1970 Galway

RIAC Steward Michael O'Carroll puts the official starter straight on a few points as Cahal Curley waits for the "off".

Reproduced from MotorWeek 14 February 1970.  Report and pictures by Richard St. John Young.

Text and Images scanned and cleaned up by Derek Smyth.


Thanks to a goodly slice of sponsorship from Harp Lager, last Saturday’s Circuit of Galway, held over 140 miles of special stages in the Galway area, was the richest event to be held in Ireland since the Gallaher Circuit of Ireland, and this, naturally enough, had its effect on the entries, which were good, to say the least.
The list, in fact, had some 67 names on it when entries closed, and, although there were several non-starters, four in fact, all the top names in Southern rallying, together with a fair smattering of Northern crews made up one of the most star-studded lists in a long time.


Added excitement was provided by the tussle for the Eire rally championship between John Bridges and Noel Smith, and with the Galway event the penultimate round, Bridges needed a good result to stay within striking distance of his rival. This was one battle, however, that was not to be, since, due to a mix up over the preparation of his car, Bridges was unable to start, which must have been a bitter blow, and his regular navigator, Brendan Doyle, moved over to the Ford camp to show Robin Powderly the way.

Noel Smith looks rather distraught as he (finally) leaves the starting ramp.

The start was a rather palatial affair complete with starting ramp, in Galway’s Eyre Square, and first man away was Noel Smith, navigated. as always, by Ricky Foote in his immaculate Cooper S. In fact, there was a certain amount of confusion at the start when the starter wouldn’t sign time cards, and it took a very impressive tirade from Smith to sort things out, there being no further trouble!  Running at No. 2 was Cahal Curley, the Escort looking even meaner than usual in its yellow livery, and another “yellow peril” the Cecil Vard, Paul Phelan Porsche 911 came next.


The first special section, some ten miles outside Galway, proved to be something of an Escort benefit, with Mickie Barry getting through fastest, fractionally ahead of Cahal Curley, with Steve Griffin a surprise third quickest in the Smartie Mini, running at No. 20.  Fourth fastest was Charlie Gunn, who has taken to using the “ole faithful” Lotus Cortina while his Escort is being made ready for Easter.  Joint fifth came the Vard Porsche, and John O’Gorman’s Escort TC.

MotorWeek’s “Sport in the South” man, Paul Phelan, sorts out his maps before the start of SS2. He and Cecil Vard were clean on the road and 12th Overall.

Although SS1 was an Escort stage it didn’t suit ‘em all and Mick Dolan did his car a power of no good while doing a spot of tree climbing.  He retired, as did Gerry McNamara, who hasn’t been having the best time of late having rolled the Escort three times in the Monaghan event a couple of weeks ago.  This time the front suspension did something unpleasant and he too was out of the hunt within the first few miles.


SS2 was a more amusing stage, and involved, for most people anyway, a trip round a convenient field, occasioned by a “sudden bend” that took everybody by surprise.  Curley was the first to go in, and just about everybody followed him, to the considerable detriment of the ground. Somebody was heard to remark afterwards that the lucky farmer who owned the field had the most expensive ploughs in the country cavorting round his land during the night!
In fact, there were many ways of doing that particular part of the stage, Tom Burke and Derek Jolley having the most original approach, and rejoining the road facing the wrong way. They nearly arrived back at the start!
Fastest here was local man D. Joyce, who drove his Cooper to very good effect in the early stages, with Robin Powderly’s fearlessly driven Anglia TC, and Pat Fay’s Renault Gordini next up.  Mervyn Johnston proved he was no sluggard either by making fourth fastest time ahead of Robert Maharry (Cooper S), Frank Fennell (Escort GT) and Steve Griffin.
It was on this stage that some rather weird timing first presented itself, since Noel Smith didn’t feature in the top six at all, despite the fact that he hadn’t visited the field at all, whereas Powderly spent some time charging round in the undergrowth, and yet was credited with second fastest!


Cahal Curley looks pleased about something at the start of SS3. He was fastest there too!

The third stage saw Curley back on form with a very quick time indeed. while Barry Griffin and Mervyn Johnston filled the next three slots.  Conor Linehan was next up and then Charlie Gunn, whose Cortina was proving competitive despite its year’s lay-off.  Troubles here befell Joe Wilson, whose Cooper ran out of second gear, while the Bert Reid / Austin Burnett Imp had also ground to a halt by this time.
SS4 again saw Cahal Curley in front, this time with Mervyn Johnston close behind, and then Smith, who appeared to be taking things comparatively easy(!) and Griffin, with Linehan’s Cooper and Tansey’s BMW next.

