1973 Northern Lights Rally

Derek Boyd and Norman Smith in the Ex-Kerr Escort T/C.

Article reprinted from Wheels Magazine
Report by Peter Scott, Photos by Stan Garmonsway.

NORTHERN LIGHTS RALLY – A Beetle wins again!

Many people were expecting a Group One car to win a championship rally at some stage, but not just as soon as the second round. Be that as it may, Group One machinery had a landslide in the Mid Antrim Motor Club’s Northern Lights rally when they finished first, third, fourth and seventh.

Winners David Agnew and Robert Harkness scored the first championship win for Volkswagen since the days of Robert McBurney with their 1302S, with the Wrights of Banbridge Escort TC of Leslie White and Drew Todd in second place. These two crews now have an equal lead in the championship with Agnew well ahead in the Group One series. Third place was taken by the rather large Capri 3 litre of Sean Campbell/Peter Scott while Dublin girl Sue Sinclair took an excellent fourth place in her RTV Rentals BMW 2002 Tii. assisted by Paul Phelan on the maps.

The event started with scrutiny at a garage on the Antrim-Ballymena road, all cars being “fitted” with Bradbury Motor Accessories stickers, the Ballymena based firm sponsoring the event to very good effect.

White and Todd were top seed, followed by Trevor Fleming and Brian Dorman in the former’s ageing Cooper S. Eamonn Cotter was seeded at three with his Alpina BMW, but his entry number and navigator were taken over by Sue Sinclair at the last minute when the Galway man was unable to appear. Ronnie White made a rare (and short) appearance at number four, and should have been tailed by David Lindsay/Peter Scott in their Escort RS1700, but the dreaded flu put paid to Lindsay’s chances of appearing, so Sean Campbell arrived with his road-going Capri to chauffeur Scott instead.

Rapid Antrim driver Gerry Campbell in the John Laing Cooper S was at six with his ’73 navigator Derek Smyth, and another unexpected appearance was that of Derek Boyd with the ex-John Kerr Escort TC. Norman Smith was showing him the way. Top Ballymena crew Derek and Brian Russell were at eight ahead of the other leading locals, Ronnie Wilson and Dave Duffin. Terry Harryman and his venerable NSU were due to start at 10, but the car’s electrics failed so TAH came to watch.

This was the view most folks got of the Agnew VW.

A run around Ballymena led to the start of the first section. This 24 minuter had quite a few tricky route checks and White/Todd were best, dropping 7, with Sinclair/Phelan, Campbell/Smyth and Nutt/White a further minute behind. The next section featured lots of loose and Agnew was out on his own, dropping just one minute, with the rest of the pack on three or more. Selective One was a two minuter, and here Agnew was fastest on the mostly loose run with 1m. 39s. against second fastest man Leslie Arthur/Derek Irvine (Imp) on 1m. 50s. Already, Snowplough winners Irvine Tannahill/Victor Armstrong had dropped nine minutes due to navigation difficulties. Torr Head was visited before the first petrol halt and here White/Todd dropped two with Agnew and Sinclair on three.

White/Todd were leading at petrol from Agnew/Harkness and Sinclair/Phelan. Jimmy Ogg and Fred Gallagher were leading the semi-experts in seventh place with their Cooper.

Another selective followed immediately and fastest here were Dessie Nutt/John White from White and Todd, and Boyd/Smith. Campbell/Smyth started to have problems on the next two sections and dropped a lot of time as did Tannahill/Armstrong. White/Todd still led from Wilson/Duffin and Campbell/Scott who were starting to motor well in the big Capri.

A selective North East of Broughshane was next on the list and used all types of roads. Sue Sinclair went well here to set fastest time from Nutt and Agnew.

The second petrol halt outside Larne preceded a decisive selective on which Camphell/Smyth and notably Wilson/Duffin got completely lost and dropped a lot of time. Best on the narrow dirt roads were Agnew/Harkness from White/Todd and Campbell/Scott.

The latter crew began to show form on the next two sections, setting best time, but a not-quite-as-map junction near the end saw several navigators including Scott, Phelan and Todd earn a wrong approach for their troubles with the result that Agnew‘s green VW moved into
the lead.

Results were announced at the finish in the Deerpark Hotel, Antrim, where the aforementioned Group One walkover became common knowledge. Only 16 cars finished.


  1. D. Agnew/R. Harkness (VW 1302s) 60.15;
  2. L. White/D. Todd (Escort TC) 68.14;
  3. S. Campbell/P. Scott (Capri 3L) 71.04:
    4, Miss S. Sinclair/P. Phelan (BMW 2002Tii) 85.35;
  4. J. Ogg/F. Gallagher (Cooper) 104.56 (first semi-expert);
  5. D. Kyle/E. Hughes (Cooper) 125.24.