This report has been reproduced from Autosport magazine dated April 7th 1967, with additional photos from the 1968 Circuit of Ireland programme.
Hopkirk’s Fifth Circuit of Ireland
Report by Brian Waddell with photos from Brian Foley, Esler Crawford, Foster & Skeffington and Richard Young.
A MINI-COOPER S driven by Paddy Hopkirk and Terry Harryman has given BMC its fifth consecutive win in the Gallaher Circuit of Ireland International Rally and outright victory to Hopkirk for the fifth time in this event on his home ground. A similar car in the hands of Adrian Boyd and Beatty Crawford finished in second place, while a privately entered Lotus Cortina driven by Charlie Gunn and Norman Henderson finished third and won the new award of £250 for the highest placed non-works entry.
Rosemary Smith and Susan Seigle-Morris won the Ladies’ Award for Rootes in a Sunbeam Imp as well as finishing in seventh place overall and carrying off the class.
The one-make team award was taken by the McCartney brothers, Ronnie and Desmond, together with Noel Smith from Dublin, all of whom drove Mini-Cooper Ss.
The 1500 miles rally was held in some of the worst weather conditions of the year, Hopkirk describing the all-night drive in County Donegal as being like a “Circuit of Ireland Monte” with heavy snow and gale-force winds. Out of the 94 starters 42 checked in at the final control in Larne on Easter Tuesday alter covering almost 300 miles of special sections throughout the country.
Friday and Saturday, March 24/25
Under a blaze of ﬂoodlights for photographers and television cameras, 94 starters rolled off the ramp at Lisnafillan, near Ballymena in Northern Ireland — prepared for the first all-night drive which would take competitors to a breakfast stop in Carlow, South-West of Dublin. Hopkirk, the number one seed, was followed by Charlie Gunn and Adrian Boyd with Gerry McNamara fourth in his Cortina GT, having arrived at the starting control just in time.
Christy’s Brae, the first of the special sections less than 15 miles from the start, was 3.2 miles of narrow, twisty, tarred road on which the organisers had placed a 3 mins 30 secs bogey. Here Hopkirk was immediately in form dropping 1.6 marks against McCartney’s 2.2, Malcolm Gibbs’ 2.5 in his Lotus Cortina and the 3.1 returned by both Gunn and Adrian Boyd.
A magnificent 9.2-mile test along the shores of Strangford Lough and through the village of Ardmillan gave thousands of spectators a chance to see what rallying was all about as Hopkirk flashed through to drop 8.7 marks, compared with 11.2 by Adrian Boyd and 11.4 by Ronnie McCartney. Already the pattern of the rally was beginning to emerge as Hopkirk kept on the pressure and started to pull slightly ahead of Gunn, Gibbs, Boyd and McCartney. In the Rostrevor Forest section, the last in Northern Ireland before crossing the border into Eire, Tony Ashwell went off the road in his Toyota and dropped 20 feet down the hillside, coming to rest against two trees. An anti-roll bar adrift from the chassis forced the Steenson/Turkington Cortina GT to drop out, while Derek Boyd and Robert McBurney in a similar car packed it in at the Border with differential trouble.
Both Hopkirk and Gunn cleaned the test at Duleek, Gibbs and Ronnie McCartney each dropping 0.1 of a mark. Leslie Fitzpatrick and Donald Grieve dropped out when a stone went through the radiator of the MGB, while Robin Eyre-Maunsell in his Singer Chamois was having a number of exciting moments when the throttle kept sticking. Also in trouble was Ronnie McCartney who was helped on his way by a BMC service crew, who changed a rear wheel bearing on the Mini-Cooper S in five minutes.