The fifth section, there was relatively little road work, and most of that was on smooth main roads, with simple tulip-type navigation, proved to be a real Ford benefit, with Curley again fastest from the Anglias of Powderly and, this time Nobby Reilly, who was going quite Well in his pushrod “Anglebox”.  Conor Linehan went well for fourth quickest in his nicely finished Cooper ahead of Barry’s Escort, and Tansey’s BMW, which, as in the Boreen several weeks previously, has the happy knack of going very rapidly without seeming to.

Mickie Barry and Dan Cavanagh went extremely well in their Escort TC, here seen on their way to 4th fastest on SS12.


SS6 saw a lot of people going out for one reason and another, Charlie Gunn being the most prominent, the Cortina making contact with a stout piece of Co. Galway.  Another to disappear in a violent manner was Joyce’s Cooper, which finished up upside down, while J. Byrne’s NSU TTS vanished from the scene at this stage also.
Of the survivors, David Wilson was quickest in his “Mini Cooper Elf’, ahead of Curley and Powderly, and then Johnston.  D. Ward’s Anglia GT was next up, ahead of the Escort GT of M. O’Connell.

Barry’s Escort was back on top for the next one, but the Northern driver reversed the position again on the next two stages.  By the time the supper halt had been reached (by way of a fabulous seaweed covered stage which was only drivable at low tide) quite a few people were missing, while several more were in trouble of various kinds.

Hugh O’Brien and Neil McNabb had electrical problems with the Ex-McCartney Renault Gordini but went well nevertheless.

Hugh O’Brien, who had Neil McNab with him in the ex-McCartney Renault Gordini, was suffering from electrical bothers, and an attendant lack of light, which was losing him a lot of road marks as well as affecting his stage performances.  Several Southern Coopers had vanished from the fray, as had Robin Powderly, who charged something solid, bringing a magnificent run to a violent end. One of these days he’ll finish an event, and probably win it as well.


The supper halt was on an island, just to be different.  The second half of the rally consisted of the first half in reverse, starting off with the “seaweed special” back to the mainland, where Conor Linehan was quickest. (He’d been fastest on the way out, too!).  David Wilson also showed up well here, but a further indication of strange timing came when Frank Meijer’s 850 Mini was credited with the same time as Steve Griffin’s Cooper on the return run!

An unlikely rally car, but a quick one, is Gabriel Grier’s Opel Kadette, here heading out to sea on SS12.

The next three stages were all Curley benefits, while Barry, Linehan and Smith also featured amongst the leaders on all three.  Cecil Vard’s Porsche didn’t sound too happy with strange gearbox noises and the odd backfire “testifying” to its unhappiness.  He did, however, manage second fastest to Curley on SS14, so it wasn’t all that bad!


The fifteenth stage saw Frank Fennell come to a halt with petrol pump troubles on his Escort GT, while two stages later Jimmy Reid did something rather nasty to his smart blue and white Cooper, ending up very upside down with a badly bent motor car.  Nobby Reilly also went out at around this time, as did the SeanCampbell / John Gelleece Cooper, the Whelan / Dooley Escort and the Hyland / Whelan Cooper, all with various bothers.

Among the quickest of the local performers were Dave Ray and Mick Silke with their smart white and yellow Cooper S.

On the eighteenth stage, disaster hit Cahal Curley when his throttle took it upon itself to stick open, and, after driving some of the stage on the ignition key, he was forced to stop and free it.  The trouble was that the bonnet catch wasn’t properly refastened, and when the “dynamic duo” continued, the bonnet took off and vanished over the hedge.  All this, and the resultant, unsuccessful search for the bonnet cost Cahal seven minutes on the road, and, as it turned out, the rally, but then, that’s what it’s all about!


Two people who were going steadily at this time were John McClean and Brian Mitchell in Cooper S and Sprite respectively and both got onto the leaderboard at various times during the latter part of the event, as did such notables as Robert Maharry, David Yeates and John O’Gorman.
Towards the end, Mickie Barry really pulled out all the stops, and was fastest on 20, 21 and 22, while the last two were taken by Smith.

Conor Linehan obviously has found something to look for, although the car looked OK to us.

