1972 Galway – Auto Ireland

McCartney’s Triumph 2.5PI Wins

This report by Brian Foley is reproduced from Auto Ireland Magazine No2 1972.

Out of a field that included all the top names in Irish rallying, the McCartney Brothers from Larne came through with flying colours to score a popular and extremely well deserved victory in the STP International Circuit of Galway. So many of the fancied runners retired that it was difficult to keep tabs on who was actually leading at any one stage, for no sooner would someone take over the lead but they would retire; either through mechanical trouble or by going off the road, and yet another leader would take over for another short period!

But the McCartney Brothers scored no freak win, they were there in the thick of the hunt from the noon start on the Friday until the finish on the Sunday evening and their sheer determination to press on without even once letting off the pressure, plus the brilliance of Ronnie in handling the Triumph 2.5 P.I. so expertly over such a wide variety of wide and narrow, fast and slow, bumpy and smooth roads, paid off in no uncertain terms in the final analysis. The Triumph was one of the least modified cars in the rally and proved very reliable throughout the gruelling three days and 600 miles.

Ronnie McCartney powering the big Triumph 2.5PI around the tight hairpin on the Corkscrew-Ballyvaughan Special Stage.


This year’s STP International Circuit of Galway, again master-minded by Eamonn Cotter, was undoubtedly a fantastic event, and will certainly be remembered as one of the most dramatic and exciting rallies ever held in this country. The drama started in Galway on Thursday, February 3, before the rally had even begun. Clerk of the Course Eamonn Cotter received a letter from the Moycullen Hurling Club threatening strong action if any British crews competed. This was followed by an anonymous phone call to Mick Barry telling him to have the English cars removed from the garage premises of W. P. Higgins Ltd. at Headford Road, Galway or they would be blown up.

That there was a written threat, and in view of the fact that the rally was scheduled to run through the Moycullen area on the Sunday, left the Galway Motor Club with no alternative but to call the fifteen English crews to a hurriedly convened meeting in the Great Southern Hotel in Eyre Square. The English sadly decided to withdraw and in the interests of all concerned immediately checked out of their hotels to make the fruitless trip home.

This was indeed a bitter blow for the hard working Galway enthusiasts, who had put so much effort into making their event a top class international rally which would be a credit to our country. The withdrawal of the English competitors was not only a great loss to the quality of the entry, but also represented a serious loss of revenue to the vitally important tourist industry.

The G.A.A. have no exclusive monopoly of nationalism, and such radical actions are not only damaging to the economy of the country but also do nothing towards establishing better relations with, and winning the sympathy of, the ordinary non-politically minded British people. People who hide under the cloak of a big national association such as the G.A.A. have no right to impose their views on other sporting organisations, who are no less Irish because they choose to compete in motoring events rather than indulge in ball and stick games.

The unique hospitality of the Irish people and the genuine charity that has for so long been an inbuilt part of our make-up must be preserved, and not be replaced by bringing bitterness into the community through political interference in sport.

Charlie Gunn brought his Ford Escort Twin Cam home in second place, his best finish for quite some time.


The entry of 179 was headed by the R. E. Hamilton/Bowmaker Ford Escort RS1600 for Gallaher Circuit winners Adrian Boyd/Beatty Crawford. The Ford Motor Company withdrew their RS1600 for French man Jean Francois Piot and Jim Porter two days before the start, a big disappointment for everyone looking forward to Piot’s Irish debut and an unpopular decision by Ford. Last year’s winner, Cathal Curley, with Austin Frazer, came to Galway with a BMW 2002 which was so light that the body might as well have been a paper mache rather than glassfibre and aluminium panels. The Curley machine could only be described as a 200 horse power, four-wheeled, roll cage; and even the man himself reckons that this type of specialised car now being developed for special stage rallying is potentially too dangerous, and should be banned before someone gets killed!

Billy Coleman/Dan O’Sullivan arrived with the left-hand-drive Alpine in an even more tatty-looking condition than usual, following shunts in the RAC and Tour of Dean. The Millstreet man will have to get down to more meticulous car preparation if he is to enjoy trouble free rallying and the success he deserves. The once all conquering Mini-Cooper S is finding it rather a David versus Goliath task» to compete against the more powerful Escorts and BMW’s, but seeded at number 5 was Mervyn Johnston /Harry Johnston in a new S type.