At the breakfast stop in Carlow, Adrian Boyd complained that the Mini was missing around 6000 rpm and his times for the previous three tests confirmed that something was wrong. Later in the day he traced the trouble to a loose fan-belt which was causing the engine to overheat, but already both Hopkirk and Gunn had pulled out a considerable lead. Ken Shields, who had been driving the big Vauxhall Cresta magnificently throughout the night, arrived in Carlow with a slightly bashed tail but refused to attempt any repair work at that stage, knowing only too well that the same thing might easily happen again with the big car on narrow twisty roads. Having already complained on a television programme the previous evening about being seeded 19th, Rosemary Smith was out to show the organisers just how well she could handle the Sunbeam Imp. Despite the fact that her co-driver Susan Seigle-Morris was having a miserable night with car sickness, the pair were lying in 12th place overall when the results for this stage were calculated.
Positions after Stage One:
1, Hopkirk (Mini-Cooper S), 44.1 marks:
2, Gunn (Lotus Cortina). 55.5:
3. Gibbs (Lotus Cortina), 58.3:
4, R McCartney (Mini-Cooper S). 61.0:
5, Fidler (Triumph 2000), 66.5:
6, Boyd (Mini-Cooper S), 69.5:
Saturday, March 25.
Stage two took competitors across country through eight special sections to Killarney for the first overnight stop. It was at Burnchurch Viper, a 3.9-mile section in County Kilkenny, that Gerry McNamara‘s rally came to a sudden end when the Cortina GT clouted the bank. Ken Shields drove more than 100 miles without a windscreen in his Cresta and Hill Scott was forced to do the same thing in his MG Midget when a flying stone shattered the glass. The McSpadden/Robinson BMW, after going exceptionally well during the night, dropped out with a sticking carburettor needle, while Peter McConnell‘s Cortina GT was reported to have brake failure.
In an effort to make the road sections as tight as possible and thus cut down the time available for service, the minimum amount of time was left for competitors to get between the end of the final special section of the day at Gortnagane and the pare fermé in Killarney. For some reason, however, many of the drivers took a wrong turning at the end of the stage and left it very tight indeed to reach the control. It was here that disaster nearly befell Hopkirk for, not only was he on the wrong road, but the car ran out of petrol a couple of miles from the town. With typical Hopkirk luck, the car rolled to a stop with the fuel pump ticking outside a filling station, and “five bobs’ worth” saw them into the control with 2 minutes in hand.
Positions after Stage Two:
1. Hopkirk, 86.4;
2. Gunn, 105.7;
3. Gibbs, 109;
4. R. McCartney, 113.6;
5. Boyd, 120.4;
6. Fidler, 123.9.
Sunday, March 26.
White caps of snow on top of the Kerry Mountains added an Alpine flavour to the rally as the cars set off on Sunday morning for the traditional run of around 300 miles which included 14 special sections. The first of these was over Moll’s Gap, a magnificent road which climbs up the mountains from the Lakes of Killarney for more than 10.5 miles. Here Hopkirk was fastest with 8 marks lost followed by Ronnie McCartney with 8.5 and Brian Culcheth in his Mini-Cooper S with 8.7 marks.
Roy Fidler dropped several places in the overall ratings when he took 32.5 marks but Adrian Braid was still there with a very good 9.3. With some very smart work, mechanics in a support car changed the gearbox in Cahal Curley’s Cortina GT in 14 minutes, only to have to work overtime again the next day to ﬁt a new cylinder head.
Hopkirk was again fastest on the next test at Kilmakilloge, six miles over a tarred coast road on which he lost 7.2 marks; Culcheth was second at 7.4 marks and Ronnie McCartney third with 7.7 marks. On the 7.5-mile ascent and descent of the Healy Pass Hopkirk lost 6.4 marks compared with 7.3 for Boyd, 7.6 for McCartney and 8.0 for Culcheth. It was on the Healy Pass that the Rennicks/Breslin Peugeot ran out of road on the outside of a hairpin bend. The car nosedived down the bank to reach a stand-still in a near-vertical position. Willing hands worked the car back again on to its wheels and by moving several large boulders a way was found back on to the road again; Rennicks lost a total of 150.4 marks and continued on his way!