After an excellent breakfast at the Odeon Hotel, where the event was based, came the tales of the night, and there were plenty of them.  There was also plenty of time to tell them, for, due to a certain amount of confusion in the timing department, it wasn’t until after lunch that results were announced, and these didn’t meet with the approval of all competitors.
Among the most surprised people around when results were announced was Mervyn Johnston, who found that he had won, while Cahal Curley ended up in second place ahead of Mickie Barry and Noel Smith.
A certain amount of re-checking followed, after which it was decided to leave the results alone, since to change one place would probably have meant changing the ‘lot’


Still, apart from the confusion which surrounded the timing department, the event was superb, with very fine stages, well arrowed, and efficiently marshalled, and a pleasant atmosphere which prevailed even when people found that they weren’t as well placed as they thought!

Cecil Vard suffered from gearbox bothers, or so it sounded, on occasions, but he brought the delectable Porsche into 12th position.

Somebody‘ suggested that here was an event which, in time, and with the continued sponsorship of Guinness, could rival the Gallaher Circuit of Ireland, and they could be right, for Eamonn Cotter certainly puts a great deal of work and enthusiasm into “his” event, and, with proper timing next year, it could be the greatest!
It said in the regulations, that anybody found practising on the stages would be dealt with severely, but, if the number of dirty and well-used rally cars your correspondent saw arriving back in Galway during the afternoon preceding the event is anything to go by, the stages were probably busier before the rally than during it and this aspect of the organisation could do with being tightened up for next year’s event!

John Keating deputised for Paddy O’Callaghan in his BMW 2002. Here he and Harry McEvoy take SS12 in their stride.


  1. M. Johnston, H. Johnston (Cooper S) 201.0 mks;
  2. C. Curley, A. Frazer (Escort TC) 201.3; 
  3. M. Barry, D. Kavanagh (Escort TC) 201.9; 
  4. N. Smith, R. Foott (Cooper S) 214.9; 
  5. P. Fay, F. O’D0noghue (Renault Gordini) 220.8; 
  6. C. Linehan, R. Murphy (Cooper S) 222.1;
  7. J. O’Gorman, N. Davin (Escort TC) 231.4; 
  8. R. Maharry, K. Johnston (Cooper 237.4; 
  9. J. McClean, H. Patton (Cooper S) 239.5; 
  10. J. Tansey, B. O’Neill (BMW 2002) 243.1;
  11. J. McCosh, B. Cusack (Escort TC) 250.2; 
  12. C. Vard, P. Phelan (Porsche 911S) 258.4.



  1. Barry (Escort) 5.55;
  2. Curley (Escort) 5.57;
  3. Griffln (Cooper) 5.59;
  4. Gunn (Cortina) 6.05;
  5. Vard (Pgrsche) 6.10;
  6. O’Gorman (Escort) 6.10.


  1. Joyce (Cooper) 8.51;
  2. Powderly (Anglia) 8.58;
  3. Fay (Gordini) 9.00;
  4. Johnston (Cooper) 9.02;
  5. Maharry (Cooper) 9.05;
  6. Fennell (Escort) 9.07
  7. Griffin (Cooper) 9.07.


  1. Curley (Escort) 4.50;
  2. Barry (Escort) 4.55;
  3. Griffin (Cooper) 5.02;
  4. Johnston (Cooper) 5.03;
  5. Linehan (Cooper) 5.08;
  6. Gunn (Cortina) 5.12


  1. Curley (Escort) 5.40;
  2. Johnston (Cooper) 5.52;
  3. Smith (Cooper) 6.05;
  4. Griffin‘ (Cooper) 6.05;
  5. Linehan (Cooper) 6.07
  6. Tansey (BMW) 6.07


  1. Curley (Escort) 6.40;
  2. Powderly (Anglia) 6.57;
  3. Reilly (Anglia) 7:07;
  4. Linehan (Cooper) 7.09;
  5. Barry (Escort) 7.10
  6. Tansey (BMW) 7.10.


  1. D. Wilson (Cooper) 6.50;
  2. Curley (Escort) 6.55
  3. Powderly (Anglia) 6.55;
  4. Johnston (Cooper) 7.10;
  5. Ward (Anglia) 7.12;
  6. O’Conne1l (Escort) 7.13.


  1. Barry (Escort) 10.13;
  2. Curley (Escort) 10.18;
  3. Linehan (Cooper) 10.21;
  4. Johnston (Cooper) 10.33;
  5. O’Gorman (Escort) 10.40;
  6. Powderly (Anglia) 10.42.


  1. Curley (Escort) 7.13;
  2. Johnston (Cooper) 7.20;
  3. Maharry (Cooper) 7.27;
  4. Reilly (Anglia) 7.31;
  5. Smith (Cooper) 7.34;
  6. Barry (Escort) 7.35.


