1968 Queens Winter Rally – Motorweek

Cahal Curley and Austin Frazer, take their Cortina Lotus to the title of 1968 Ulster Rally Champions.

Curley and Frazer are Rally Champions

This report by Terry Harryman, with photos by Esler Crawford, was published in Motorweek dated 21st December 1968.

Last weekend’s ‘Winter Rally‘, run by the Queen’s University MC, was a success for both the organisers — Peter Lyster, Brian Mitchell, Mike Thompson and Norman Henderson — and for this year’s new Rally Champions Cahal Curley from Derry and navigator Austin Frazer from Enniskillen.

The event was right back in the old University MC tradition with a very interesting route which put the pressure on the 75 or so crews right from the start, while the whole thing was very slickly organised. For Curley and Frazer it provided a very fitting climax to what for them must have been a highly satisfying season; they went into the lead almost immediately the rally proper started and came into the finish with a lead of no less than 11 minutes over second placed crew Reggie McSpadden & Terry Harryman.

As mentioned last week, the ‘Winter’ attracted an entry of no less than 84 and of these, 74 came to the start at the Ashby Institute on a cold and damp night. Among the non-runners were Ronnie White and Harold Hagan (1293 Cooper ‘S’,) due to the latter’s hospitalisation, and Semi-Experts John McAlorum and Des Blaney also in a Cooper ‘S’.

The field first headed down the M1 to just beyond Verner’s Bridge and here the whole plot thickened. A seemingly endless string of very short and tight sections led the crews round the North of Dungannon and into the Sperrins over the twistiest little lanes this area has to offer.

Joe Pat O’Kane – not waving to the photographer but applying a quick touch of opposite lock at a tricky corner – Alec Cheeves looks on anxiously.

Several crews were in trouble very early on; Peter McConnell and Brian Rickerby (whose last Ulster rally this was) retired their Rally Imp with a small fire in the engine compartment, and John McLean and Hal Patton (1293 ‘S) lost a lot of marks due to navigator sickness. By the time Cappagh and the Altmore House Hotel were reached, a stack of marks had been lost and Curley & Frazer were already quite a bit ahead, although even they had dropped 9 minutes. Three minutes behind them came Robin Eyre-Maunsell & Beatty Crawford in the prototype of the Hunter that won the Marathon, and then Ronnie McCartney & Harry Johnston (Cooper ‘S’) and McSpadden & Harryman.


In the Semi-Experts class the Escort GT of W. J. Ferguson & A. J. Clarke was 15 minutes down and 3 minutes ahead of the Imp Sport of David McCullough & Norman Taylor, while Peter Little & John Beatty (Elf) were just ahead in the Novice section. Incidentally this first run had proved quite difficult for a lot of the Novices as a farmer along the route had turned hostile and set up a road block, despite comprehensive Public Relations work by the organisers before the event.

After a 90-minute halt for supper the field set out again, first heading South towards Aughnacloy and then turning East to pass to the South of Dungannon and through The Moy and Portadown to a second refuelling halt on the Lurgan Road. Again the sections were short and quite tight but they were no problem to Curley and Frazer who sailed through without penalty. Eyre-Maunsell & Crawford and McCartney & Johnston were both in trouble on this run, the former dropping 14 minutes due to a navigational error and the latter retiring soon after they went off on the second Selectif, a particularly rough and muddy affair.

Navigator Harry Johnston and two onlookers struggle to release Ronnie McCartney’s Cooper S from a muddy farmyard near Cabragh.

So McSpadden & Harryman now found themselves in second place although they were now 10 minutes behind on the road, three of these having been won back on the Selectifs. Behind them came John Bridges &
Kris Frazer (Cooper ‘S’) who were representing Dublin University MC, and then Eyre-Maunsell & Crawford and Ronnie Reid & Alan McConnell (Rallye Imp), the latter crew going very well indeed considering their limited experience and showing great potential for the future. In the Semi-Experts and Novices classes Ferguson & Clarke and McCullough & Taylor, and Little & Beatty were still setting the pace and looked to be all set to take the top awards in these sections.


The route now turned to the South-East into Co. Down and round Gilford before leading the by now tiring crews, South of Banbridge and Dromore and up towards Hillsborough and the third and final Selectif which brought the competitive sections of the rally to an end. Again things were tight but this still failed to halt the leaders progress and they again got through without penalty with McSpadden & Harryman one minute slower.

Eyre-Maunsell & Crawford dropped six minutes while Reid & McConnell were only three down and therefore moved up into third place overall. In the other two classes Ferguson & Clarke and Little & Beattie took first places while McCullough & Taylor just managed to hold down second place despite a last minute ‘wrong-slot’ which cos them a lot of marks, several other crews also going astray at the same spot.


After this it was back to the Woodlands Hotel, Lisburn, for breakfast where it was rather pleasant to find the provisional results up to Portadown were already available. In fact full provisional results were issued at around 9.00 am and but for a complication over one crews marks would have been available about an hour earlier.

Anyway the results showed that Curley and Frazer had scored a pretty convincing win in their Lotus-Cortina having lost 9 minutes on the road and 94 secs. on the Selectifs to give a total-of 18.4 marks lost. Eleven minutes behind on the road but 34 secs faster on the Selectifs came McSpadden & Harryman with a total of 26.0 marks lost, while Reid & McConnell lost 31 mins. and 77 secs. to take third place with 38.7 marks lost.

Reggie McSpadden and Terry Harryman press on to second place overall in their VW1500.

Only one second behind them came Ferguson & Clarke so that they not only won the Semi-Experts class but also finished fourth overall and ahead of Eyre-Maunsell & Crawford.

Over the less difficult Novices route Little & Beatty dropped 18 mins. and 42 secs (the Novices only did the first Selectif) to win quite comfortably from the Misses Jan Sloan and Daryl Atkinson in an Escort GT. Unlike several other rallies this year, the ‘Winter’ didn’t have a very high retirement rate and 12 Experts, 15 Semi-Experts and 24 Novices were classified as finishers, these figures showing that the event wasn’t too severe as a lot of people had feared.



  1. C. B. Curley & A. Frazer (Lotus Cortina) 18.4 marks lost;
  2. J. R. McSpadden & T. A. Harryman (VW1500) 26;
  3. R. Reid & A. McConnell (Rally Imp) 38.7;
  4. J. R. Eyre-Maunsell & D. B. Crawford (Hunter) 41.4.


  1. W. J. Ferguson & J. Clarke (Escort GT) 38.8;
  2. D. McCullough & T. N. Taylor (Imp Sports) 78.4;
  3. T. Haydock & G. Beatty (Imp Sports), 1 Fail 70.6.


  1. P. Little & J. Beatty (Elf) 22.2;
  2. Miss J. Sloane & Miss D. Atkinson (Escort GT). 40.9;
  3. E. P. Clarke & T. McCollum (Escort GT) 42.7.