Report from Eire by Brian Foley
This report was first published in Autosport Magazine, January 28 1966
AFTER the first three rounds of the new Rally Championship, Ford Cortina G.T. driver Jim O’Brien of Athlone is still in the lead with 33 points. Fellow Ford driver Brian Kehoe of Carlow retired in the recent Safari Rally and has dropped from sharing the lead with O’Brien, and is now second with 29 points. Noel Smith took his 1275 Mini-Cooper S into second place in the Safari and is now third with 27 points.
Denis Flanagan in a 997 Mini-Cooper is fourth overall, only one point behind fellow Dubliner Smith. In fifth place overall is a Hillman Imp driver from Cork, Brian Coomber, with 24 points. Co. Cork man Paddy O’Callaghan is sixth in his 1500S Volkswagen Beetle with 19 points.
The Carlsberg Safari Rally, sponsored by the famous lager beer brewers, and organized by the Trials Drivers’ Club on the night of 3rd/4th December 1966, was just about as rough and tough an event as they come. The counties of Wicklow and Wexford were literally true “Safari” territory in every sense of the word, with lanes and “boreens” reduced to car wrecking rutted tracks, and roads and bridges broken and washed away by the torrential rains of the wettest winter for years.
One special stage became so completely impassable that it had to be scrubbed altogether, and so atrocious was the going on another forestry stage that Autosport’s man lost the Speedwell exhaust system oﬂ his M.G. 1100.
Marked maps were issued by the organizers and this proved popular and made life somewhat easier for navigators. Ronnie McCartney and Mike Hart dropped only three minutes in the 200 miles which included 26 time points and six controls, and with only ten marks dropped in the four special stages they won the rally outright in a Renault R8 Gordini. Noel Smith/ Ricky Foote in a 1275 Mini-Cooper S were second with 19 marks lost, and Leslie Fitzpatrick/Brian Cusack did exceptionally well to finish third in an M.G.B with a loss of only 37 marks. Jack Fildes/Des Bradley, Michael Ivis/Ralph Meyer, and Peter Johnston/Harry Johnston were next in line in a trio of 1275 Mini-Cooper S models, with losses of 52, 57, and 67 marks respectively.
Pat Naismith/Maurice Bryan were seventh in a Ford Cortina G.T. with 80 marks lost, four less than Larry Mooney/Alan Park in a 1500S Volkswagen Beetle. Denis Flanagan/Dave Dwyer in a 997 Mini-Cooper were next with 97 marks, and tenth were Brian Coomber/Roy O’Brien in a Castrol R-lubricated Hillman Imp with 108 marks.
The Novice Award went to David Yeates/Frank O’Donoghue who completed the event in a Mini station wagon, sans rear doors, with a loss of 229 marks!
Noel Smith was fastest on Special Stage 1, Leslie Fitzpatrick was best on SS2, Smith was again fastest on SS4, and on SS3, Smith, McCartney, Johnston, and Flanagan dropped two marks apiece. Jim O’Brien/T. Wilson started as number 12, and were finally classified as 12th overall having dropped 93 points on navigation and 46 in Special Stages.
Retirements included the Ford Cortina G.T.s of Brian Kehoe/Leo Conway, and Johnny Moore/Jack Scott and the Mini-Cooper Ss of Dermot Carnegie/Noel Davin and Jim Stevenson/F. Gallagher. Nineteen of the 39 starters were non-ﬁnishers.
In early November, the 6th to be exact, the Munster Club held their non-championship Moonraker Rally. Noel Smith/Ricky Foott in a 1275 Mini-Cooper S and Johnny Moore/Terry Harryman in a Ford Cortina G.T. were the only two crews, out of 26 starters, clean on the road. The rally was therefore most unfortunately decided on the result of one single driving test, in which Smith had the worst time of all. Moore was unlucky as he failed the test altogether and so outright victory went to Smith, with Moore in second place and local lads Sean Hanley/Derek Jolly third in a Volkswagen.
Munster Club held a driving test trial in the grounds of their magnificent Vernon Mount club house on the following day. Connie Bourke in a 1275 Mini-Cooper S won the Premier Award by three seconds from Terry Power in a 1071 Mini-Cooper S, with Bill Johnson third overall in his Volkswagen Beetle.
On the night of 10th December, Austin Owners’ Club held a 90 miles navigation thrash in Co. Wicklow, which was sponsored by Sobell. This was another gruelling event with 38 time controls but with no special stages. Five crews out of 28 starters dropped by the wayside and outright victory went to Johnny Moore and Terry Harryman in a Ford Cortina G.T. with a loss of only five marks.
Harryman is undoubtedly Ireland’s number 1 navigator, having won several major events in the past few years with top drivers including Paddy Hopkirk, Ronnie McCartney, Brian Kehoe, and Johnny Moore. Just before the fateful Monte the Belfast man was out on a recce with no less a pilot than Rauno Aaltonen and many expected to see him in the forefront of B.M.C.’s attack on the rally.
Jack Fildes and Des Bradley were lucky to finish second with only a loss of 11 marks, as the suspension of their 1275 Mini-Cooper S, borrowed from Noel Smith, collapsed near the final control. Larry Mooney and Alan Park were third overall in a Volkswagen with a loss of 13 marks. The Novice Award went to H. O’Cleary/E. O’Cleary in a Ford Cortina G.T. with 28 marks lost, and best Austin (other than above) was the 1275 Mini-Cooper S of Michael Ivis/Ralph Meyer with 25 marks lost.
Last event before Christmas was the Motor Enthusiasts’ Club’s double event at Ballycorus, Co. Dublin, on 18th December. The Mud Plug was won by Peter Jenkins in his 1172 G.T.S. with 96 marks, six ahead of Louis Goor and eight ahead of Reggie Redmond who shared the latter’s 1172 M.M.3.
Larry Mooney in his Volkswagen won the Driving Tests with 570.4 marks, quite a bit in front of the N.S.U.s of Des Cullen and Frank Fennell.
The final event of 1965 was the Leinster M.C.’s Le Fanu Cup Trial at Red Bog, Blessington, on 27th December. Des Cullen, who Won this event last year, repeated his performance by taking his supercharged 1172 Dellow through the six tests in the lowest time of 239.6 secs. Leslie Vard in a 1071 Mini-Cooper S was second overall, 2.5 secs. behind Cullen. Stephen Griffin in his supercharged 1172 G.T.S. was third with 242.8 marks, and fourth with 250.4 marks was Des Bradley in his M.G. Midget. Thirty-six drivers competed in this event, and quite a few drivers failed tests!