1979 DMC Moonraker

Photo: Bryce Sands
James Logan and Derek Ervine took the win at Dungannon on the 1979 Moonraker Rally.

This report is a combination of two newspaper articles, pieced together to make a single story!

Seventy Compete in Moonraker Rally

Dungannon Motor Club’s Moonraker Rally, the fourth round of the 1979 Northern Ireland Road Rally Championship, got underway despite worries that fuel shortages would impact the event.  Despite that, Jimmy Logan and Derek Ervine would take their first road rally victory in their RS2000 Escort.  They finished one and a half minutes in front of John Jones and Peter Scott in a similar car, while John and Jackson Allen were third in a 1600 Escort.  

Seventy entries were received for the event which started from the Fork Filling Station and Edmund Sloss’s garage forecourt on the Moy Road at Dungannon.  All competitors had to put their cars through strict scrutiny, under the supervision from and RAC observer before being given the route instructions for the 126 mile rally.

Tom Spence and Alistair Donaldson were a local crew and a win in Class 2, taking eighth place overall, would be an excellent result in their Avenger. Photo Bryce Sands.

Many spectators turned out along the route which threaded its way through the townlands of Drummond, Derryfubble, Benburb, English, Caledon, Dyan, Carricklongfield, Killeshil, Aghnagar, Cabragh and into the first petrol stop at Fred Martin’s Filling Station at Quinn’s Corner.

Jones and Scott nearly had their rally end on the very first corner when the car slid straight on and had to be pushed out by spectators.  The selective sections on the tight lanes in the Benburb and Caledon areas saw Willie Hunter and Ivor Ferguson set their usual hectic pace and set the fastest time from Logan/Ervine.  Third fastest went to novices Colin Clark and Paul Taylor in an Escort, but they were destined to be non-finishers.

Top seeds on the 1979 Moonraker were Fred Crawford and Drew Todd. They would finish fourth overall. Photo Bryce Sands

Championship leaders, Fred Crawford and Drew Todd (Escort RS2000) were not having their most successful night and lost a minute after considerably overshooting one junction courtesy of Hunter and Ferguson having caught up with them.

A tricky, slippery lane near Cabragh brought the first major penalties and best on the section were Hunter/Ferguson, Jones/Scott and the Allen Brothers.  Time was lost by Haydock/Rowan and McKinstry/McGaffin who both spent time off the road.

This first 60 mile section caused great concern amongst many of the top drivers as they found their high-powered engines had exhausted their petrol supply.  Some crews even had to retire because they ran out of fuel, among them Tommy Speers and Joe Law in their 2000cc Sunbeam.  

At the petrol halt, it looked like William Hunter and Ivor Ferguson in their Escort RS2000 were in the lead by about a half minute with time penalties of 4m 45s.  Behind them were the Allen Brothers on 5m 10s, Logan/Ervine on 5m 55s and Jones Scott on 6m 29s. 

From here the rally took crews through the narrow lanes at Parkanaur, Castlecaulfield, Kilnaslee, Glenbeg, Gortavoy Bridge, Mulinagore and Derryloran and into the A29 Filling Station, Cookstown, for the second stop for petrol.  

Shortly after the restart, Ferguson made a minor mistake which let Logan in front of Hunter, only for the Whiteabbey driver to slide off the road and have the close-following Hunter run into the back of them!  Neither car was badly damaged, but Ivor Ferguson’s glasses flew out the window in the impact and try as they might, could not find them in the dark.  Unable to read the map without them, they were forced to retire.

The rally left the Cookstown petrol stop with Logan/Ervine in top place, just ahead of the Allen Brothers and Jones Scott less than a minute behind that.   The final, short 26 mile section went round Loughry College, Desertcreat, Carland, Edendork, Bush, Lowertown, Culinagrew, Grange, back through Drummond and hence to the finish at The Inn on the Park.  Trevor Haydock and Brian Rowan set the best time in this section, but crucially, Jones and Scott were a minute better than the Allens and snatched second place at the very last Time Control. 

Supper was supplied to competitors and marshals while the results were calculated.

Overall Positions:

  1. James Logan/Derek Ervine (Escort) 11.55;
  2. John Jones/Peter Scott (Escort) 13.29;
  3. John Allen/Jackson Allen (Escort) 14.10;
  4. Fred Crawford/Drew Todd (Escort) 15.17;
  5. Trevor Haydock/Brian Rowan (Sunbeam) 18.05;
  6. Trevor Turkington/Ray Nelson (Escort) 19.08;
  7. Dan Doherty/Brian Russell (Sunbeam) 20.43;
  8. Tom Spence/Alistair Donaldson (Avenger) 22.23;
  9. Ken Colbert/Richard Gilpin (Sunbeam) 23.12;
  10. William Crothers/R.Harold 26.20.

Class Positions:

Class 2:  1st. T.Spence/A.Donaldson, 2nd. R.Stubber/W.Pillar, 3rd. J.Wilson/H.Ingram, 4th. S.Robinson/J.Ashby, 5th. D.McIlroy/R.McKee.

Class 3:  1st. P.Muldrew/R.Quinn, 2nd. H.King/D.Sands, 3rd. L.Shaw/B.Foster, 4th R.Donaldson/R.Kee, 5th. C.Adams/P.Williamson.