1964 January TAH Rally Gossip

Terry Harryman pulls no punches!

Rally Gossip by Terry Harryman

This report first featured in The Ulster Motorist, January 1964.

AS always November was quite a busy month and following the excellent Dungannon rally on the 1st and the Mid-Antrim test meeting on the 2nd the mid-week circus assembled in Strabane on Wednesday 6th for the North of Ireland Motor Club (N.I.M.C.) rally. This followed the usual pattern consisting of 3 tests, a 30 mile road section, a 4th test and a similar road section leading back to Strabane. Unfortunately a couple of accidents (to non-competitors) forced the organisers to cut the event short at the last T.P. However it is doubtful if this affected the results as 4 crews were still clear and the last piece would have been easily “on”. Ronnie McCartney (Mini-Cooper) set the pace in the tests and claimed the lowest total followed by Robin Steenson (Mini) and Ronnie White (Sebring Sprite). Thus McCartney/Harryman took the honours from Steenson/Turkington and White/Miss White.

The following weekend brought us to the eighth Ulster Rally Championship qualifier, the Armagh club’s Lough-Slieve rally. This was much improved on last year’s event but was still very much a treasure hunt. The reason for this was of course a shortage of officials and if I remember correctly there were only 8 manned points throughout the whole 120 mile event, 2 of these being driving test sites. It is appreciated that the marshal shortage is a very real problem in this area but I am sure that if other clubs were approached some support would be forthcoming. Even if only 6 extra points could have been manned and these were strategically placed, the event would have been much more enjoyable.

The route led from near Portadown to the north-west and up the western shores of Lough Neagh to Control 1. From here the field headed still further to the N.W. to the Sperrin country. Route instructions for both of these sections were of the route card, beetle (not beatle!) drive, or “what have you” type and were rather open to question. The third section, which led in a loop back to Control 2, was of the Tulip variety and despite some very rough roads, was easily on at the “low” average required.

Section 4 was probably the most interesting, being of the straight forward “plot and bash” type without the need to “bash” very hard as all the references were unmanned checks. This led east to Toome and was followed by a similar but considerably easier section to the Aldergrove airport finish.

Surprisingly only 3 crews cleared this lot, these being Jack Keatley/Norman Devlin (Cooper‘S’), Ronnie White/Jack Long (Sebring Sprite) and Robert Woodside/Ester Crawford (V.W.). Thus the 4 tests did the deciding and these gave Woodside/Crawford a win by a one fifth second from Keatley/Devlin
with White/Long third.

On Wednesday 13th the mid-week crews turned up in Omagh for what promised to be one of the years most interesting events if not one of the best. As it was, the rally turned out to be both. Chief “culprit” Peter Johnston really took the bull by the horns, dropping driving tests altogether and introducing the “Fail” system of marking to these shores. He also set a really marvellous 65 mile route with 25 controls, which proved to be just about “on” (2 crews actually lost their “cleans” on technicalities).

Naturally the majority of crews took time getting used to the system and despite a warning on the instructions about clocking in before standard time, a very large percentage did just this. Surprisingly the organisers had allowed 90 minutes lateness which nobody used, the whole field in fact reaching the Omagh finish in a fairly compact bunch. This, coupled with the marking system used, ensured that the results came out very quickly and these showed Ronnie McCartney/Terry Harryman (Mini-Cooper) to have won from Ted Hobson/Austin Frazer (Mini), and John Eakin/Mike Hart (Sprite).

The club officials seemed so pleased with the event that it is certain that similar events will be run next year. May other clubs follow suit.

Two trials came up on Saturday 16th, the Knock club’s test-trial and the Armagh club’s mudplug. From reports, the former of these attracted a fairly good entry to attempt 6 tests round a North Down course. The tests were quite interesting and resulted in another win for Robert Woodside (V.W.) from Derek Boyd (Mini-Cooper) and Ron Mullen (Mini) who I think we may say has definitely “arrived”.

The mudplug, the second to be run in the Lead Mines, was a great success and saw a field of over 12 (in roughly half as many cars) tackling 6 observed sections twice. The sections had got considerably tighter and more interesting since the first event and called for a considerable amount of recovery action on the part of the observers. A large number of spectators were present and, despite the cold, appeared to find the afternoons sport most interesting and often very amusing. Methinks quite a number will be joining in the fun in the not too distant future.

Best performance was put up by Thompson Glass in his shared Cannon, from Mervyn Glover in Des Titterington’s Alexis and Frank Kelly in Ian Wilson’s Winklecan (a thinly disguised Cannon). Next event is on Saturday, December 28th. (I might get it right this time if I’m not too careful) and will be held in Boyds Quarry.

The Queens “Moonshine” rally, which I believe was rather spoilt by a first section mistake, on the whole followed the usual pattern for this clubs events. The route again lay in North Down and included only one test. Four crews came through clean and the test gave the verdict to Brian Mitchell/Norman Henderson (Sprite) from Billy Dick/Colin McMeekin (Turner) and Billy Mullen/Peter Lyster (T.R.3).

The next night saw another of the years best, this time the U.A.C’s “Night Owls” Rally. The better parts of the event (towards the end) were really wonderful, but a few easy sections early on, which the organisers tried to make difficult, rather spoilt it. It would appear that the U.A.C. still believe that there are only two kinds of events, one in which driving tests play the important part and the other in which navigation only counts.

