1976 Boreen Rally

Article reproduced from RALLY SPORT Magazine March 1976
Report by Paul Phelan


SEAN CAMPBELL of Newry got his bid to take a hat-trick of BP Irish National Rally Championship wins off to a healthy start by taking his Northern Excavators/ Lindsay Cars backed Escort RS2000 to victory in the opening round, the Cibie Nite-Lite Boreen, organised by Dublin University and Trials Drivers’ Clubs on January 10/11. Navigated by Paul Phelan, Campbell finished well clear of the Mexico of last year’s Boreen winners Brendan Fagan/Kenny Johnston, whilst John Coyne and Derek Smyth gave their Avenger GT a troubled Irish debut, but still managed third spot.

There was a good entry for this season opener, with Fagan and Johnston first away in a borrowed Mexico instead of their RS1600, Campbell at two, and Ger Buckley and John Caplice third off in the familiar RS Escort. That’s the way it should have been, but a late arrival at the start saw Buckley exchange places with late entry John Tansey’s BMW to get some more plotting time. The rally began with its usual quota of four forestry stages, and despite running at the end of the field, Buckley took best times on the first two at Ballylug and Cronybyrne, although Campbell was within two seconds on the latter.

Unfortunately, the nice 11 miler in Glenealy was spoilt by the actions of vandals who altered several arrows, causing many wrong slots, but luckily no accidents. The stage had to be cancelled, but it still accounted for Buckley, who blew a head gasket, and the Escort of Derek Gaffney with a broken gearbox, while John Bridges’ Clubman broke a rear shock absorber. The final stage was at Shelton Abbey, where Sean Campbell was best, 2s ahead of the quick Imp of John Burns, with Bridges’ ill-handling machine next.

The 160-mile navigation section began in familiar Boreen territory near Woodenbridge, with a string of short, snappy runs between time points. The tricky approach to TP2 caused a couple of wrong approaches, including Coyne/Smyth. This apart, only the odd minute here and there was dropped until Phelan wrong slotted at Tara Hill, and then found the way back on to the route blocked by the John Tansey/Peter Scott BMW which had difficulty turning.  Result — 6m dropped for Campbell and 4 for Tansey, enough to put John Bridges/Derek Johnston into the lead. Amongst the non-experts, Mark Slevin/Sam Meyer were going very well in their ex-Prince Michael Mexico.

Malcolm Totten lost the exhaust from his Escort GT, and had to miss 7 points while he effected a repair, while Kenny Johnston lost his clean at TP18. Just two points later, he was given a wrong approach to Via 20, a decision which was later to be protested.  The Escort Mexico began to get sick, with the exhaust trying to fall off, and consequent power loss.  A wrong slot didn’t help things, and 4m were lost into TP21, with single minutes from here to petrol being the order of things. Bridges punctured and had great difficulty getting the wheel on, having to miss seven points to get back inside his 15m maximum lateness, and obviously dropping out of the reckoning completely. This left Campbell in a comfortable lead into the second petrol halt at Ballycarney, with Fagan’s ailing car now over 4 minutes behind, even without the disputed wrong approach.

The final hour’s drive to the finish was a succession of four minuters, with the pressure on all the way, and one of the only three cars to cover the full route so far was forced to miss three points when the diff on John Coyne’s ex-Tim Walton Avenger began to fail, forcing him to take things very gingerly to the end. By TP37, the leaders had pulled out another 6m advantage, but this all vanished when the Campbell Escort spluttered to a stop in a deep ford, with the Clerk of the Course taking sadistic pleasure at the sight! A total of 9m were lost at the next two points as the car proceeded in a series of quick pit stops for WD40, and the dreaded 15m lateness was looming close. However, all was well and the defending champion held on to the lead by either 4 or 19 minutes, depending on the outcome of the protest. Fagan and Johnston were second, while Coyne/Smyth held on to third place.


1. S. Campbell/P. Phelan (Escort RS2000) 25.4
2. B. Fagan/K. Johnston (Mexico) 44.8
3. J. Coyne/D. Smyth (Avenger GT) 99.3
4. D. Baynes/H. Inglis (Escort Sport) 157.8
5. M. Slevin/S. Meyer (Mexico) 161.6
6. A. Pinkster/R. Bruton (Imp) 171.8
7. J. Bridges/D. Johnston (Clubman) 186.7
8. R. Faulkner/T. Britton (Firenza 2300) 198.2
9. M. Dunnion/N. Harvey (VW 1300) 228.1
10 M. Totten/L. Fannin (Escort GT) 233.2
1. Slevin/Meyer (Mexico) 161.6
2. R. Mitchell/G. Rynhart (Cortina) 251.4