  1. Curley (Escort) 6.41;
  2. Barry (Escort) 6.50;
  3. Johnston (Cooper) 6.51;
  4. Linehan (Cooper) 6.54;
  5. O’Gorman (Escort). 6.57;
  6. Griffin (Cooper) 6.58.


  1. Johnston (Cooper) 4.55;
  2. Smith (Cooper) 5.07;
  3. Curley (Escort) 5.08;
  4. Fennell (Escort) 5.12;
  5. Yeates (Cooper) 5.13;
  6. Reid (Cooper) 5.14.


  1. Curley (Escort), 6.43;
  2. Smith (Cooper) 6.55;
  3. Maharry (Cooper) 6.57;
  4. Johnston (Cooper) 7.03;
  5. Fay (Gordini) 7.05;
  6. Tansey (BMW) 7.05.


  1. Linehan (Cooper) 8.45;
  2. R. O’Brien (Cooper) 8.45;
  3. D. Wilson (Cooper) 9.03;
  4. Griffin (Cooper) 9.05;
  5. Barry (Escort) 9.10;
  6. Fay (Gordini) 9.25;
  7. Reid (Cooper) 9.25.


  1. Linehan (Cooper) 9.12;
  2. Burke (Escort) 9.20;
  3. McClean (Cooper) 9.28;
  4. Griffin (Cooper) 9.30;
  5. Meijer (Mini) 9.30;
  6. Fennell (Escort) 9.48.


  1. Curley (Escort) 6.30;
  2. Vard (Porsche) 6.38,
  3. Barry (Escort) 6.50;
  4. Smith (Cooper) 6.55
  5. Fay (Gordini) 7.06,
  6. Maharry (Cooper) 7.09.


  1. Curley (Escort) 5.58;
  2. Linehan (Cooper) 6.01;
  3. Barry (Escort) 6.02;
  4. Johnston (Cooper 6.03;
  5. Fay (Gordini)6.04;
  6. Tansey (BMW) 6.09.


  1. Curley (Escort) 7.55,
  2. Johnston (Cooper) 8.03,
  3. Linehan (Cooper) 8.10,
  4. Smith (Cooper) 8.12,
  5. Fay (Gordini) 8.13,
  6. Barry (Escort) 8.14;
  7. Griffin (Cooper) 8.14.


  1. Smith (Cooper) 7.32,
  2. Barry (Escort) 7.40,
  3. Tansey (BMW) 7.42,
  4. Reilly (Anglia) 7.44,
  5. Johnston (Cooper) 7.46,
  6. McCosh (Escort) 7.58.


  1. Barry (Escort) 10.20,
  2. Curley (Escort) 10.42,
  3. Smith(Cooper) 10.54
  4. Johnston (Cooper) 10.54,
  5. Linehan (Cooper) 10.56,
  6. Fay (Gordini) 11.00.


  1. Curley (Escort) 7.42,
  2. Johnston (Cooper) 7.45,
  3. Barry (Escort) 7.47,
  4. Fay (Gordini) 7.53,
  5. Mitchell (Sprite) 7.54,
  6. O’Gorman (Escort) 8.00;
  7. Maharry (Cooper) 8.00.


  1. Barry (Escort) 7.50,
  2. Smith (Cooper) 8.22;
  3. Johnson (Cooper) 8.22
  4. Fay (Gordini) 8.24,
  5. Curley (Escort) 8.26,
  6. O’Gorman (Escort) 8.27.


  1. Barry (Escort) 6.03,
  2. Smith (Cooper) 6.18,
  3. Curley (Escort) 6.19,
  4. O’Gorman (Escort) 6.20,
  5. McClean (Cooper) 6.21,
  6. Linehan (Cooper) 6.22,
  7. Johnston (Cooper) 6.22;
  8. Tansey (BMW) 6.22.


  1. Barry (Escort) 5.05,
  2. Johnston (Cooper) 5.24,
  3. Smith (Cooper) 5.28,
  4. Curley (Escort), 5.30;
  5. McCosh (Escort) 5.30;
  6. Tansey (BMW) 5.30.


  1. Smith (Cooper) 8.26,
  2. O’Gorman (Escort) 8.36,
  3. Curley (Escort), 8.37;
  4. Tansey (BMW) 8.37,
  5. Fay (Gordini) 8.47;
  6. McCosh (Escort) 8.47;


  1. Smith (Cooper) 5.46,
  2. Fay (Gordini) 5.52,
  3. O’Gorman (Escort) 5.53,
  4. Barry (Escort) 5.58,
  5. Curley (Escort) 6.02,
  6. Johnston (Cooper) 6.03.