1977 CIRCUIT OF WICKLOW
This report first appeared in Motor Month Magazine
Report by Christy Farrell, Photos by Bob Montgomery
GER BUCKLEY’S DOUBLE
After a disappointing run on the Circuit of Munster, Ger Buckley and John Caplice returned to winning form when they emerged victorious on the Gulf Motor Oil Circuit of Wicklow Rally; Their Electrical and Pump Services Escort RS1800 had fifteen seconds to spare over the second-placed crew of Noel Smith/Ian Turkington in their 3 litre Porsche Carrera, with an unlucky Mick and Anne O’Connell in third place in their Burgolarm Escort RS1800.
For the past few years, the Circuit of Wicklow has attracted a capacity entry, and this year was no exception. This year the rally moved to a new start venue at Wicklow town. Last year the organisers were criticised for the delay in producing results after the rally had finished. This year they sought to rectify the matter by utilising a computerised results system. This was fine in theory, but the fact that competitors’ stage cards were not collected till the finish control meant that there would be a delay before results could be produced. Eventually, official results were posted at midnight, and by this time many competitors had already gone home.
Ger Buckley and John Caplice led the field of 115 starters away to the first stage at Kilbride. Fastest here was Mick O’Connell with a loss of 15 marks followed by Noel Smith on 16 and Ger Buckley on 27. The slippery nature of the stages was effecting many crews and there were reports of several off-road excursions. Ron Neely joined the list of retirements with electrical failure on his Mini. After three stages Ger Buckley and Mick O’Connell were joint leaders on 232, with Noel Smith third on 239. In the group one battle, Mick Dolan’s RS2000 had a thirty second lead over Robert Patterson’s similar car with John Scallon third, also in an RS2000.
After stage 5 there was a one hour service halt at Tinahely. By now Ger Buckley was leading with eleven seconds to spare over Noel Smith with Donie Keating in third place in his RS1700 a further 33 seconds down. Mick O’Connell lost one minute on SS5 when he had brake problems on his Escort and thus lost any chance of overall victory.
Stages 4 and 5 were repeated after service, but there was a delay of forty minutes due to the fact that all competitors had not passed through these sections on their first run. Crews then headed north to SS8 at the Glen of Imaal. Ger Buckley set fastest time by three seconds from Noel Smith, but on the next stage over Church Mountain, Mick O’Connell was ten seconds faster than his nearest rival. Joint second fastest were Noel Smith
and Brendan Fagan/John Kehoe in their RS1800 who were enjoying a trouble-free event. Mick Dolan punctured on this stage and the resultant delay dropped him out of contention for Group One honours.
There now remained two forest stages, Ballydowling and Glenealy. Donie Keating, who had lost three minutes on Church Mountain due to a puncture, emerged fastest on both forest stages. Brendan Fagan almost spoiled a good run when he slid wide near the end of the Glenealy stage, but he continued and finished a creditable fifth overall. He set very competitive times on the forest stages even though he was using tarmac tyres. Manx visitors Jon Scowcroft and Dave Owens punctured on Glenealy and as a result finished down the field. John Bridges’ rally ended in Gleanealy with a blown engine in his mini. He tried to coax it to the finish of the stage but it seized solid further on.
So at the finish, Ger Buckley and John Caplice were declared winners with a fifteen point margin over Noel Smith/Ian Turkington. Mick and Anne O’Connell finished a disappointed third. Dessie McCartney and Derek Smyth, who were making their debut in the ex-Freddie Patterson ex-Ian Corkill Escort RS1800, finished fifth. Continuing their impressive form this year, David Wright and Leslie Fannin finished a fine sixth in the Lindsay Burney Avenger Tiger.
- G. Buckley/J. Caplice—Ford Escort RS1800—863
- N. Smith/I. Turkington—Porsche Carrera—878
- M. O’Connell/A. O’Connell—Ford Escort RS1800-891
- B. Fagan/J. Kehoe—Ford Escort RS1800—946
- D. McCartney/D. Smyth-Ford Escort RS1800
- D. Wright/L. Fannin-Avenger Tiger