Ulster champions win the final round
This report by Beatty Crawford first appeared in Autosport Magazine, 27 December 1968.
Although Cahal Curley and Austin Frazer were already home and dry with their Lotus Cortina as Ulster Rally Champions for 1968, and the final event of the championship could make no difference to the result, Queen’s University Motor Club got a good entry of 84 for their Winter Rally on December 13. Curley and Frazer did not rest on their laurels and came out very convincing winners of a very tough rally in the old style.
The guts of the event were 200 miles of navigation, mostly in south-east Tyrone but with the final sections in North Armagh and Down, with 91 controls separated by an average of 3 to 4 mins. Timing was by sealed watches and there were no special stages and only three 1-min selectives. This was in contrast to the more recent style of long Targa-timed sections plus forest stages, but in spite of the old-fashioned format, the rally was a great success – despite the efforts of some very inexperienced marshals – and was a great comeback for the students after last year’s debacle, which nearly resulted in the event being removed from the championship.
After a run down the M1, the rally got under way with a series of very tight sections in the Coalisland region and within 4 miles of the start, the rally lost one of its most competitive crews when Peter McConnell/Brian Rickerby used up two extinguishers in dousing an electrical fire in their Imp. Then John McClean/Hal Patton took a Wrong Departure (WD) from TC3 and missed the following four controls sorting out this matter.
Running no 13 on this Friday night, December 13, Ronnie McCartney/Harry Johnston were making rapid headway through the ﬁeld, but then bad luck struck in a novel way when Harry lost the sealed watch down his trousers and lost 4 mins in retrieving it!
Heading west towards Pomeroy, competitors tackled the first selective at Cornavaddy, and by this stage even the fastest people were at least 5 mins down. On the selective, McCartney was fastest with 27 secs over bogey, followed by newcomer John Bridges, who was going great guns in a Cooper S navigated by Miss K. Frazer, with Ronnie Johnston’s Lotus third.
At this point Curley/Frazer held the lead with a loss of 9 mins, followed by Robin Eyre-Maunsell/Beatty Crawford (Hillman Hunter) on 12, with McCartney/Johnston down a further minute, as were Joe Pat O’Kane/Alec Cheevers. The previously unknown Bridges/Miss Frazer were now an incredible fifth. A retirement at supper was Brian Pinkerton/Ken Atkinson with a broken “bungey” on their Imp, but Mervyn Johnston/Geoff Morrison carried on after replacing a driveshaft on their veteran Cooper S.
The route turned south towards Aughnacloy, taking in the second selective at Harpers Bridge. This was rough and muddy and probably should not have been used but nevertheless John McClean got his “Webbered” Cooper really motoring to set fastest time in 1m 20s, followed by Johnston 2secs slower with Reggie McSpadden/Terry Harryman in a very hot McBrurney VW 1500.
Oliver Hadden/Dave Elliot (Cooper S) shared fourth. Ronnie McCartney was in bad form, getting his car stuck on a rock outcrop after sliding off on the mud, and retired soon after. It was noticeable that Curley/Frazer were not risking their car on these rather unimportant sprints, but were saving their efforts for the road sections where they were pulling away from the rest of the ﬁeld; they were the only crew to clean the second section, which ended at TC59.
John McClean/Hal Patton were in trouble with navigator sickness and missed out about 10 controls on this section but pressed on determined to finish their first rally in two years. Not so lucky were Bob Curran/Jim Welsh who retired their VW after a slight coming-together with another competitor.
The route now headed through the north tip of Armagh onto the rough hard roads of North Down, but this made no difference to Curley/Frazer who carried on majestically while the rest of the ﬁeld struggled on behind. When the navigation section finished near Hillsborough, Curley had an impregnable lead but McSpadden had pulled up to second place, while Robert Reid/Alastair McConnell had unobtrusively brought their Imp up to third place ahead of the Eyre-Maunsell/Crawford Hunter. Bridges had spoiled his fantastic effort by missing two controls but was nonetheless still well-placed.
O’Kane/Cheevers really put themselves out of contention with a massive total of 15 fails. This left only the third selective at Carricknadarriff — the best one of the night – but this made no difference to the results and was cleaned by all the leading crews and thus Curley/Frazer came home comfortable winners to rub in the fact that they were worthy champions, despite the fact that they had dynamo troubles on all but one of the qualifying rounds in which they competed. Second were McSpadden/Harryman with Reid/McConnell a good third, Eyre-Mansell/Crawford fourth in the Hunter, and Sidney Meeke/Bryce Sands fifth in their home-brewed Anglia GT.
- C. B. Curley/A. Frazer (Ford-Lotus Cortina), 18.4 mks;
- J. R. McSpadden/T. A. Harryman (VW 1500), 29.0;
- R. Reid/A. McConnell (Hillman Imp), 38.7;
- J. R. Eyre-Maunsell/B. Crawford (Hillman Hunter). 41.4;
- S. Meeke/B. Sands (Ford Anglia GT), 56.2;
- N. Reid/G. Taggart (Mini-Cooper S), 62.8;
- J. Bridges/Miss K. Frazer (Mini-Cooper S), 2F, 39.9;
- R. Johnston/W. Saulters (Ford-Lotus Cortina), 2F, 62.3;
- J. P. O’Kane/A. Cheevers (Ford Cortina GT), 15F, 155.5;
- J. J. Campbell/D. Gillespie (Hillman Imp), 17F, 149.8.
- W. J. Ferguson/A. J. Clark (Ford Escort GT), 38.8;
- D. J. McCullough/N. Taylor (Sunbeam Imp), 78.4;
- G. R. Baird/A. Walbridge (Hillman Imp), 1F, 74.4;
- T. Haydock/G. Beatty (Sunbeam Imp), 1F, 74.6;
- R. J. Nesbitt/H. Brown (Mini-Cooper S), 1F, 90.5;
- G. D. Taylor/B. Dorman (Hillman Imp), 3F, 97.7.
- P. M. C. Little/J. R. E. Beatty (Riley Elf), 22.2;
- Miss J. Sloane/Miss D. Atkinson (Ford Escort GT), 40.9;
- E. P. Clarke/T. McCollam (Ford Escort GT), 42.7;
- P. Lavery/P. ]ohnston (Ford Cortina), 1F, 18.0;
- J. Kirkpatrick/S. Carphin (Ford Cortina GT), 1F, 42.7;
- R. B. Clarke/L. Lancaster (Mini-Cooper S), 2F, 21.8.