1973 Texaco Rally

Adrian Boyd and Beatty Crawford limp through the last stage with a failing clutch, but they had done enough to secure the win.

This article is reproduced from Autosport Magazine.

Boyd beats Porsches, BMWs and Curley.
Report and pictures by Esler Crawford.

The score in the Boyd versus Curley battle was levelled when Boyd and Beatty Crawford took their Lombard and Ulster Rally team’s Escort into first place in the Texaco and National British Rally 1m 45s ahead of Curley and Austin Frazer in their Porsche Carrera. German cars filled the next three places and it was John L’Amie and David Grant who took their Porsche 911S into third place 9 m behind Curley. Current Ulster Rally champion David Agnew and Robert Harkness were a further 5 m down in their light-weight bodied BMW and Reggie McSpadden, who won the Rally 10 years ago in a Volkswagen, and Norman Taylor were another 11 m in arrears in their lightweight bodied Porsche Carrera RS. Rosemary Smith and Pauline Gullick gave Lombard and Ulster Team a grand slam by taking the ladies award and finishing in seventh place overall in their Escort RS1600.

Due to the continuing troubles in Northern Ireland, the Texaco Rally was very similar to the 1972 event and was confined mainly to Counties Antrim and Londonderry. Most of the 22 stages, which totalled over 200 miles, were the old familiars but there were three new tarred sections which had never been used before. Seventy per cent of the stage miles were tarmac roads and the other 30 per cent were over forestry sections.

The entry was very much a local one, there being only one cross-channel entrant, Alan Mungall and Robin Cockrane from Scotland, who had returned despite their excursion on Torr Head last year. The organisers, the Larne MC, headed by Esler Crawford, Clerk of the Course, were rather disappointed by the lack of cross-channel entries particularly in view of the high prize money, the outright winner receiving £300. However, it is hardly surprising in view of the present political atmosphere but the RAC competitions section certainly did not help by having another championship round, the Jim Clark, during the same weekend.

In recognition of his win last year and his Donegal success Cahal Curley was seeded No 1 ahead of Adrian Boyd. Both drivers were in exactly the same cars as in Donegal. Curley’s Carrera being virtually standard and Boyd still using his 1800 cc David Wood prepared RS engine since Wood has not yet been able to rebuild him a 2-litre engine due to lack of a crankshaft. Seeded No 3 was Billy Coleman also in an l800 Escort and he was due to be partnered by Peter Scott. However, the clutch on the Escort packed up on the way to the start and so Scott was left without a ride. Hoping for better luck were No 4 seeds Sean Campbell and Brendan McConville in yet another Escort. Campbell finished second last year but since then he has had such bad luck that he is on the verge of retiring. There were a number of other notable non-starters and Robert McBurney and Norman Smith had to scratch when their 2.2-litre VW developed an ominous rattle from their new close-ratio Porsche gearbox on the way to the start. Mervyn Johnston hadn’t time to reprepare the body shell of his Cooper S after his Donegal accident and another still suffering from Donegal was Pat McCourt whose engine had broken a camshaft.

Three Porsches finished in the top five. Cahal Curley and Austin Frazer headed the trio, finishing in second place overall despite losing the front section of bodywork..

After the tremendous Boyd v Curley battle in Donegal, the enthusiasts were waiting with interest for the next instalment. The excitement was somewhat enhanced by rather spicey reports in the Belfast Telegraph, an evening newspaper which sponsors Curley.

The first stage after the 8 pm start at Ballinderry was just 7 miles south and was a new 13 miler called Nut Hill. Boyd and Curley continued as they had in the Donegal and it was Boyd who got the verdict by just 2s with a time of 13m 23s. It was obvious that this was going to be very much a two-man battle with everyone else waiting for the prime contenders to retire since Desmond McCartney and Drexel Gillespie in an RSl600 were next best with 14m 00s. Reggie McSpadden raised a few eyebrows when he recorded a time of 14m 05s to beat Sean Campbell by 3s.

