This report is reproduced from Autosport Magazine.
Report by John Davenport. Photos by Les Ashe Photography (LAP)
Coleman gets a first.
Old King Cole was a merry old sole and Billy Coleman wasn’t any less happy after winning the Larne Motor Club’s Texaco rally last weekend. This was the third round of the 1974 RAC Championship and the outright win for Billy, his Escort, and Peter Scott, puts the young Irishman in an unchallenged lead in the RAC Rally Championship. So far he has a third place on the Circuit of Ireland, second on the Welsh, and now an outright win on the Texaco. No less happy was Russell Brookes who again won the Group One category with his RS2000 in company with John Brown, which means that they lead both the RAC and the Castrol/Autosport series in Group One.
Early favourites and last year’s winner Adrian Boyd, for the second weekend running met his Waterloo and retired on stage five of the rally leaving his Brother Derek to go on and uphold the honour of the Lombard & Ulster Team by finishing third. Second overall was the consistently fast Porsche Carrera of Dessie McCartney and Drexel Gillespie while Maurice Forde / Paul Phelan brought their similar car home in fourth place.
In order to help as much as possible the entrants coming up from the South, the start was in Kilkeel, some 40 miles to the South from Belfast, and situated on the coast. The Friday night start meant a lot of people cut it fine leaving work to turn up for scrutineering and half an hour before the event was due to start at 18:00 hrs, only 15 or so cars had signed in, which led to something of a queue. However, the organisation went smoothly and all were dealt with, even if it did mean a bit of a rush.
Adrian Boyd and John Davenport were late anyway with the ex-Ford France Escort having just had a differential change, with the work being completed not much more than an hour before the start. Lombard & Ulster had three cars in this event with the second Escort RS1600 being crewed by Derek Boyd and Frank Main, and their racing Mexico, now with sump guard, for Jenny Birrell and Alexa Davenport. A bent track control arm which had to be changed in Kilkeel made them late starting and they had to be given a new start time.
Cahal Curley did not start as was expected and there were rumours that he was negotiating to buy Jack Tordoff’s 3.0 litre Carrera and sell his own. In any case, Tordoff is known to be building himself a forest Carrera from a crashed 2.7. Billy Coleman was here looking for points in the RAC Championship with his ex-Mikkola, ex-Sclater Escort, now fitted with the gearbox out of his new Escort. As predicted, Noel Smith turned up with his Porsche Carrera and Terry Harryman, but it had already lost fifth gear on the way to the start and neither of them looked optimistic.
DTV had made the journey with a Group 1 Firenza for Will Sparrow/Rodney Spokes, the same one indeed that they had used on the Circuit of Ireland and the Welsh, and their main opponents in Group One were Russell Brookes/John Brown in the Andrews Heat Escort RS2000, and Robin Eyre-Maunsell/Norman Henderson in the Chrysler Dealers Avenger. David Agnew/Robert Harkness were out again in their immaculate Alpine BMW 2002 but Brian Nelson, hands still not recovered from Donegal, decided to give this one a miss. Lindsay Cars had both their Escort RS1600s out, even so soon after Donegal, with regular crews of David Lindsay/Duffy Cunningham and Sean Campbell/Brendan McConville.
The Texaco comprised mainly tarmac roads of the closed public variety on which no practicing was allowed, and several forests. To make the business of tyre changing less difficult, the forests were arranged together and the rally started by visiting two of them, Rostrevor and Tullymore. On Rostrevor Coleman discovered to his horror that the limited slip differential was hardly gripping at all, while Adrian Boyd had his spare fire extinguisher go off behind the seats and spray the interior of the car with Carbon Tetrachloride until it was flung out through the door.
David Agnew did the fastest time here with 6m 09s but all cars after the first seemed to get an extra minute added, which was later removed from their scores. In Tullymore, late arrival of the marshals from their jobs in Belfast caused a slight delay while on the stage itself a “fast” arrow at a five-way junction marked a hairpin turn and many cars had to reverse out of it. Sean Campbell had the misfortune to run the bearings on this stage and Robin Eyre-Maunsell went off the road behind some logos a deceptive downhill left-hand bend which looked as if it should go right and found a stone big enough to stop him. The damage was too much to continue so he went home, glad of the chance to give his streaming cold a rest.
Poor Noel Smith was cursing German gearboxes through these first two stages and on the first of the tarmac stages it lost second and then selected two at once so he too called it a day. David Agnew, at this moment in the lead, had a rotor arm shatter on the third stage and lost some time changing it, and in any case he only had the rev-limiter type which kept his speed down a bit until he could find a proper one. Then two stages later, he was stopped again when a piece of the original rotor got between the points and had to be removed. Final problem was that with all the panic he had not readjusted the brake balance since leaving the forests and was not able to do so until after stage four.
