1978 Hitachi Rallysprint

Photo: Derek Smyth
Pentti Airikkala took home the £1000 prize as winner of the Hitachi Rallysprint.


This report is reproduced from Auto Ireland Magazine – Photos by Brian Foley and others as noted.

DEREK DALY shattered the rally establishment by finishing third in the “Hitachi Tarmac” Rallysprint, his first-ever rally event. Beaten only by the tremendously experienced Finns, Pentti Airikkala and Hannu Mikkola, Derek put up a brilliant show in the 2.3 Lotus-powered works Chrysler Sunbeam. A high-speed spin on his second run did not deter him, although it probably did at least frighten some of the spectators who could be seen making a rapid exit from the hairpin as the Sunbeam spins towards the wall on the outside, brakes lights full-on as Daly stood on the anchors. In the picture below, the Sunbeam has slid off the road, missing the wall, and Daly was going again within seconds!

Derek Daly escapes from a spin, narrowly missing a bridge, and the spectators!

The Flying Finns Pentti Airikkala and Hannu Mikkola, driving Vauxhall Chevette 2300HS and Ford Escort RS1800 respectively, finished first and second in the “Hitachi Tarmac” Rallysprint on November 26. That was an entirely predictable finish for these two Finns are reckoned to be amongst the quickest of all rallymen in the world. But a major surprise was created by Derek Daly, Ireland’s leading racing ace, who shattered the rally establishment by finishing third in his first-ever rally event.

Hannu Mikkola was runner up in the David Sutton prepared RS1800. Photo Les Ashe

Airikkala’s time for his best two combined runs was 15 minutes 9 seconds, and with a cool £1000 for outright victory, this must be a record earnings in any sporting fixture! Mikkola was 10 seconds slower, and despite a high speed spin on his second run, Daly pulled out all the stops on his third run to come up with a 15 minutes 32 seconds time with the works Lotus-powered Chrysler Sunbeam. Best of the regular Irish drivers was Brian Nelson with his familiar Porsche Carrera, 11 seconds down on Daly. The full results speak for themselves.

Brian Nelson was fourth overall with his 3-litre Porsche Carrera, best of the regular Irish drivers and fastest Porsche.

The first runs saw Philip McCartan crash the Dublin Garages Opel Kadett GT/E at “Daly’s Bridge”, and one of the spectators who refused to keep well back was taken to hospital with a broken leg. Formula Atlantic racers John Eastwood and Eddie Jordan pranged their Escort RS2000, Brendan Fagan continued after a high speed off, and John Coyne had a really nasty moment when the bonnet of his Chrysler Sunbeam blew open while he was travelling at around the ton!

Ronnie McCartney and Derek Smyth were seventh-placed with the Team P.R.Reilly/STP Escort RS1800. All things considered, not bad for a “veteran”.

The event was run by the Co. Kildare Motor Club, sponsored by Team P.R. Reilly, held at Aghavannagh, Co. Wicklow, and watched by a huge crowd in cold but ideal conditions. “Definitely it’s on again next year,” said an enthusiastic Patrick Reilly, Marketing Sales Director of Team P.R. Reilly. However, a different stage will be picked for ’79, and perhaps a slower, more twisty, stage would result in a closer competition. Airikkala’s average speed over the 9.6 miles Aghavannagh stage was over 76 mph, and the faster cars were clocking up to 120 mph on the straights.

“Flying Finn” Hannu Mikkola prepares for his first run over the Aghavannagh special stage. Photo by Derek Smyth.
Ken Shields and Peter Lyster three-wheeling their way to eighth place overall.
Ernest Kidney took a top 10 place in his fabulous Permapost RS1800.
Noel Smith and Ian Turkington make it round “Daly’s Bridge”, but need all the road.