This report is reproduced from The Gallaher Group in-house newspaper – “Smoke Signals” – dated May 1969.
MASTERFUL CLARK WINS GALLAHER CIRCUIT ’69
WITH as masterful a display of driving as has been seen on the Gallaher Circuit of Ireland Rally, Ford works driver Roger Clark retained the Ulster Automobile Club Trophy when he swept home to take the major honours in the 1969 Circuit.
In an Escort twin-cam of immense power, the latest product of the Ford “laboratories”, Clark finished more than a quarter of an hour ahead of his nearest rival, five-times winner of the event Paddy Hopkirk, in a works BMC Cooper.
Only seconds behind Hopkirk came one of the most redoubtable of private entrants, Adrian Boyd (BMC Cooper).
The two big names among the newcomers, Timo Makinen (Escort), one of the greatest rally drivers of all time, and Tom Trana (Saab), Swedish rally champion, were both out of the reckoning before the end of the third stage.
Almost throughout the rally, with Clark pulling away all the time, most excitement centred on the duel between Hopkirk and Boyd, and two promising young drivers, Billy Coleman and Barry Lee.
For Clark, Stage 1 was a straight up and down affair. He was handling the hugely powerful Escort like a toy and gave the impression that each hazard had been given hours of study, rather than mere split seconds.
Clark showed his mettle in the first stage. In fact, he was going so fast that by the end of the second special section, Strangford Lough, just 135 minutes from the ramp, he had worn out a set of tyres.
But behind him Hopkirk and Finnish wizard Timo Makinen were having their share of worry. Hopkirk’s Mini Cooper had been pushed to a fine edge of experimentation and the popular Irishman began to develop his furrowed brow early on. The low-proﬁle tyres which, it was thought, would give him an advantage, had the opposite effect . . . his engine went off song . . . his throttle linkage started playing tricks!
Makinen was not at all happy with his Escort’s differential. It let him down completely on the Sally Gap, and while his mechanics fitted a new one – it took them 45 minutes – he sent co-driver Mike Wood running three miles to get to the control point within their permitted time.
But Regulation 28 (b) says: “If a competitor records a time when his car is not at the clock, an official may invalidate such time recorded, and may record instead the time at which the car is brought to the clock.”
So Timo checked in at the Blessington breakfast halt not knowing if he was still in the contest.
Tom Trana appeared to be going smoothly and quickly, still feeling out the conditions, but his class four rivals, Irishmen Charlie Gunn (Escort) and Gerry McNamara (Escort), had electrical trouble. A short circuit left Gunn without lights on the Sally Gap, and his laugh line at the breakfast stop was “Did you ever drive the Sally Gap on candle-light?“ In fact, he closed up behind a rival and used his lights.
John l’Amie (Escort) was going like a bomb, but left the road on the Sally Gap. He and co-driver J. Grant went for help, but when they returned the £15 worth of damage had grown to some £400. Thieves had stripped a lot of special equipment.
L‘Amie, in fact, had left the Sally Gap in a big way, finishing 150 yards off the road in mountain bogland.
Rosemary Smith (Lotus Cortina) struck trouble on the first special section at Lough Henny, when a plug jumped out of the cylinder head, but she had fought back up the line by breakfast.
Adrian Boyd (Cooper “S”) was either going very well or keeping his troubles to himself. An unofficial estimate of the leading cars at Blessington was:
- Roger Clark,
- Timo Makinen,
- Paddy Hopkirk,
- Adrian Boyd,
- Tom Trana.
Already one in seven of the starters had retired. P. J. Dolan and M. Silke lost their dynamo on the first night but they carried on, exchanging batteries every few stops with Galway’s Eammon Cotter, whose NSU, running three cars behind, had an alternator. They went through four other batteries and then had the clutch bearing seize, but they got to the finish.