Local hopes were pinned on Mick Barry/Leo White, now with a BDA-engined Escort; Gerry McNamara/ P. Hogan were in the first Escort twin cam, ahead of Noel Smith/Ricky Foott in the ex-Mattie McNamara Escort-BDA, now converted to rally spec. by Mick Corbett. John Bridges/Brendan Doyle, the “wagons” of rallying, were Escort mounted for the first time after years of successful “Minnying”; Mick Dolan, STP man Nobby Reilly, John Tansey, Hugh ’O’Brien, Oliver Hadden, Sean Campbell, John Keating, Charlie Gunn, David Lindsay, John Burns, Kevin Twomey, Maurice Forde, Gerry Forde, Pat McCourt, Billy Ferguson and Robert Maharry/Frank Fennell were also amongst the strong Escort brigade, while Brendan Fagan/Pat Kavanagh sported none other than “Mr. Supermarket” Pat Quinn on their Quinnsworth-sponsored 1.6 Anglia.

Clockwise: Adrian Boyd/Beatty Crawford; Cahal Curley/Austin Frazer;
Mick Barry/Leo White; Billy Coleman/Dan O’Sullivan.

David Agnew/Robert Harkness had a similar lightweight BMW 2002 to Curley’s machine; Ronnie and Dessie McCartney were teamed up in the biggest car in the rally, a Triumph 2.5 P.I. with Stag suspension and few other mods.; Cecil Vard had his immaculate Porsche 911S; and amongst the other leading Mini-Cooper S crews were Ashley Armstrong/Trevor Cathers, Jimmy Reid/John Cusack; Des Cullen/Pat Ryan, Arnie Poole/Kenny Johnston; autocrosser John Hayes and Formula 2 racer Ken Fildes; Tom Lawther/H. P.
Brown; and Dr. Frank O’Donoghue/G. Yeates.

Racing men having a go were Vinney Moy (Escort T/C); Arthur Collier/Gerard Roche (BMW 2002); John Keaney (Cooper S); Frank O’Reilly (Cooper S): AUTO IRELAND man Rick St. John Young, with wife Diane, in an Imp, and larger than life Derek McMahon in a well tweaked Stiletto.

Donegal was also represented by Robert Ward/Phonsie McElWee (Cooper S); and P. J. Wilhaire, now recovered from his almighty crash two years ago in the Knockalla Hillclimb, and having a go in a 2-door Cortina l600E. Also in an old-type Cortina was Paddy McGuire, but the latest new Cortina has yet to appear in competitions.

Paddy McGuire’s Lotus Cortina departs the rally in spectacular fashion.
Photo Joe French.

Pat O’Callaghan was in his usual and well turned out Super Beetle; Larry Mooney was giving the interesting new VW, K70 its first outing in the competition world; also out for the first time were a pair of Vauxhall Firenzas driven by G. T. Britton and Liam Miller; AUTO IRELAND man Des Bradley was in his usual MG Midget; Fiats were represented by some 124’s, 128’s and 850’s; there was a lone Renault 12; the fantastic Cooper S-engined Morris Minor of Mick Duggan from Mallow; and of all things, a magnificent Bentley driven for the crack by Norman Williams and Rob Millard.

The final count down was 143 starters, and the retirement rate was colossal to say the least, 109 finishers on the first day; 106 starters and 67 finishers on the second day; 67 starters and 56 finishers on the third and last day. The reason for the high retirement rate was that most drivers treated the special stages as flat-out road races and either went off the road or retired with mechanical trouble. Many of the stages were “yumpy” and these “yumps” caught out a number of experienced rallymen.

The stages were all over tarmac surfaced roads, with only a few remote exceptions, but were unbelievably slippery, despite the good dry weather, and this lack of grip resulted in several off-course excursions amongst those who seemed to throw caution to the winds and were going too fast.

Some of the mechanical failures could be attributed to hard luck and others to bad preparation, but the modern rally car is a highly developed machine, tuned to racing standards of power and lightness, and as these very fast cars broke under the pressure, the less highly tweaked cars shot up through the field to take over the leading places.

Clockwise: Mervyn Johnston/Harry Johnston; Gerry McNamara/Pat Hogan;
John Bridges/Brendan Doyle; Noel Smith/Ricky Foott.


From the 12 noon start in Eyre Square on Friday it was into action straight away with Boyd/Crawford establishing their superiority on the stages. Curley and Barry were slow to warm up, and after the first two stages McNamara held second, followed by McCartney, Keating, Armstrong, Lindsay, Dolan, Coleman, Agnew, Poole, Johnston, Cathcart, Tansey and Curley. After five stages Curley had moved up into fourth, and already retired were Nobby Reilly (diff’ trouble), John Burns (crash Stage 1) and Mick Dolan (half-shaft adrift), all in Escorts.