Camshaft trouble ended the rally for the Moorat/Griffiths Cortina GT at the same place while on the next three-mile stage at Derreenacarrin the BMC number one team prize went out the window when the Culcheth/Syer Mini struck_a bank. Boyd took the honours on this section with 5.4 marks followed by Hopkirk (5.6) and Gunn (5.8), but at Friendly Cove with sudden snow showers sweeping down from the mountains, it was again Hopkirk (13.2) followed by Boyd (13.9) Fidler (14.1), Desmond McCartney (14.4) and Pollard in the Sunbeam Imp (14.5).
Both the tests at Cappanaboul and Borlinn were cancelled this year as the result of objections by the local parish priests but at Mount Prospect Boyd really put on the pressure to clock 11.9 marks against 12.1 by Ronnie McCartney and 12.6 by Hopkirk. A very last 5.3-mile stage along the shores of Lough Allua saw Hopkirk and Boyd tie with 10.2 marks. Next came Gunn (10.8) followed by Gibbs (11.0), Ronnie McCartney (11.2), Noel Smith (11.5) and Rosemary Smith (11.8). A blown cylinder head gasket had by this stage eliminated the Pollard/Fawcett Sunbeam Imp while there was plenty of excitement when the McKeag/Blayney Cortina GT crashed off the road and rolled on its roof into a field. After the car had been put back on its four wheels again it was driven through two gates and back on to the road to continue the section. Derrineanjg, a 4.5-mile test of ascending and descending twisty roads, produced the order Hopkirk (9.7), Boyd (10.6), R. McCartney and Tordoff (11.1) and Gunn (11.4). Many competitors thought that the best section of a first-class day’s rallying came at Lake Caragh, where Hopkirk was best with 4.4 followed by Gibbs with 5.2 and Gunn with 5.8.
On the Sunday morning the cars had looked remarkably fresh as they set off for the hard day’s work, but a walk through the pare fermé the same evening gave some indication of just how tough the day had been. In the few minutes available before the cars checked in for the night the Killarney garages did a brisk business in panel bashing and welding — enough to carry the remaining cars through the final stages home.
Positions after Stage Three:
1. Hopkirk, 176.8:
2, Gunn, 214.6;
3. Boyd 216.0;
4, Gibb and R. McCartney 222.7;
6. N. Smith 246.9.
Monday. March 27
It was snowing so heavily as the first cars pulled out of Killarney on Easter Monday morning that Hopkirk was among those who decided to carry a couple of studded tyres on the first stage of the journey Northwards again to Sligo. And it was the snow that put an end to Charles Eyre-Maunsell‘s rally when his Hillman Hunter skidded off the road and ended in a bog. Weather conditions were also responsible for an accident to a car carrying time-keepers to the first special section, which had to be cancelled.
Then the next test at Bregogne Cross caused quite an upset to some of the cars holding leading positions. On top of the rain and sleet, a layer of mud turned the section into a skating rink and both Gibbs’ Cortina and Harveys Mini-Cooper S dropped out after hitting a wall. Ronnie McCartney struck a stone pillar on the same corner but was able to continue with a battered offside wing. Despite being damaged, the Tordoff / Nash Cortina continued to the end of the section but was then reported to have retired. On the section Boyd lost 4.8 marks compared with 5.3 by Hopkirk and 5.4 by Gunn.
Driving very hard and getting more accustomed to the car as the rally progressed, Boyd had now whittled Gunn‘s lead over him down to 0.6 of a mark, but before the supper stop later in the evening in Sligo the Dublin driver had pulled away again and was 2.5 marks ahead.
Positions after Stage four:
1. Hopkirk, 2l9.2;
2, Gunn, 263.3:
3. Boyd, 265.8:
4, R. MCCartney, 289.1;
5, N. Smith, 304.6;
6, Fidler, 314.0.