Continuing sunshine greeted the bleary-eyed crews as they left Blessington on Saturday morning. Clark‘s Escort sounded full of the joys of the lovely spring morning and he proceeded to pull away from the ﬁeld again. The remaining 120-odd cars began to string out in a long line along the route to Killarney.
Two young drivers who were showing up well were Cork University student Billy Coleman, and Barry Lee, of Ilford. Coleman, driving the obviously panel-beaten “Escortina“ prepared by himself, was streaking through the speed sections and pushing the times recorded by the leaders. Lee, in his first big rally, belied his number 37 seeding in his self-prepared Escort with times well up among the leaders.
Charlie Gunn, one of the Republic’s favourites, had bad luck for the second successive year when he hit a bank in the second stage and broke his suspension.
At Killarney, it was announced that Makinen, now going like an express train, had, in fact, been excluded under Rule 28 (b).
The official Saab team, too, had taken a knock. Douglas Lockyer crashed on the Friday night and Crawford Harkness was excluded on arrival at Killarney. The only man still motoring on was Swedish rally champion Tom Trana.
Even Trana was not to stay long. He hit a stone bridge on Sunday‘s first special section at Moll‘s Gap and was well and truly out.
Saab competition manager Bo Hellberg wasn’t at all worried about his team’s exit from the rally. He thought the Circuit was a good test and looked forward to bringing a full works team of Lampinen, Trana and Orenius next year. He thought, too, that some of the top Swedish private entrants would be showing interest.
The Sunday romp through the Kerry mountains and around the coast and lakes of the peninsula is not a game for boys to play, even in dry weather. While Mini drivers were sending up a concerted prayer for rain, which would cut down the Escorts’ advantage, Clark kept going ahead.
Hopkirk was still having trouble with his Cooper and a mechanical delay at the start of the second coverage of the tortuous Tim Healey Pass didn’t improve things for him. Few spectators on the Tim Healey will have missed the savage look on Paddy’s face as he wrenched the offending Mini viciously through the S-bends and belted it up to the summit. There were special cheers for veteran Cecil Vard (Porsche), who had pushed ahead from his 22nd seeding and held fifth place at the end of the day.
A great battle was developing between Hopkirk and Ulsterman Adrian Boyd. On Saturday night Paddy was 4.7 seconds ahead of Boyd, but at the end of Sunday only 2.4 points separated them. Clark ﬁnished the day 95 points ahead of the ﬁeld.
Young Billy Coleman, originally seeded at 115 and only in because another contestant withdrew before the start, had clipped so much time off the special sections that he was re-seeded at 35 and still continued to climb.
Stage four began with Hopkirk and Adrian Boyd still battling. Hopkirk slipped back into third place on the first speed test when he spun on a corner, stalled, had a slight impact with a bank and damaged one of his headlamps. He also had to change his front shock absorbers, which was accomplished in seven minutes.
Boyd broke an alternator bracket and a temporary repair had to be made more permanent before the night’s worst sections in Co. Donegal.
Rosemary Smith spoiled the image of her car in collision with a non-competitor, but was still going strongly.
The fourth stage had become one long grind for the tiring crews and their hard-pressed cars, the service crews and the small band of enthusiasts who were following the rally around the country.
A crowd of many thousands had turned up at the supper stop at Killadeas, Co. Fermanagh, where the competitors thrashed around a 1.9 miles special section in the grounds of the Manor House Hotel. Clark was still pulling away, and Hopkirk was holding his second position again from Boyd’s challenge.
Excitement was high as Coleman hurtled around the hotel roads, for it was apparent that he was heading for a high finishing place.
With Killadeas behind them, the drivers knew the chips were down. From now on they either had to make no mistakes or, if they did, they had to hope that their rivals’ errors were somewhat greater.
Clark sailed well out ahead, but the duel was still engaged between Hopkirk and Boyd, with the private entrant still claiming every possible second from his works-sponsored adversary.