This was very obvious in the first three-quarters of the Night Owls as it wasn’t a case of getting to a point as rapidly as possible, but of going to an exact spot by a specific route. The last quarter wasn’t quite as bad as it became necessary to drive a lot faster, and route following became more important than route choosing. However the organisers still couldn’t let crews have a fairly worry-free run as they didn’t give the references of Time Points but insisted that they follow the shortest route between references to find them. This to my mind still counts as trickery.

Last month I suggested that this event, along with two others, wouldn’t be too well supported. Fortunately in this case I was proved wrong as the U.A.C. once again got excellent support, no fewer than 48 entries being received. (The other two events have received entries in the high thirties). 46 crews started and of these no less than 24 were excluded for being O.T.L. This is a very high figure and I can’t help feeling that exclusion for more than 30 minutes lateness in this type of even is too severe. Of the remainder, 6 retired and 16 finished.

Best of these were Maurice Acheson/Jack Long (Cooper ‘S’) who came through in the later stages to just beat Adrian Boyd/Beattie Crawford (Rapier) who had been leading for a great part of the event. A very creditable third were Charles Eyre-Maunsell/Alec Spence (Alpine) in a car that is not highly suitable for this type of event.

A week later the Newry club ran a night event which wasn’t on the calendar. It’s nice to see a club staging an extra effort in an attempt to provide crews with an additional evenings sport. However, it appears that a shortage of officials turned this into no more than a treasure hunt with the colour of gates etc., playing more importance than time schedules. At the time of writing no result details are to hand.

So much for the local scene. Local crews were without much luck on this years R.A.C. Rally with only one of three cars finishing, this being the V.W. 1500S of Reggie McSpadden/John Armstrong who took 35th place. Robert McBurney/Frank Robinson broke a front brake disc on their Okrasa-wagen and were unable to replace it as they had earlier lost the spare they had been carrying.

Ian Woodside/Hal Patton wrote their Sprite off when it rolled a couple of times after having left the road. Fortunately neither Ian nor Hal were badly injured. Of course, Paddy Hopkirk filled the top British place when he took a splendid 4th overall. Congratulations yet again.

This years TV Trophy was notable for many things, among them being the appearance of teams from Eire and Holland, the classification of cars, the very long tests and the protests. The Dutch team arrived with cars much more suitable for the Brands Hatch 6 hour saloon car race (two of them anyway) than a driving test meeting. The Eire team put up an excellent show and but for the failure of Cecil Vard’s borrowed car, they would have finished very high.

The protests, which came from our representatives, were rather unfortunate but I don’t think it could be said that they were uncalled for. Anyway the local side didn’t disgrace themselves in the tests and took a fairly commendable second overall to a penalty free English team.

Machinery changes are in the news again. Ian Woodside has replaced the Sprite which was “damaged” on the R.A.C. with the ex-works Midget which Paddy Hopkirk has been using locally for some time now. Rumour has it that Paddy will be appearing in a very potent Cooper ‘S’ in future events.

Robert Woodside has returned his allegiance to his old love, the VW again. He celebrated this reunion with wins in both the Lough-Slieve (in Esler Crawford’s car) and the Knock test-trial. Seems quite likely he will be VW mounted in the Circuit – a very hot 1500S perhaps?

The grapevine says that one well-known VW pilot will be deserting the fold and is likely to be seen in one of those Lotus-Cortinas at Easter. There are at least two other well-known competitors who have indicated their intentions of doing likewise. Bertie McElhinney is disposing of his Zodiac (looks strange with all those lights removed!) and has his eye on a very rapid Cortina G.T. Another top name would dearly like to get his hands on an ex-works (why ex?) Healey 3000 in time for the Circuit.

Circuit regulations are out and show a few changes, the biggest one being the increase in entry fees. This increase is due to the inclusion of an insurance premium and is really excellent value for those who had to pay £7 a day last year. The route, it would appear, will lead from the 7 p.m. Bangor start across the country to Sligo for Breakfast. From here it will again go south to Killarney for the usual overnight stops and the Sunday run. On Monday the field again heads north, and as the Touring Event finishes in Armagh on Monday evening (it starts in Sligo on Saturday morning) it would be fair to assume that the supper halt will be here.

Monday night will probably consist of road sections and, as the event finishes in Larne early on Tuesday, special stages as well. There will be no, repeat no, driving test in the International event and class fastest will score zero in speed-tests only. The driving tests will be replaced by more speed-tests and special stages so there should be about a dozen of each.

Last years 850-1300 cc. class (saloons) has been split in two at 1150 cc., so Coopers, S-types, 1100’s etc. are all in one class and VWs, 1200 Anglias and small Cortinas are in another. Unfortunately the Imp is going to be in with the S-types so its chances are dimmed. It is to be hoped that the entry will be seeded in its entirety and not just in classes as last year, and that the number of tight, daylight road sections will be at an absolute minimum.

Next year’s Circuit will undoubtedly be the most interesting one for a long time and it is to be hoped also that some high-class cross-channel entries will be forthcoming. It is rumoured that the competitions department of one well-known manufacturer will be sending over 3 cars.