This report is reproduced from Motor Month magazine, July 1976.
Nelson completes the transition!
Brian Nelson, once our most successful racing driver, carried off the honours at the Donegal International Rally when he took his left-hand~drive Porsche Carrera to victory over Dessie McCartney by a margin of 3 minutes 47 seconds. Nelson, who has been rallying for three seasons since retiring from the race-tracks, was navigated by Malcolm Neill, the well known ex-Circuit of Ireland Clerk of the Course.
It was a sweet victory for Nelson, whose Tuca Tiles sponsored Porsche took over the lead from initial leader Cathal Curley on Saturday when Curley, having led from the Friday start, all but destroyed his rear suspension after driving six miles of the Gweebara stage on a flat wheel. Nelson has been a contender for outright victory right from the start of his rallying career, but the ‘ten-tenths’ instinct acquired as a racer often led him into trouble while well placed. Now he seems to be able to hold a little extra in reserve which, as every successful rallyman knows, is the only way to succeed in this demanding sport. The event proved a clean sweep for Porsche Carreras which took the first five places ahead of the Vauxhall Magnum of George Hill.
Particularly unfortunate was Dessie McCartney who repeated his second place of a year before. McCartney suffered throughout the entire rally from a bad misfire. Nevertheless, he struggled through the rally and remained clear of his pursuers. McCartney has now been placed second in so many international rallies, it is untrue. Undoubtedly one of our top drivers, with a little more luck he could dominate the 1977 scene.
Welshman Brian Evans was third and David Agnew took fourth place in front of Noel Smith. Noel has spent a long time out in the cold and it is really very gratifying to see him achieving the results he deserves once again.
For Billy Coleman it was a bitterly disappointing event. Hoping to succeed in carrying off a unique hat-trick of the three Irish international rallies, Billy was forced to drive a left-hand-drive works-loaned Escort when his own Thomas Motors car could not be readied in time. It must have been particularly galling for the Millstreet farmer who missed the Scottish rally so that the car could be prepared in time for Donegal. In the event the works loaned Escort only lasted seven stages before retiring with clutch troubles while holding second place to Curley’s Porsche.
Group One produced the usual hectic battle which was resolved in favour of the London-based Spanish driver, Henry Inurrieta who carried off eighth place overall. Second in the class was Englishman Chris Lord in a Vauxhall Magnum and third was the talented John Coyne in an Avenger.
Finally, mention must be made of the outstanding performance of the Liverpool novice driver, Paul Windsor who took his Escort as high as fifth place on Sunday only to retire due to a blown head gasket with only a few stages remaining. If that drive doesn’t earn him the Ford ‘Rallyman of the Month’ award, nothing ever will!
OVERALL RESULTS: Donegal International Rally 1976
- Brian Nelson/Malcolm Neill (Porsche Carrera)
- Dessie McCartney/Terry Harryrnan (Porsche Carrera)
- Brian Evans/Martin Holmes (Porsche Carrera)
- David Agnew/Robert Harkness (Porsche Carrera)
- Noel Smith/Janes Greer (Porsche Carrera)
- George Hill/Peter Valentine (Vauxhall Magnum)
- John McClean/Donald Grieve (Porsche Carrera)
- Henry Inurrieta/Martin Whale (Ford Escort RS2OOO)
- Chris Sclater/Paul White (Chrysler Avenger)
- David Stokes/Stephen Bennett (Ford Escort RS18OO)
- H. Inurrieta/M. Whale (Ford Escort RS2OOO)
- Chris Lord/John Foden (Vauxhall Magnum)
- John Coyne/P. Potts (Chrysler Avenger)