Their struggle was a bitter one, but still comradely. Around 7 a.m. on the Tuesday morning, in Dungiven, Hopkirk sped out of the village as Boyd drew up at his service car. A few moments later Paddy was back, with overheating of the engine and “queer noises“. The only service car in the village was Boyd’s, and the crew was busy on the Boyd vehicle.
Just behind them was the Banagher Forest section, where Boyd had gained two seconds. Ahead was the frightening 21 miles of the Torr Head special section. It could be the decider.
When the young Carnmoney driver heard of his rival‘s troubles he placed his service crew at Hopkirk‘s disposal, and with both cars serviced the battle was on again. In the event, Paddy finished in second place. Boyd was third.
Early the same morning Billy Coleman, who had already established himself as a fine driver, pushed things a bit too hard in the wilds of Donegal and was out.
Less than 100 miles from the end Reggie McSpadden and Robert McBurney (BMW 2002), leading their class and well placed overall, dropped their transmission, and for them, too, the war was over.
Drama also had its day on the Banagher Forest section—the second-last of the rally. The Mini-Cooper of R. J. Eakin and W. Johnston failed to take a corner and shot over a substantial drop. The car’s progress was halted by a tree, just long enough for them to scramble clear. Then, deep in the forest something stirred.
Typical of the stories told is the one by Cork co-driver Derek Jolly, who described how driver Tom Burke nearly took the ear off the road in a special section. “We came down into this section, flick left, then right, and then we saw the arrow for sharp right. We went right on to the bank and came off airborne and he never even lifted off the accelerator —just shouted ‘Are you all right ?’.”
Everyone had been thrilled by the way Helen Walford‘s Cortina had been keeping up the pressure with John Jago at the wheel. As Helen explained to me at the finish, “There was a steep hill, a bridge and a 90-degree corner. We made a considerable mess of them.” In fact, the car somersaulted several times into the undergrowth, but with some assistance they got it back on the road and continued. As they paused in the scrutineering bay at the end, little Helen, a polio victim, thought the Escort’s battered hulk was a great joke. John merely looked a little haggard.
To finish just over 15 minutes behind Clark, Hopkirk did some really hairy driving. He started, knowing that the removal of the temperamental fuel injection system (it was replaced by Weber carburettors) had cut the available power considerably, and he could only call on little more than half the brake horsepower that Clark‘s Escort was putting out. He was also having wheel trouble.
Clark sailed through almost trouble-free; at the finish he could report that he had replaced a differential gasket, a wheel bearing, and the bracket holding the suspension arms to the body had developed cracks.
There was a huge crowd in Larne to welcome home the 58 finishers, most of them in excellent condition but some a little worse for wear. The finishing line was a good place to assess the immense test on stamina which the Gallaher Circuit of Ireland Rally imposes.
- R. Clark, J. Porter (Escort T/C), 428 marks lost;
- P. Hopkirk, T. Nash (Cooper “S”), 529.6;
- A. J. L. Boyd, D. B. Crawford (Cooper “S”), 547.2;
- R. White, R. H. Hagan (Cooper “S”), 611.9;
- C. B. Curley, A. Frazer (Escort T/C), 625.7;
- C. Vard, D. Reynolds (Porsche), 645.5;
- R. Fidler, B. Hughes (BMW), 682.9;
- B. Lee. J. Coles (Escort), 702.5;
- W. K. Shields, P. Lyster (Viva), 712.3;
- A. D. Sheppard, J. V. Taylor (Escort), 777.3.
UAC TROPHY (best rally performance), Ford Motor Co. (R. Clark, J. Porter).
GALLAHER TROPHY (best private entrant), A. J. L. Boyd/D. B. Crawford.
CLASS 1 (up to 850 c.c.), Antrim Trophy, J. A. Eakin, F. P. Johnston (Mini), 981.3 marks lost.
CLASS 2 (850-1150 c.c.), Armagh Trophy, W. R. Johnston, R. McCutcheon (Wartburg), 1,364.0.