Ronnie McCartney crashed the ex-Curleylightweight BMW 2002 just 3 miles from the start and injured his knee quite badly against the ignition key. Later McCartney was heard to vow that he would never drive a light-weight car again since, despite the fact that he went off comparatively slowly, it was quite badly damaged. Boyd was not altogether happy with the handling of the Escort but on the next stage, a four-miler at Moyrusk, he again beat Curley by 2s with a time of 4m 41s. David Lindsay/Duffy Cunningham took their RS 1600 into third spot with a time of 4m. 52s.

On the next stage at Kilrush Boyd set up the fastest time of 5m 40s, 4s ahead of Curley. Again it was Lindsay who took third place just 2s ahead of Desmond McCartney who was shortly to retire when a head gasket began to blow.

Then Curley began to get the bit between his teeth and on the fourth stage at Knockagh, this time being used in the same direction as the old UAC hill climb course, he beat Boyd by 1s with a time of 4m 16s. Sean Campbell was third best with 4m 32s. Boyd was still worried by the Escort’s handling and at the next service point he discovered that the rear axle oil seal was leaking oil onto one of the back brakes. This was not the most conducive arrangement for driving fast on wet roads but the service crew headed by Bert Campbell hadn’t time to repair the seal since the exhaust pipe had also broken and it required to be welded.

Nicky Lindsay and David Sandford‘s rally came to an end on Knockagh when an oil pipe broke on their RS1600, while one of the downhill hairpins near the finish claimed the Cooper S of John Fullerton and Brian Rowan.

On the fifth stage, another new one at Craiganaboy near Larne, Curley again took the honours being 3s ahead of Boyd with a time of 3m 06s. Sean Campbell was beginning to speed up and he was just 4s slower than Boyd. On Sallagh it was Boyd ahead by 1s from Curley but on the next stage at Crockan, Curley took 7s off Boyd whose exhaust pipe had once more broken. However, on Glendun 1 Boyd pulled back 15s on Curley with a time of 10m 30s.

Campbell was again in third but another 15s down. John L’Amie and David Grant were putting up some very respectable times despite having nudged a bank and bending a rear hub carrier in the process. This caused the rear tyre to rub on the bodywork and L’Amie was rather horrified to see mechanic Ian Drysdale taking a pair of tin snippers to the rear wheel arch. However, he was calmly reassured that it was much better to do this and re-weld it later on than have the tyre rub a hole in the bodywork. Curley replied by taking 5s off Boyd on the next stage, the treacherous Orra Lodge with a time of 7m 39s.

Boyd was now finding the braking so awkward that he wore a flat spot on one of his rear racing tyres. However, at the next service point there was enough time for Bert Campbell to fit a homemade cardboard gasket which cured the problem. Boyd celebrated by setting fastest time on a lengthened version of Torr Head with a time of 10m 31s which was 13s ahead of Curley. He was even quicker on the next stage, Glendun 2 and took no less than 20s off Curley with a time of 10m 02s. Part of this was probably attributable to the fantastic light from the 100 watt iodine bulbs which had been scavanged from Robert McBurney’s VW.

However, Curley was not to be beaten easily and on the next stage at Managher he took 9s off Boyd with a time of 5m 17s. Campbell and L’Amie were 3rd best with a time of 5m 34s. By this stage Derek McMahon and Derek Smyth retired their Auto Extra BMW 2002 with a run big end bearing.

Managher was the last of the all-tarmac stages and the rally moved into a new phase with the start of the forestry sections. The first of these was the well known Springwell stage and Boyd showed that his new style of forestry driving discovered on the Scottish was no flash in the pan by taking 9s off Curley with a time of 7m 31s. Boyd was again in exhaust trouble, this time the damage was irreparable as a piece had broken off from the bottom of the manifold. Curley was not finding the handling of the Carrera to his liking on the loose and this was even more obvious on the next stage, Cam Forest, where Boyd was no less than 25s ahead with a time of 11m 46s. Cam saw the end of David Lindsay’s rally and he was seen stopped at the side of the road with mechanical trouble.