Jimmy Reid retired his Cooper S with a blown gasket, and Mick Barry broke a rear axle tramp bar, which was replaced by his service crew. Robert Maharry went off in a big way on SS2 at Camus Hill but got going again with his Escort t/c; John Bridges retired his Escort T/C with a broken engine mounting; Oliver Hadden retired his Escort With the same trouble; Ashley Armstrong hit a bridge and retired his Cooper S; David Yeates had the fan go through the radiator of his Cooper S; Frank O’Donoghue hit a rock that was thrown onto the road by another car, and retired his Cooper S; Mick Duggan’s Cooper S-engined Morris Minor stopped on SS2 with a wiring fire, and M. J. Farrell rolled his Escort GT on SS1.

Provisional placings after Friday’s ten stages were:

  1. Boyd 80.36;
  2. Barry 83.06;
  3. Agnew 83.21;
  4. Johnston 83.24;
  5. Curley 84.03;
  6. Coleman 84.43;
  7. Lindsay 85.06;
  8. McCartney 85.49.


Saturday was the longest day in the rally, starting at 7.00 am in darkness and with eighteen stages totalling approx. 210 miles, the longest of which was a 26 miler taking in the Corkscrew (going down) and Ballyvaughan (going up) in Co. Clare. The first stage, at Thoorballylee, saw Boyd hitting a wall and dropping down to third, and then he retired on SS19 with a broken half-shaft. Mick Barry also retired on SS19 with a broken oil pipe, and although he borrowed one from Boyd he was excluded for being over his maximum lateness. Gerry McNamara thumped his Escort badly off a bank; David Agnew crashed his BMW 2002 on a fast left-hander at SS19, and was taken to hospital with a leg injury;

Clockwise: Pat McCourt/Peter Scott; Paddy O’Callaghan/N. Condon;
John Nicholson/Arthur Davies; Richard and Diane St. John Young.

Cecil Vard hit a bank and retired his Porsche 911S; John Tansey rolled his Escort-BDA; Vinney Moy rolled his Escort T/C; Billy Coleman’s Alpine retired on SS26, the downhill bit of the Corkscrew, with a broken half-shaft; John Keating retired his Escort-BDA with engine trouble; Dan Kavanagh retired his Escort Mexico with sump
damage; Derek McMahon retired his Stiletto with half-shaft failure, after previously having the wiring go up in flames, and hitting a bank; John Hayes went through an iron gate at high speed to retire his Cooper S, and Brendan Fagan pranged the Quinnsworth Anglia.

Several cars still in the running were rather battle scarred, including the Cooper S of Arnie Poole;
Noel Smith’s Escort-BDA had steering trouble; and Demi Fitzgerald’s Escort T/C had radiator trouble. At the end of a really hectic day Cahal Curley now led, and the positions were:

  1. Cahal Curley 296.09 penalties,
  2. Ronnie McCartney 300.51;
  3. Mervyn Johnston 303.39;
  4. Charlie Gunn 304.58;
  5. Demi Fitzgerald 307.32;
  6. Pat McCourt 307.49;
  7. Arnie Poole 308.56;
  8. Tom Lawther 312.16;
  9. Billy Ferguson 315.17;
  10. Des Cullen 316.57;
  11. Keaney 318.09;
  12. Robert Ward 319.36.


Demi Fitzgerald/Dick O’Brien, in fifth place, did not start as the BRM-tuned T/C engine had blown a head gasket; Smith could not have his bent steering fixed, and Paul Martin/P. Dewdney (Escort), in 13th spot, also did not start.

Cathal Curley retired his BMW as a result of a mechanic forgetting to tighten the back wheel nuts following a tyre change on the previous afternoon; and so the battle for the lead was on in earnest between Mervyn Johnston and Ronnie McCartney. The spectators were really out in force to watch the Sunday stages, causing chaos on some stages, and while the people gathered in Galway City to see the surviving crews check in at the finish the dramatic news filtered through that Johnston had rolled his Cooper S on the second last stage and the rally had gone to the McCartney Brothers in the big Triumph.

Clockwise: Larry Mooney/Alan Park; Norman Williams/Rob Millard in Bentley style;
Demi Fitzgerald/Dick O’Brien; Jim Cathcart/Tom Elliot.

