward then did a good 69.6 with his Mini 1000 to be followed by Tom Collins with 68.8 and his 998 Cooper. David Coombs created quite a sensation by appearing in a very rare pre-Knight Wartburg which purred around very quietly, although obviously lacking power.
The target time was re-set when Ronnie White hurtled his Cooper (one of three competition Coopers in the Moy stable at present!) round in 61.6 and this looked as if it was going to be very hard to beat. A very good effort indeed was the 67.2 of Isobel Thompson which was good enough to give her the lead in the rear engine class. Then along came Roger Cree to record 63.0, which put him second behind White and just ahead of Harry Crawford’s Cooper S.
Dessie McCartney was finding the ex-Hanley MG Midget a bit of a handful on knobbly tyres, and was surprisingly slow with 65.2, which was equalled by the last runner in the field, Charles Crawford, in a virtually standard Midget.
Surprisingly, on the second run, many people were slower than previously, but many more cans and pylons were clouded. Ronnie White looked all set for a very fast time when he lost control on the final corner and hit three markers, thus losing 15 seconds.
Rowan Bell had a mild go at the grandstand but did not do much damage, although he retired for the day. David Grant put his Cooper S in the reckoning with 63.4, but Mrs Thompson had no less than five penalties, and thus did not improve at all, although her class place still looked perfectly safe.
David McCullough did manage to better Isobel Thompson’s performance by collecting six markers. Roger Cree improved his earlier time to 62.4, which put him within possible reach of Ronnie White’s best time, and Harry Crawford, improves by a second to put himself ahead of Ken Shields’ Austin Healy Sprite, who had a spin.
Eleven Year Old Mini!
So to the third, final and decisive run. On this, Peter Ervine clinched the small front wheel drive saloon class with a final run of 69.6 which put him well ahead of the immaculate 11-year-old Mini of M. McKimm. Yes! 11 years old – Derek Johnson was the first owner of the car in 1959! In class three, Ronnie White repeated his previous 61.6 and thus had the class in his pocket. Harry Crawford had his first run to thank for his second place as he got progressively slower thereafter.
David Grant’s second run gave him third place. His third run came to a very sudden end against a very solid tree and was lucky to get away with what appeared to be not too much damage. Isobel Thompson’s first run was enough to give her the rear engine class, although David McCullough’s standard temp came close with a final run of 68.0.
In the front-engined rear-wheel-drive class David Agnew (BMW 2002 TI) and Hill Scott (Escort TC) had a very close tussle and eventually tied, although Agnew’s throaty BMW did the last run in the best class time of 67.2 (but a five second penalty had to be added to this).
On his final run Cree further reduced his time to 62.0 but also hit a marker and so his earlier time of 62.4 was his best time. This was enough to win the class, although Ken Shields came close with a final run of 63.0 and Charlie Crawford had a very good final run of 63.2. Dessie McCartney was the victim of an unusual incident when he had a marker.
Unfortunately, this particular can just happened to be full of paint and a polka-dotted Midget had to come to a stop with a completely blanked out windscreen. It took some hasty work with petrol soaked rags to stop this rather unusual paint job becoming permanent.
Thus ended a very slickly run event; but just a further thought for next year – how about deciding the results on the total time for the three runs? Then we would be sure that the most consistently fast driver had won.
Results – General Classification:
- Ronnie White (BMC Cooper S) 61.6 seconds.
- Roger Cree (Austin Healy Sprite) 62.4
- Ken Shields (Austin Healy Sprite) 63.0
Class 2 – FWD Saloons up to 900cc:
- Peter Ervine (870 Mini) 69.6
- C. Fulton (848 Mini) 73.0
- C. Fulton (848 Mini) 80.0
Class 3 – FWD Saloons over 900cc:
- Harry Crawford (BMC Cooper S) 63.2
- David Grant (BMC Cooper S) 63.4
- Mike Ford-Hutchinson (BMC Cooper S) 64.8
Class 4 & 5 – Rear-engined Saloons
- Mrs Isobel Thompson (898 Imp) 67.2
- David McCullough (875 Imp) 68.0
- R. McBurney (VW 1584) 68.4
Class 6 – Front-engined RWD Saloons
- David Agnew (BMW 2002 TI) 68.0
- Hill Scott (Escort TC)
- S. C. Corry (1650 Anglia) 71.0
Class 7 – Sports Cars and Specials:
- Roger Cree (A.H. Sprite) 62.4
- Ken Shields (A.H. Sprite) 63.0
- Charles Crawford (M.G. Midget) 63.2