The next stage was in Banagher and the Larne Club had utilised it to its full extent, it being over 10 miles long. Boyd continued to dominate and his time of 12m 04s was 16s ahead of Curley with L’Amie a further 24s down. Sean Campbell could only manage 12m 57s but he had once more run into mechanical trouble and was suffering from a broken rear spring. It was again Boyd by 19s from Curley on the treacherous Mickey Mouse Moydamlaght stage.

Success for Rosemary Smith and Pauline Gullick on the Texaco, finishing 7th Overall and taking the Ladies Trophy to boot.

Breakfast was next on the agenda and the halt was at Aghadowey where the food didn’t appear to have changed much since the previous year. With only 6 stages remaining it looked as if Boyd was all set for an easy victory but just when he was about to start the next stage at Ballycastle, which is half tar and half loose, he felt the triple plate clutch begin to slip and he knew from previous experience in the RAC Rally that he would be very lucky to struggle to the finish. However, on the stage itself, the clutch began to grip once again, presumably due to expansion from heat, and he was able to gain another 11s on Curley with a time of 6m 05s.

He had a tyre advantage here since he was using Dunlop D1’s while Curley had to be content with SP44s. Rosemary Smith reached the leader board for the first time with a fine time of 6m 42s. Once more poor Sean Campbell’s rally came to a premature end this time with a broken driveshaft.

Curley got the better of Boyd for the first time on a forestry section and was 8s ahead of Boyd on the 8 miles of Ballypatrick Forest. Boyd had a slight moment and almost spun after overshooting at a poorly arrowed junction. Boyd’s clutch seemed to be sticking the pace and on the 10 miles of Slievenorra which was composed of 7 miles tar using part of the Glendun stage and 3 miles of loose, he was 20s ahead of Curley with a time of 10m 39s.

Again Boyd was using D1’s whereas Curley was on SP44s. The remaining 3 stages were all short and the first one at Parkmore was just 1 mile. However, halfway through the stage Boyd’s clutch began to slip very seriously but he was still able to crawl off the stage having set a time just 2s slower than Curley. He crawled to the penultimate stage, the 2-miler at Capanagh, where Curley was 11s ahead. The Lombard and Ulster camp were really worried at this stage and by now the Escort’s clutch was making a hideous noise and first gear couldn’t be engaged while at rest.

Fortunately, the last stage at Ballyboley is quite a flat forest and there was a large crowd at the start to give Boyd a push start with the car in gear. Much relieved he was able to get to the finish of the stage dropping only another 11s to Curley who by this time had eased since he knew there was no chance in catching Boyd and he didn’t want to damage the expensive Porsche on the rough roads. It was only a few miles to the finish in Larne where a very much relieved Boyd was heard to joke that the car should be put down with a welding torch.

So ended another classic Boyd/Curley duel; one which will be continued on the Manx where the pace should be even faster because Boyd hopes to have a 2-litre engine installed and Curley hopes to have a close-ratio gearbox. The Texaco was a fine, extremely well organised, no-nonsense event spoiled only by the lack of cross channel entrants, something which the RAC may be able to remedy by ensuring that there is at least a fortnight between each championship round.

1973 Texaco Rally – General Classification:

  1. Adrian Boyd/Beatty Crawford (Escort), 160m 53s;
  2. Cahal Curley/Austin Frazer (Porsche), 162m 39s;
  3. John L’Amie/David Grant (Porsche), 171m 31s;
  4. David Agnew/Robert Harkness (BMW), 176m 15s;
  5. Reggie McSpadden/Norman Taylor (Porsche), 177m 51s:
  6. Noel Smith/Billy McCracken (Escort), 181m 32s;
  7. Rosemary Smith/Paulina Gullick (Escort), 182m 14s:
  8. Ron Neely/Irene Neely (Mini-Cooper), 184m 22s.

Group 1 Class 2

  1. Billy Ferguson/M. Pedlow (Avenger GT), 197m 20s;
  2. Snowden Corkey/Leonard Weir (Toyota), 199m 59s:
  3. George King/Phyllis Thompson (BMW), 202m 49s;

Ladies Award: Miss Rosemary Smith/Miss Pauline Gullick (Escort), 182m 14s