Mervyn Johnston was not the only one in hard luck, for Des Bradley/Paul Gleeson lost a certain class win when their MG Midget stuck in first gear and they had to be towed home! A very chuffed Charlie Gunn came in second, navigated by Harry McEvoy in an Escort T/C; Pat McCourt/Peter Scott (Escort T/C) were third; Arnie Poole/Kenny Johnston (Cooper S); Billy Ferguson/E. Clarke (Escort T/C); Des Cullen/Pat Ryan (Cooper S); Tom Lawther/Harry Brown (Cooper S); John Keaney/George Oliver (Cooper S); Robert Ward/Phonsie McElwee (Cooper S); Gabriel Grier/R. Bruton (Cooper S); Harry Cathcart/Geoff Morrison (Cooper S); and Paddy O’Callaghan/N. Condon (VW) completed the first dozen places.

Classes were won by. R. J. Hunter/J. McCu1lagh (Mini); K. Bolton/R. McCormack (Cooper); Ward/McElwee; Larry Mooney/Alan Park in the new Volkswagen K70; T. Hillgarth/E. Greene (Cooper); Grier/Bruton; O’Callaghan/Condon; John Nicholson/Arthur Davis (Lancia Fulvia); P. Kelly/R. Dalton (Wolseley Hornet); R. Montgomery/J. Lyon (Escort t/c); and the Ladies Award went to Sue Sinclair/ Joan Newman in the RTV Rentals Cooper S.

Prizes were presented by Mr. Robert Molloy, T.D., Minister for Local Government; with Pat Gillen of Ford of Cork presenting the special Ford bonuses. In addition to cash awards, Galway Motor Club presented specially engraved Galway Glass trophies, which were the most handsome awards seen for many a long day.

A Cooper S dice on the Corkscrew with Des Cullen about to be overtaken by Arnie Poole.


  1. R. McCartney/D. McCartney (Triumph 2.5 P.I.) 391.08;
  2. C. Gunn/H. McEvoy (Ford Escort t/c) 395.34;
  3. P. McCourt/P. Scott (Ford Escort t/c) 399.44;
  4. A. Poole/K. Johnston (Mini-Cooper S) 401.00;
  5. W. J. Ferguson/E. Clarke (Ford Escort t/c) 408.19;
  6. D. Cullen/P, Ryan (Mini-Cooper S) 409.03;
  7. T. J. Lawther/H. P. Brown (Mini-Cooper S) 410.42);
  8. J. Keaney/G. Oliver (Mini-Cooper S) 411.06.

Class 1:

  1. R. J. Hunter/J. McCullagh (Mini) 451.24;
  2. I. Phillips/G. Millar (Mini) 463.20;
  3. E. Fay/J. McCabe (Fiat 850) 465.05.

Class 2:

  1. K. Bolton/R. McCormack (Mini-Cooper S) 445.34;
  2. R. St. John Young/Mrs. D. St. John Young (Imp Sport) 452.31;
  3. R. J. Craigie/J. McAllister (Fiat 128), 455.38.

Class 3:

  1. R. Ward/P. McElwee (Mini-Cooper S) 415.28;
  2. D. O’Brien/D. Johnston (Mini-Cooper S) 434.54;
  3. J. O’Reil1y/D. Garrahan (VW) 455.43.

Class 4:

  1. L. Mooney/A. Park (VW K70) 439.16;
  2. P. J. Wilhare/J. Boyce (Ford Cortina 1600E) 442.49;
  3. A. Lowry/E. Cassidy (Ford Lotus Cortina) 460.38.

Class 5:

  1. T. Hillgarth/E. Greene (Mini) 440.05;
  2. W. Hoy/F. Clyde (Mini) 452.34;
  3. M. Clyne/E. Flahavan (Imp) 454.49.

Class 6:

  1. G. Grier/J. Bruton (Mini-Cooper S) 418.00;
  2. J. Cathcart/T. Elliott (Mini-Cooper S) 425.37;
  3. R. J. Kelliher/A. N. Other (Mini-Cooper S) 435.45.

Class 7:

  1. P. O’Callaghan/N. Condon (VW 1302LS) 430.02;
  2. T. McNeill/D. Flanagan (Ford Escort t/c) 440.17;
  3. J. D. Leonard/T. Gorman (Ford Escort t/c) 441.08.

Class 8:

  1. J. Nicholson/A. Davis (Lancia Fulvia) 484.01;
  2. J. P. Gaffney/R. Harris (MG Midget) 502.47.

Class 9:

  1. F. O’Mahony/B. Curtin (Mini-Cooper S) 434.03;
  2. I. Doherty/S. Mills (Mini-Cooper S) 471.00.

Class 10:

  1. P. Kelly/K. Dalton (Wolseley Hornet), 447.10.

Class 11:

  1. R. Montgomery/J. Lyon (Ford Escort t/c), 445.25.

Ladies: S. Sinclair/J. Newman (Mini-Cooper S), 464.17.

