1976 Cork 20 Rally

This short article is reproduced from Motoring News 7th October 1976. A more detailed report came the following week and is below.

Easy for Coleman on Cork 20

Billy: Easy win.

BILLY COLEMAN gave the RAC Championship Lindisfarne Rally a miss at the weekend to compete in his local event, the Cork 20 Rally, and after 300 miles of stages ran out easy winner. With Dan O’Sullivan co-driving in the new Thomas Motors Escort RS1800 which made its debut on the Manx. Coleman won by seven minutes from Dessie McCartney/Derek Smyth in the McCartney Motors Porsche Carrera.

Third, and just over two minutes behind, was David Lindsay with David Sandford in his Escort RS1800, whilst fourth was Ken Shields/Peter Lyster in their Porsche. The Gp1 award went to John Coyne in his Avenger alter leader Sean Campbell retired his RS2000 in the closing stages with fuel problems. Second Gp1 crew were Bernard Banning/John Horton who were eighth overall after numerous excursions.

The Cork 20 was something of a disaster for the leading Irish Porsche runners, and six of the Carreras retired on the very first test. Amongst them was last year‘s winner Cahal Curley who had gearbox failure on his Chequered Flag Carrera RSR and Brian Nelson who had fuel problems with his Tuca Tiles example.

Longer report reprinted from Motoring News 14th October 1976
Report by Paul Phelan.

Coleman pulls out stops on Cork 20.

BILLY COLEMAN and Dan O’Sullivan fully justified their decision to miss the Lindisfarne, by taking the latest Thomas Motors 2-litre Escort to an easy win in the Munster MC and CC’s B&I Cork 20 Rally, an event which boasted a huge stage content of 300 miles, from a total distance of 400 miles, all on tarmac. In a distant second place came “Mr Runner-Up” himself, Dessie McCartney, co-driven this time by Derek Smyth in the Team P.R. Reilly Porsche Carrera, again fitted with its 2.7-litre “cooking” motor, whilst Ulster Stage champion-elect David Lindsay, with David Sandford took the Lindsay Cars/Northern Excavators Escort RS1800 to third, another 2 minutes down.

Thanks to the high stage mileage only 51 of the 116 entries were classified as finishers, and the number of undamaged cars running at the end could almost have been counted on one hand. John Coyne highlighted his recent good performances by taking the very competitive Gp1 section in his Avenger GT, as well as an excellent sixth place overall.

There was a good quality entry for the last Irish tarmac stage rally of the year, with quick Escorts and Porsches making up the top fifteen seeds, led by last year‘s winners Cahal Curley/Austin Frazer in the Chequered Flag 3-litre Carrera. Coleman / O’Sullivan followed, and there was a good showing of cross-channel crews supplementing the home regulars. The first day’s run comprised six stages each done twice, and with an average length of twelve miles, it was obvious that there would be some very tired machinery by the Saturday evening.

Best Group 1 crew on the Cork 20 were John Coyne and Rob Lawrence who finished eighth in the ex-Tim Walton Avenger GT.

Kinsale was the rally’s base, and the compact first day‘s route lay to the west of the town. However, for Curley, it was a short rally because the Porsche’s gearbox failed after just one stage. This was to prove an ominous sign for the German marque, as Brian Nelson’s Tuca Tiles car, which was just one second behind Coleman after two stages, contracted a mysterious fuel injection gremlin, which caused retirement shortly afterwards. This may have been just as well, as a broken wheel stud was later discovered.

Other Porsche problems from the opening stages – Stephen Carr/Rupert Saunders put the Autofarm car well into the fields on the first test, Jan Churchill had his throttle linkage come apart, repaired it, but later the valve gear on one bank decided to become independent from the remainder of the power unit! Donie Keating had a frightening moment when his steering column broke, and the Escort blocked the stage for a time.

Intermittent rain washed a lot of mud on to the roads of West Cork, and this was used by many drivers to explain their excursions into the country. One of the most frequent visitors was Bernard Banning, who together with John Horton managed to modify almost every panel on his Avenger, but still kept going indecently quickly. Sean and Yvonne Campbell were showing their usual domination in Gp 1, the Northern Excavators / Lindsay Cars Escort RS2000 getting well into the top ten as the more powerful cars fell by the wayside.

Manxman Dennis Easthope joined the ranks of retired Porsches when his 3-litre’s clutch was unable to cope with all the power. At the other end of the power scale, Ron Neely’s 1400 Tuborg Mini savaged a gate pillar which had already claimed Pat Barrett’s RS18OO.

By Saturday evening, the rally was an Escort benefit, with Coleman leading by more than two minutes from Ger Buckley’s Electrical and Pump Services 2-litre version, and Lindsay was fourth, behind McCartney. Ken Shields was his usual steady self in fifth, with Winston Henry’s Andrews Haulage Escort next, and staying reliable for once. Campbell and Coyne were seventh and eighth and easily the top Gp1 drivers.

Heavy overnight rain brought still more mud, and Buckley was one of the first to discover this with a brief off on Sunday’s opener. Any co-drivers who had stayed up late on Saturday night found problems, as roadbook mileages were all out by a third for the first half of the day’s run, causing confusion at first.

Coleman, out in front, was in a class of his own and was pulling 10 to 15 seconds a stage from everyone else. Buckley held second until he had clutch slave cylinder failure on the seventh stage of the day which cost 11m, and put him back to fifth. Henry put his Escort off at a 90 right, losing six minutes and as many places. Campbell was in more serious trouble, with a blockage in the fuel system, which eventually forced retirement, letting Coyne take the Gp1 lead.

James Doherty’s Avenger spent some time in a field, but continued, whilst the hard-charging Dan Jones, whose RS2000 had roughly the same shape as the Banning Avenger, finally put the car off permanently with two stages to go.

And so, Coleman ran out winner, for the fourth time, of his home club’s major event of the year, by a comfortable margin. The rally was well run, considering that most of the experienced organisers in the Munster Club defected during the year to form a new club, and Leo Whyte’s efforts should go a long way towards making the event successful in 1977 in its first year with International status.
Paul Phelan


  1. W. Coleman/D. O’Sullivan (Escort R§1800) 16329;
  2. D. McCartney/D. Smyth (Porsche Carrera 2.7). 16753;
  3. D. Lindsay/D. Sandford (Escort RS1800). 16882;
  4. K. Shields/P. Lyster (Porsche Carrera 2.7). 16952:
  5. G. Buckley/J. Caplice (Escort RS1800). 17309;
  6. J. Coyne /R. Lawrence (Avenger GT 1.6), 17693;
  7. D. Shacklock/N. Quayle (Porsche Carrera 2.7). 17806;
  8. B. Banning/J. Horton (Avenger GT 1.6). 17888;
  9. M. Dolan/J. Stewart (Escort RS2000). 18047;
  10. J. Scallon/B. Brophy (Escort RS2000). 18103.

Group 1:

  1. Coyne/Lawrence;
  2. Banning/Horton;
  3. Dolan/Stewart.

Class winners: R. Craigie/D. Flanagan (Fiat 128 Coupe); Banning/Horton; Dolan/Stewart; C. Jackson /F. Newport (Imp); J. McHale/M. O’Neill (Escort TC 1.3); A. McHale/D. O’Neill (Escort TC 1.6); W. Henry/I. Ferguson (Escort RS1800): D. Shacklock/N. Quayle

Manufacturers’ Team:

Chrysler Avenger (Coyne/Lawrence, Banning/Horton, J.Doherty/Mrs M Doherty).

Ladies’ Award:

Miss G. Pickard/Miss J. Welldon (Porsche Carrera 2.7).