FROM A TINY ACORN TO A MIGHTY OAK IN NINE MONTHS
(Report by Doug Baird, first published in the Trophy Rally Special, Saturday, 11th September, 1971.)
This is the story of the transition the Manx Trophy Rally has made from it’s humblest beginning as a Restricted Rally in May 1963, to what every club hopes their rally will achieve, an International event, in September, 1971 to take a place amongst the other established home Internationals, the R.A.C. Rally, the Circuit of Ireland, the Scottish, the Welsh, the Gulf, and now the Manx.
It is worth taking a look to see how the Manx Trophy was conceived (or to be more precise, how Manx rallying started).
The Manx was the brainchild of John Hopwood, Roy Fidler and the Ecurié Cod Fillet brigade, who thought that this tiny island was a rallyman’s paradise, especially with the power to close the roads to all other traffic, a facility only enjoyed by our Irish counterparts at the moment.
May 1963 saw the first Manx Trophy Rally, which was a Restricted event, but counting as a qualifier in the coveted Motoring News Rally Championship, thus ensuring that the top names in the sport came.
Masquerading under the Manx Automobile Club (a non-competitive motor club), the inaugural rally was organised by John Hopwood and Co., with generous sponsorship coming from the Manx Government’s Tourist Board and the Daily Mail
The initial event was basically a navigational one, run at a 30 m.p..h.(?) average, with targa timing (a la “Motoring News” events) with no special stages, although for many (especially the Manx competitors) it was one long special stage!
Victory went to Reg McBride and Don Barrow in the then all-conquering Allardette, followed by Phil Simister/Barrie Potts and John Sprinzle/Willie Cave, all in similar cars.
In 1964, the rally took on a different look, and became an all-special stage event, being clerked by THE John Brown, and this became the successful formula which has seen the rally go from strength to strength. In 1964, the rally was voted as the top rally in the Motoring News series and won the coveted Ecurié Cod Fillet “Rally of the Year” award, John Brown receiving the silver rampart.
Just as the inaugural rally had been an Allardette affair, the ’64 rally turned out to be a Mini Cooper S beneﬁt, David Friswell and Keith Binns scooping the pool in their 1275S, followed by the smaller capacity 1071S of Barrie Williams/Mike Lindsay-Jones, with Norman Birkett/Pat Hausman (Cortina GT) third.
But it was the infamous Sir Peter Moon, with John Davenport in the hot seat, who had it all sewn-up when they did it all wrong on the descent of Druidale and rolled their venerable Mini-Cooper into a ball, miraculously without personal injury. (I’m told Davers has never been the same since!). Hence the bumps near the bottom of Druidale being known as the “Moon bumps”.
Utilising the powers that enables roads to be closed for racing, be it motor-cycles, cars, scooters, bicycles or go-karts, since 1964 the Trophy Rally has basically consisted of 30-odd special stages set originally at 50 m.p.h. but latterly at 60 m.p.h., with no penalty on the in-between sections, save an overall lateness of 30 minutes.
In the beginning almost all the mainland competitors arrived by steamer on the Friday afternoon, with the rally starting at mid-night, but how rallying has changed since these early days.
With the road closing orders being published a week before the rally (to let everyday commuters know which roads will be closed), “foreign” rally cars (nothing – to do with Oliver Speight) can be seen arriving daily by steamer.
Then, armed with a copy of the road closing orders, the “with it” crews mark the map and set about reconoitering and making pace notes. However, the organisers have more than once been perturbed about reports of would-be competitors traversing the special stages at speeds that would endanger other road-users, and in fact a local crew rolled their car (on the driver’s own land) the week before the rally. Needless to say this competitor saved the organisers the embarrassment, and withdrew his entry.
The organisers do not mind crews traversing the stages at reasonable speed, but in the regulations issue a stern warning that anyone driving at rally speed will not start. As clerk of the course John Stott told us, when complaints such as this are received it is the committee who have to go cap-in-hand to get the roads closed the following year.
The rally now organised by Manx Auto-Sport Ltd. (the Island’s leading motor club) with Manxman John Stott as clerk of the course, and for the last three years has enjoyed National status, and for the last couple of years has been a qualifier for the Motoring News and R.A.C. Rally Championships.
Scrutineering has always been held at Mylchreests Motors Ltd. Douglas showrooms, the Island’s main British Leyland distributors, and from here the cars proceed to the parc fermé until the midnight start from the Sefton Hotel, the rally headquarters. .