Des Bradley


Even the bitter, shortsighted and unsporting action of the local G.A.A. Club, the Moycullen Hurling Club, could not have ruined the S.T.P. International Circuit of Galway even though they really succeeded in removing the International aspect from an outstanding event. Coming hot on the heels of the Ford withdrawal of the entry for Piot, the Moycullen blow cast a shadow over an otherwise perfect rally, and no less than fifteen cross-channel crews who had actually arrived in Galway for the event returned home before the start.

Once again driving the MG Midget from the 61 mark the event unfolded as a most enjoyable affair, completely unmarred by officiousness or protocol — and the event seemed to run without a fault, although two stages on Saturday had to be dropped — one because the officials failed to arrive in
time for the first lap and the other because an ambulance had to be let through.

But with a finishing rate of only 51 cars from the 145 starters for a mere 350 miles of special stages in a total distance of 520 miles during the three days, the rally certainly took its toll. 45 cars retired on the first day, a further 33 on Saturday, and 16 on Sunday. It was particularly noticeable that only three cars finished out of the top thirty seeds — Ronnie and Dessie McCartney at number 18, Charlie Gunn and Harry McEvoy at 29. and Des Cullen and Paddy Ryan at 26.

From the next 30 seeds there were only a further five finishers. To my mind the fact that most of the stages were over surfaced roads encouraged everyone to go too fast, too early in the rally and since rally cars in general are getting more powerful, drivers were caught out by the blind brows and corners, by the numerous switchback sections, and by the particularly dicey surfaces on Saturday when a large proportion of the field misjudged the slipperiness and found themselves going agricultural.

It was notable that on the first unexpected right hander on the Thoorballylee stage early on Saturday, no less than fourteen cars found their way into the field straight-on, whilst at another dodgy left hander on the long Lough Cutra drive stage, eight cars hit the same wall.

The 21 mile stage through the Co. Clare Burren on Saturday certainly deserves its place amongst the classics, and in my book must rank at least as good as the Sally Gap Stage used in the Circuit of Ireland. In its distance it includes not only the notorious Corkscrew Hill itself, but also the Galway Motor Club’s own 2.5 mile Ballyvaughan hillclimb. The rest of the stage consists of some great going, and must be just as good to watch as to drive.

Amongst the more notable features of the event were the huge numbers of spectators around the entire course – even on the Friday run when one would imagine that most people were still at work. The Connacht Tribune, the local paper in Galway, published a special supplement for the event and this was also used as the official programme. This particular move probably played a big part in drumming up the local interest for the event.

Before the rally started a Ford victory seemed highly likely, even after the withdrawal of Piot. But if the event did one thing, it certainly proved that there’s many a slip ’twixt the start and the finish. It looked as if Adrian Boyd would have an undisputed victory. But even he did the “bould thing” on the first Saturday stage and lost his lead to Mick Barry. R. E. Hamilton’s service crew
worked hard to fix Adrian’s car and he used up his full 15 minute allowance into the stage after a service point.

But it was during this stage that his “unbreakable” Taunus axle broke a half shaft and the Antrim driver was quite out. But in quick succession the event became really exciting as Gerry McNamara retired after bursting two tyres during a wall of death effort on a bank — Mick Barry broke an oil pipe and had no clips to effect even temporary repairs – the Keatings went out when the timing on their new Twin-Cam slipped – John Tansey rolled out – Maurice Ford stopped — Noel Smith got a puncture and two steering arms — (both John Bridges and Nobby Reilly were already out with mechanicals on Friday).

All this let Cahal Curley’s BMW through to lead and just when it seemed that he was bound for his second successive STP win he lost a wheel, bent the studs and he too was out to let Ronnie McCartney through with his 2.5 Janspeed Triumph ‘p.i. But steaming through came “Wee” Mervyn Johnston’s Cooper S. Two stages from the end as he held a 20 second lead, Johnston bounced his Mini into a bog and
he was the fifth leader to go out.

My own experience helped to prove too that you are never sure of anything until you have clocked into the Final Control. We were actually leading the GT Group 3 & 4 class by 40 minutes when the Midget struck in first and neither God nor Man would budge the gear until the box was taken right out. This fault is evidently a well known one in Midget boxes, and although the chances of it happening are slim, there is no real way of preventing it for definite.

I have no doubt that the enthusiastic Galway Motor Club will continue their highly successful event in the future – and already the STP man, Nobby Reilly, has said “We’ll be back”.

(By the way — racing drivers Arthur Collier, Derek McMahon and Gerald Roche have all echoed the same sentiments, and John Kearney came through to a top placing to encourage him back to rallying again).