1968 Texaco Starlight

Photo: ECP
Ronnie McCartney and Mike Hart took a convincing win on the Larne Starlight Rally, sponsored by Texaco.


This report is reproduced from Autosport May 31 1968

After an increasingly successful 13-year history on May 18-19, Larne Motor Club held their Texaco Starlight Rally, upgraded to National status.  Coupled with this change was a move away from the traditional December date to the more predictable weather of early Summer, and the dropping of any serious navigation.  Instead, the 400-mile route contained 125 miles of high speed motoring on 25 special stages, which included four on closed public roads.  In all, there was about 34 miles on tarmac.

From the start in Lisburn, the field, headed by the Mini Cooper S of last year’s winner Dessie McCartney and Beatty Crawford, had an easy 54 mile run down the motorway to the first stage at Knockmany Forest.  Immediately the pattern for the rally was set, and best time went to Robert McBurney and Terry Harryman in their brand new VW-Porsche with a time of 4m 09s.  Ronnie McCartney and Mike Hart were 2 seconds slower with Charlie Gunn and Norman Henderson (Lotus Cortina) a further 9 seconds back.  

Special Stage 2 was the first of the closed roads and consisted of 3 miles of the Marlbank scenic route in Co. Fermanagh.  Unfortunately, for the organisers at least, a 50 mph average was too low for this one and it was cleaned by quite a number of people; Ronnie McCartney set the fastest time.

The cars then tackled in quick succession a series of five forests West of Enniskillen.On the first of these, Belmore, Ronnie McCartney was again fastest, and followed this up with another fastest time on the 8.5 treacherous miles of Ballintempo Forest.  This one was in vile mood and caused the retirement of both Ronnie White and Mervyn Johnston.  On Big Dog McBurney got in front, then on Conagher it was McCartney again, but his brother Dessie called it a night here with gearbox trouble.

Before the supper halt at the Manor House, Killadeas, the Circuit of Ireland stage in the hotel grounds was tackled.  Ronnie McCartney now held a slim lead with 38m 09s, to Charlie Gunn’s 38m 36s, while McBurney was third on 38m 46s.  The surprise of the night was the tremendous form of Reggie McSpadden whose twin-Solex equipped VW had dropped only 38m 54s to hold fourth place, ahead of the Mini Cooper S of Robin Lyons.

Reggie McSpadden and Peter Lyster gave the top competitors a good run for their money, finishing fifth overall despite a failing engine.

After supper the route headed East into County Tyrone with a stage at Baronscourt before tackling the valley road at Glenelly, the second public road stage and at 13.5 miles, the longest of the rally.  This stage went to Charlie Gunn on 19m 24s with McBurney on 19m 33s and McCartney on 19m 36s.  Davagh Forest, a classic of its type, was next and here McCartney was fastest, just ahead of a flying McSpadden.  Banagher Forest is another Irish classic and went easily to McBurney, ahead of Ken Carson in his ex-works Cortina GT-engined Midget.

But the field was thinning out now, and further retirements included Noel Smith, whose Renault Gordini broke a drive-shaft, and Robin Lyons, who had been going very well.  The biggest surprise  of the rally came at Cam Forest where the normally reliable VW of Robert McBurney broke its differential, leaving Ronnie McCartney and Charlie Gunn to do battle for the top award.

After a very frosty night, dawn broke with beautiful sunshine as the cars came to the North Antrim coast tackle the special stages at Ballycastle, before having breakfast in the town.  On Ballypatrick, the first of these, Derek Boyd, driving his  near-standard VW as if his life depended on it, was fastest, but McCartney took the initiative on the Ballycastle stage which ended just a couple of hundred yards from the breakfast halt in the Antrim Arms Hotel.

As the cars left Ballycastle to tackle the 9 torturous miles of the fabulous Torr Head stage, McCartney’s lead over Gunn was just over 2 minutes, while Norman Thompson had brought his well-driven Sunbeam Imp Sport into third place.  Derek Boyd was just behind the sick-sounding VW of Reggie McSpadden.

Norman Thompson set fastest time on Torr Head, but Gunn pulled back 18 seconds on McCartney despite deranging the front suspension on a rock.  This stage ended the rally for Roy McBurney, whose VW-Porsche had been tussling for the lead in the Semi-Experts class, but a broken crankshaft brought this bid to a rapid halt.  Glasgow visitor R. E. Williamson wiped a wishbone off his Saab96 on a rock pulled out of the side of the road by the kamikazi tactics of Boyd.

Norman Thompson and Eddie Magee set a stunning fastest time over Torr Head to secure third place overall in their Sunbeam Imp Sport.

Orra Lodge was next and on the fast nine miles, Gunn only missed averaging 60 mph by 17 seconds to pull another 21 seconds back from McCartney.  Only four short-ish and relatively smooth forest-type stages at Ballyboley, Woodburn, North Carn and Lough Mourne remained. McCartney, obviously on top form, made no mistakes in winning three of these, and although Gunn was quickest overall on this last section, he was still over 2 minutes behind the flying Cooper S at the end.

Dr Beatty Crawford.



  1. R.J.McCartney/M. Hart (Cooper S) 178m32s;
  2. C.A.Gunn/N.Henderson (Lotus Cortina) 180m55s;
  3. N.Thompson/E.Magee (Imp Sport) 187m36s;
  4. D.D.Boyd/N.Smith (VW 1500) 189m15s;
  5. R.J.McSpadden/P.Lyster (VW 1500) 189m29s;
  6. O.Hadden/D.Elliot (Cooper S) 194m33s;
  7. J.B.Boyd/P.Thompson (Cooper) 198m15s;
  8. F.Fennell/F.O’Donoghue (NSU-TT) 200m35s;
  9. R.Wilson/R.Baillie (Cooper S) 202m41s;
  10. K.Carson/V.McBurney (MG Midget) 208m12s.


  1. C.O’Rourke/R.Hunter (Cooper S) 174m44s;
  2. R.J.Nesbitt/J.Trimble (Cooper S) 176m01s;
  3. D.Wilson/D.Bell (Cooper S) 177m36s;
  4. J.A.Bowles/D.Duffin (Cortina GT) 180m16s;
  5. A.Thompson/D.Mann (Cortina GT) 187m20s;
  6. D.J.McCullough/S.H.Carphin (Sunbeam Imp) 190m42s.