Article reproduced from Motoring News 27 October 1977
IT WAS indeed a Jubilee win for the English autotest team of Trevor Smith (1.3 Midget), John Larkin (L3 Mini GT) and John Calton (1.8 Mexico) in the 21st Ken Wharton Memorial Autotest, held at Birmingham on October 15.
With considerable support from Lucas, the host club, Hagley and District Light Car Club were rewarded with a close and nail-biting finish between the six teams, with England beating the holders for the past eight consecutive years, Northern Ireland, by 13.1s after both teams had conceded wrong test penalties.
Eire were also in a challenging position but four penalties on the final two tests meant they only just beat Scotland to third place by 4.0s. Guernsey and Wales were also closely matched, with the Channel Island contenders just making fifth place by 2.9s.
Each of the six countries had their strongest teams out with the Northern Ireland line-up of Lee Lucas (1.6 VW Buggy), Ken Irwin (1.3 Mini GT) and Ken Shields (1.1 Peugeot 1O4ZS) the clear favourites. Eire was represented by Peter Lynch, Dermot Carnegie, who was competing in his 12th Wharton Memorial, and Frank Lenehan. England had the three top class drivers from the BTRDA Championship, including the BTRDA and) RAC National Champion, Trevor Smith.
As a change from the single test venue at Padmore House, the Lucas King Street car park provided plenty of room for a good pair of tandem tests to be laid out. The pairing of the teams also provided good spectator appeaL
A hint of the competition to come came when the first totals for tests One and Two resulted in a tie between England and Northern Ireland for first place. On the next pair of tests Eire lost ground when Peter Lynch got lost, while Scotland’s David Robertson gained the first pylon penalty of the day.
At lunch England was in the lead by a mere 0.6s from Northern Ireland, with Scotland third a further 31.7s down.
Three pairs of tests were run in the afternoon with the last two pairs being the most significant. Going into tests Seven and Eight England had an 8.9s lead over Northern Ireland, but then John Calton went the wrong side of a pylon and incurred a 30s wrong test penalty. However, any advantage Northern Ireland might have gained soon disappeared when Ken Irwin succumbed to the pressure and wrong slotted to leave England only needing a clear run on the final test to win.
This they did, much to the delight of the many English spectators who have had to wait since 1968 for this to happen.
Eire had been 12.4s behind England before those final runs, but all their team had penalties and they finished 43.6s behind Northern Ireland in third place. They did, however, have the fastest individual driver in Dermot Carnegie. Scotland’s drivers had a steady run all day and finished in fourth place, 59.75 behind the winners.
Wales lost their Mini driver, Ken Jones, with a broken gearbox, leaving Bryan Jones to substitute. Despite some fast times by Cliff Robertson’s Midget, however, they missed fifth place by 2.9s to a consistent Guernsey.
Overall Results: 1977 Ken Wharton Memorial Autotest
- England, 1826.3s;
- Northern Ireland. 1839.4s;
- Eire, 1882.05;
- Scotland, 1886.0s;
- Guernsey. 2065.8s;
- Wales. 2068.7s.
- D. Carnegie (1.3 Cooper S), 559.5s;
- J. Larkin (1.3 Mini GT). 587.8s;
- K. Irwin ( 1.3 Mini GT), 607.05.
- T. Smith (1.3 Midget), 566.3s;
- L. Lucas (1.6 VW Buggy), $88.2s;
- C. Robinson (1.3 Midget), 606.9s.
- K. Shields (1.1 Peugeot 104ZS), 644.2s;
- F. Lenehan (1.2 Datsun Cherry), 656.93;
- G. Aird ( 1.2 Datsun Cherry). 659.06.
- A. Murray (1.3 Cooper S), 553.3s;
- D. Squire (1.3 Sprite), 575.7s:
- C. Dickson (1.6 VW), 667.3s.