The night section covers about 150 miles, with about 20 special stages varying in length from one and a half to 10 miles, 95% on metalled roads, the first cars arriving back in Douglas about 5 a.m., allowing roughly five hours rest before the 10 a.m. restart.
By-and-large the day section is longer with the stages more difficult and taking in a lot more country, and some of the day stages are a reversal of the night ones. There is a break around 1 p.m. for lunch, with the rally running itself out round about 5 pm. on the Saturday.
The finale of the Manx weekend is brought to a close with the enactment of the auto tests (up to date, old boy) on Douglas promenade, although this doesn’t count towards the rally results, and by 5.30 p.m. the rally circus depart on a specially chartered steamer and the Manx is over for another year.
The biggest disappointment this year is undoubtedly the poor entry, 75, especially since the rally had been oversubscribed for the past two years, the organisers having to extend the maximum from 120 to 130 last year.
One obvious reason is the cost of competing now that the rally is International. The entry fee has gone up, insurance has risen astronomically, and to comply with the latest F.I.A. Appendix J regulations considerable alterations have to be made to the cars, which all adds to the cost, hence many cars resembling mobile advertising hoardings.
There have been only two local winners in the history of the “Manx”, Dennis Easthope in his supercharged Cortina G.T. in 1966 and John Huyton (Cortina G.T.) in 1968. Ironically, when Easthope won in 1966 the event was held in September due to the seamen’s strike, and Manx drivers ﬁlled the first three places, Easthope being followed home by Doug Baird, also in a supercharged car (a 1071 Mini-Cooper S) and John Dodsworth third in a 1275 Mini-Cooper S. What chance of a local win this year? Unfortunately, no chance, that is unless Roger Clark, Chris Sclater, Mike Hibbert and Adrian Boyd fall by the wayside, then we could see John Huyton gaining his second win.
However, the biggest controversy arose in 1965 when Manx garage proprietor Don Lindsay finished third ‘overall” in a 1275 c.c. powered Mini-Van, behind Tony Fall and the flamboyant Chris Knowles-Fitton. A similar situation could arise this year as one competitor has been bleating that he will protest at the eligibility of certain cars should they beat him. Did someone say it’s a sport?
Amongst “the famous” who have graced the “Manx” with their presence are: Roger Clark, John Sprinzel, Tony Fall, Pat Moss-Carlsson, Adrian Boyd, Cahal Curley, Dessie McCartney, Jimmy Bullough, John Bloxham and David Friswell.
The following list of successful competitors since the inception of the rally shows the different drivers and makes of car which have figured prominently on the “Manx”:—
1-Reg. McBride/Don Barrow (Allerdette)
2-Phil Simister/Barrie Potts (Allardette)
3-John Sprinzel/Willie Cave (Allardette)
1-David Friswell/Keith Binns (1275 Mini-Cooper S)
2-Barrie Williams/Mike Lindsay Jones (1071 Mini-Cooper S)
3-Norman Birkett/Pat Hausman (Cortina G.T.)
1-Tony Fall/David Fawcett (1275 Mini-Cooper S)
2-Chris Know1es-Fitton/Mike Wood (1275 Mini-Cooper S)
3-Dan Lindsay/Ray Kennedy (1275 Mini Van).
1-Dennis Easthope/Dennis Craine (Supercharged Cortina G.T.)
2-Doug Baird/Ffinlo Crellin Supercharged 1071 Mini-Cooper S)
3-John Dodsworth/Roy Sweetman (1275 Mini-Cooper S)
1-Norman Harvey/Terry Vaux (1275 Mini-Cooper S)
2-Ken Leece/Evelyn Leece (1275 Mini—Cooper S)
3-Johnl Huyton/Bob Corrin (Cortina G.T.)
1-John Huyton/Bob Corrin (Cortina G.T.)
2-John Dodsworth/Adrian Hundleby (1275 Mini-Cooper S)
3-Richard Hill/Norman Salt (Lotus Cortina)
1-Co1in Malkin/John Davenport (Hi11man Imp)
2-Cahal Curley/Austin Frazer (Escort T.C.)
3-John Huyton/Margaret Kennish (Cortina Lotus)
1-Chris Sclater/John Davenport (Escort T.C.)
2-Cahal Curley/Austin Frazer (Escort T.C.)
3-John Huyton/Bob Corrin (Cortina Lotus)