In every rally there is one stage which gives all the excitement and in this case it was a farmyard just before the end of stage five. First car was Adrian Boyd who shot into the farm, weighed up where the exit was and started to accelerate towards it before realising that he was wrong. The car hit the gate and bent the wing back behind the headlamp, fracturing an oil pipe and writing finis to his rally. David Lindsay also hit the wall and bent his wing but his cause for retirements that as well as losing most of the lights on the wall, the differential was emitting a banshee wail that counselled prudence before unnecessary expense. Derek Boyd, who had just hit a bank on the previous stage, was perhaps a little bit more cautious, and made it into the gravel yard, spun it round and was back out again without substantial loss of time, but there were a further 15 cars that hit the same place and several of them never moved beyond it. Coleman was one of the leaders that had no trouble there but his performance was spoilt by navigator Scott telling everyone that he knew the road well.
By now it was getting dark as the cars went to the North round Belfast on their way to supper at Cushendun before the mid-night assault on Torr Head. Derek Boyd was easily fastest there but he did claim that it had something to do with a pressing call of nature which was only answered at the end of the stage. Generally Coleman was pulling away from him and once again, the nearest challenger to Boyd was the Porsche of McCartney. To start with, the Escort kept the advantage since McCartney was in a bit of trouble with his brakes as they seemed to be getting quite hot and he was losing the pedal. He put it down to the new Textar pads that he was using and kept going by bleeding the brakes frequently. Then, on the way to stage 16, Boyd’s engine started to go on to three cylinders. He had begun the rally with a hole in one exhaust downpipe and this was evidently causing a valve to burn car finished the rally with head gasket gone. This did not help Boyd to do fast times and on the last stage but one of the rally, Slievenorra, he could hardly get over the top of the hill, and at the end he had to be content with third overall.
In the Group One dice, Brookes and Sparrow were just 35 seconds apart after 17 stages despite the Escort driver having verged it on the first ascent of Orra Lodge and carried away his front half bumper on a tightening left-hand bend. Then gearbox trouble struck DTV and Sparrow had to miss a stage to have the gearbox changed which gave him a 10-minute penalty plus the maximum time on the stage which was another 18 minutes. Thus the Group 1 battle was settled well in the favour of Brookes who once again finished well up amongst the more exotic machinery with a sixth place overall. The ladies category still had all three runners though Sue Sinclair in her BMW 2002 was having brake trouble and decided to lose road time at 10s per minute in order to fix it as she was sure that Jenny Birrell was going to have road penalty for her late start. The Mexico too was in trouble as it broke a half shaft on the last test and was extremely lucky to be able to drive to the finish with the limited-slip differential locking enough to get them there just over a minute ahead of the BMW.
Considering the agitated times in which the people of Northern Ireland are living, the Texaco Rally was an excellent event with no problems over road closures and few with the timing. As usual the tarmac stages were superb and contrasted rather with the forest stages which were occasionally narrow and frequently rough. The problem seems to be that there are very few such stages in Northern Ireland and they get used quite a lot; but with the possibility to close such demanding public roads, they are there only as a fillip. For Billy Coleman, this was a very important result confirming as it does that his driving talent has reached the stage where it cannot be ignored, and that it can give him results in parts of the Country with which he is not familiar.
1974 Texaco Rally General Classification:
- B. Coleman/P. Scott (Escort RS1600) 175.50;
- D. McCartney/D. Gillespie (Porsche) 178.16;
- D. Boyd/F. Main (Escort RS1600) 181.36;
- M. Forde/P. Phelan (Porsche) 186.10;
- F. Crawford/L. Kelly (Escort RS1600) 188.06;
- R. Brookes/J. Brown (Escort RS2000) 189.20;
- D. Agnew/R. Harkness (BMW 2002) 188.57;
- J. McAlorum/T. O’Kane (BMW 2002) 194.13;
- R. McBurney/N. Smith (Porsche VW) 194.37;
- J.P. O’Kane/J. McLernon (Porsche) 195.51.
Class winners: B.Coleman/P.Scott (Ford Escort RS1600); R.Kernaghan/B.O’Kane (Hillman Imp); R.Kennedy/J.Allen (Ford Escort TC); M.Forde/P.Phelan (Porsche Carrera 2.7); R.Garrett/D.Hadden (Ford Escort Sport); R.Brookes/J.Brown (Ford Escort RS2000).
Ladies Award: Mrs J.Birrell/Mrs A.Davenport (Ford Escort Mexico).
Team Award: “Steel Services of Ireland” – Tannahill/Weir, Whittley/Duff, Lamney/Hughes, all in Cooper S.