This report by Peter Scott is reproduced from MN August 1st 1974
THE Northern Ireland Rally Championship starts to get under way properly with the Burmah Orchard Rally (North Armagh Motor Club) on August 2. So far two events have been held, the Tour of the Sperrins and the Texaco, and the points position is:
Dessie McCartney 15,
Fred Crawford 15,
Derek Boyd 15,
David Agnew 14,
Billy Coleman 12,
David Lindsay 12,
Ronnie McCartney 10.
Peter Scott 22,
Drexel Gillespie 15,
Liam Kelly 15,
Robert Harkness 14,
Duffy Cunningham 12,
Paul Phelan 8.
The two events so far held have been stage events, but many of the rallies to come are largely navigational and new names will then be appearing in the points tables.
The Burmah Orchard is one of the few events to have both types of rallying, with the event, after a 22.00 start, having 120 miles of navigation finishing about 03.00 followed by a petrol and service halt in Garvagh. The first stage, Cam, has-the first car due at 04.01, and four more forests complete the event — Gortnamoyagh 04.41, Banagher 05.11, Moydamlaght 05.41, and Glenshane 06.31.
The stages total 28 miles and the first car is due to finish in Cookstown at the, Glenavon House Hotel at 07.10.
An excellent entry of over 90 has been received, with 24 crews running in the experts class. The 1972 and 1973 rally champions David Agnew and Robert Harkness in their immaculate Alpina BMW 2002 Ti are top seeds and are followed by the only Southern entry, the Porsche Carrera driven by either Gerry or Maurice Forde and navigated by Paul Phelan. This car must be favourite for the navigation section of the rally, and, since the stages are penalised on the same basis as the road sections, this part of the rally should not make many changes in the results among the top crews.
The only Mini in the first ten is the eight-port car of Ronnie White and Harold Hagan, who have not appeared for over a year, and if this car’s reliability problems can be overcome they should be well able to justify their seeding at three.
First of the Escorts comes next in line, the Northern Excavators/Lindsay Cars 1800 BDA of Sean Campbell and Gordon Taggart, Campbell as always hoping for a finish. The ageing Twin-Cam of Leslie White and Drew Todd, always very competitive on road rallies, is at five, and Brian Nelson tackles his first road event in the BMW at six. Nelson’s first two rallies (Circuit of Ireland and Donegal) brought him seventh and fourth overall respectively, and with Fred Gallagher in the hot seat for this event he could once more provide the surprise, though his lack of experience in forest stages may be a handicap.
Paul Martin and Derek Smyth have teamed up for the series in an 1800 TC Escort, and yet another Escort entry will be the newly-acquired 18O0 BDA of Ronnie McCartney and Peter Scott. The top ten is completed by forest stage expert David Lindsay/Duffy Cunningham (RS1700) and Fred Crawford/ Bryce Sands (RS 1600).
Group One championship leader John McAlorum with Victor Armstrong (BMW 2002Tii) is at 11 followed by the other leading Gp 1 entries of Derek Boyd/Bob McCutcheon (Mexico) and Bertie Fisher in an RS2000.
David Agnew, presently lying fourth in the Castrol/Autosport series, intends to do most of the events in one or other of his BMWs. The well-known lightweight car is at present being rebuilt and will be used on the Castrol ’75 rally in August with Peter Scott as co-driver. Regular map man Robert Harkness will be back in the car for the Burmah and the Manx, the Gp 2 car seen on th Dales being used on the latter event.
Ronnie and Dessie McCartney have “only” one Porsche between them now, with the earlier lightweight which Ronnie took to second place on the Circuit having been sold. Ronnie announced his retirement from International competition after the Circuit after 15 years competing in rallies, autotests and autocrosses. Ronnie was a member of the winning Ken Wharton Autotest team for many years in the ’60s and won the Circuit of Ireland in 1964, and has a collection of well over 300 trophies.
He will still appear in some of the smaller events, but intends to leave the Internationals to Dessie who will generally be seen in the new Carrera lightweight. He took it to third in Donegal and second in the Texaco.
They have bought an 1800 Escort RS to use in forestry events, which Ronnie will probably use on the Lindisfarne Rally, and they are considering a Gp 1 Mazda RX3 for local navigation rallies, the brothers having a Mazda dealership.
As usual the Manx will have an ultra competitive Irish contingent. Lombard and Ulster will have their two Escorts in the Isle of Man, though a different combination of engines and bodies will be used. Adrian Boyd will be using the re-bodied LVX 942J car with the fuel injected David Wood engine, while younger brother Derek will have the ex~Ford France Monte car but using the alloy-block engine with Webers.
Cahal Curley will also be making his annual pilgrimage in September, and with two International wins already this year must be one of the favourites in the ex-Morley Carrera. With three second places in the Isle of Man to his credit, Curley should be Clark’s main opposition. Also Carrera mounted is Dessie McCartney, fourth last year.
An Irish party without some BMWs would not be true to form, and both David Agnew and Brian Nelson will be using their Gp 2 Alpina cars. The Chrysler Dealer Team (Ulster) Avenger 1600GT will once again be in the hands of Robin Eyre-Maunsell.
RAC Championship leader Billy Coleman expects to be there in one of his Escorts, probably the lighter car with David Wood engine.
For a change, Robin Eyre-Maunsell’s collection of cars is growing instead of being deminished (or should it be demolished). At present he has three Avengers: a 2-door 1600GT and two 4-door 1500GTs as well as the well-known Gp 5 Imp. The Imp is getting an airing on the Timpson, supposedly its last appearance before being pensioned off, and the two 1500 cc cars are for sale. In the future Maunsell hopes to have a Gp 2 BRM Avenger and a “big” club engine for the present Gp 1 car.
The Galway “International Hotel” Rally — cleverly worded title, but not in fact an International Rally – is the next round of the Irish National Rally Championship and will be a two-day tarmac stage event run on the weekend of August 31. Eamon Cotter is Clerk of the Course. This promises to be an excellent event, but will lose many leading entries with the Manx being so close.