Tuesday, March 28
With 12 special sections and more than 150 miles to travel to the final control, the cars pulled out of Sligo town after midnight for a 6-mile stage along the shores of Lough Gill. Keeping up the pressure Hopkirk dropped 7.1 marks with Boyd at 7.3 and Gunn at 7.5. At Coolmore, near Ballyshannon as the cars crossed into County Donegal, Hopkirk and Fidler tied for the honours with 6.9 marks while Boyd was third with 7.4. A poor performance by Gunn lost him 9.2 marks and on the next test at Lough Eske Boyd went through into second place overall when he was 16 secs faster than Gunn over the 7.1-mile section.
Now virtually certain that he had the rally in his pocket, Hopkirk eased the pace and was content to drop 3 marks to Gunn over the Doochary section in the heart of Donegal. In fact, out of the remaining eight sections he took the fastest time on only two of the tests leaving Boyd, Fidler and McCartney to make the running.
On one of the road sections Gunn hit the bank, but he was able to continue without much damage to the car, being now happy with the special £250 prize for the top private entrant (the Boyd Mini-Cooper S being entered in the works class).
The Fidler/Krauklis Triumph came into its own at Glen, a fast section over tarred roads, dropping 9.5 marks to 10 marks by Ronnie McCartney and 10.7 by Boyd, while it was McCartney who was fastest at Treantagh, followed by Fidler and then the Noel Smith / Foot Mini, coming into the leading positions for the first time.
Although the organizers had planned to build the rally into a climax in Donegal with long tough stages, assisted unexpectedly by driving snow and sleet, none of the leading cars dropped out during the night. By 10 am the drivers were back in Northern Ireland again and preparing for the final special section up through Glendun, one of the famous Glens of Antrim. Hard packed snow and ice caused McCartney to ﬁt studded tyres and he was easily able to record the fastest time, dropping 9.9 marks to Hopkirk‘s 11.4 with Gunn and Boyd tying at 11.8 marks.
The rally ended a few miles later at Larne, where a certain amount of confusion set in when the cars got involved in traffic jams caused by a parade of Junior Orangemen in the town. Everyone got finally sorted out in time for the rally party and prize-giving later that evening in the King’s Arms Hotel, but by that time Hopkirk was half-way to the USA to take part in the Sebring 12 Hours race.
Gallaher Circuit of Ireland Rally 24th-28th March 1967 – Overall Results:
1. P. Hopkirk/T.Harryman (Mini-Cooper S), 357.8 marks:
2. A. J. L. Boyd/D. B. Crawford (Mini-Cooper S), 408.7:
3. C. A. Gunn/N. Henderson (Lotus Cortina), 415.9:
4. R. McCartney/M. Hart (Mini-Cooper S), 439.1:
5. R. Fidler/A. Krauklis (Triumph 2000), 458.5:
6. N. Smith/R. H. Foott (Mini-Cooper S), 468.9:
7. Miss R. Smith/Mrs S. Seigle Morris (Sunbeam Imp), 511.2;
8. D. McCartney/H. Johnston (Mini-Cooper S). 552.9:
9. C. Lovell/D. Michael (Ford Cortina GT), 558.3;
10. K. Shields/P. Lister (Vauxhall Cresta), 580.4.
M. Johnston/I. Allen (Mini). 77l.9:
J. Eakin/F. Johnston (Mini-Cooper), 590.2:
P. Hopkirk/T Harryman (Mini-Cooper S) 357.8:
C. Gunn/N. Henderson (Lotus Cortina) 415.9;
R. Fidler/Krauklis (Triumph 2000) 458.5:
Miss R. Smith/Mrs S. Seigle-Morris.
Special Award Winners:
Ladies‘ Award: Miss R Smith/Mrs. S. Seigle-Morris.
Gallaher Trophy: C. Gunn.
UAC Trophy: P. Hopkirk.
Autosport Trophy: P. Hopkirk.
Novices’ Trophy: D. Carnegie.
One Make Team: Mini-Cooper S (R. McCartney, D. McCartney, N. Smith).