CLASS 3 (1150-1300 c.c.), Down Trophy, G. R. Hudson Evans, M. Sones (BMC Cooper), 892.2.
CLASS 4 (1300-1600 c.c.), Fermanagh Trophy, A. D. Sheppard, J. V. Taylor (Escort), 777.3.
CLASS 5 (over 1600 c.c.), Tyrone Trophy, R. Fidler, B. Hughes (BMW), 682.9.
CLASS 6 (up to 1300 c.c., group 5), Londonderry Trophy, R. White, H. Hagan (Cooper). 611.9
CLASS 7 (above 1300 c.c., group 5), Belfast Trophy, C. Curley, A. Frazer (Escort),625.7.
CLASS 8 (GT up to 1300 c.c.), Donegal Trophy, M. Pinkerton, B. Pinkerton (Sprite), 1,032.9
CLASS 9 (GT over 1300 c.c.), Kerry Trophy, C. Vard, D. Reynolds (Porsche), 645.5.
CLASS l0 (Special and sports cars, any capacity), Larne Trophy, R. Clark. J. Porter (Escort), 428.8.
- Clark and Porter, £250.
- Hopkirk and Nash, £l50.
- Boyd and Crawford, £100.
- White and Hagan, £90.
- Curley and Frazer. £80.
- Vard and Reynolds, £70.
- Fidler and Hughes. £60.
- Lee and Coles, £50.
- Shields and Lyster, £40.
- Shepherd and Taylor, £30.
- Boyd and Crawford. £200.
- White and Hagan, £100.
- Curley and Frazer, £75.
- Vard and Reynolds, £50.
- Lee and Coles, £30.
- Shields and Lyster, £20.
PRIVATE ENTRANTS’ TEAM: A. Boyd and D. Boyd.
H. A. BRYSON TROPHY (best N.I. crew), A. J. L. Boyd. D. B. Crawford.
CASTLEREAGH TROPHY (best Republic crew), C. Vard, D. Reynolds.
OONAGH REID TROPHY (best overseas crew), R. Clark, J. Porter.
AUTOSPORT TROPHY (best crew with international experience), R. Clark. J. Porter.
NOVICES’ TROPHY (best non-international winning crew), A. Sheppard, J. Taylor.
KNOCKMANNY TROPHY (best crew with no international experience), R. Lawrence, P. Muddiman.
O’CONNOR-RORKE TROPHY (best women’s crew), Miss R. Smith, Mrs. A. Watson.
PADDY HOPKIRK TROPHY (best women’s crew without international win). Miss J. Sloane, Miss D. Atkinson.
KONI SHOCK ABSORBERS (best crew not winning major award), A. Sheppard, J. Taylor.
FREE ENTRY IN I969 RAC AND SCOTTISH RALLIES: A. J. L. Boyd D. B. Crawford.
It Takes Stamina!
COVERING a rally comprehensively is no easy task. The Smoke Signals team found this out on the first night.
To try to keep up with the rally and see the leaders on as many special sections as possible meant cutting across country by map references and through lanes which appeared to lead in the right direction.
The Smoke Signals Austin 1800 behaved well in the hands of Brian Duncan, Gallaher Dublin Administration Manager, and Elizabeth House (London) receptionist Marina Brinkworth. Navigation, sometimes unfortunately, was in the hands of Editor Frank Sergent, who, it is hoped, knew more about his camera and notebook.
The two drivers brought ex- perience to the job. Brian Duncan was a former police driver in Kenya and more than once had to shepherd the leading cars in the rugged East African Safari rally. Marina, something of a star on television in her rally-cross Mini, was getting a close look at the Circuit with a view to entering next year with her husband, Colin. In fact, she has every intention of doing so if they can obtain a suitable car in the next few months.
The Smoke Signals trio covered about 1,600 miles, even though they cut short their personal rally at the end of the fourth stage at Fermanagh and headed back to Larne. They had no sleep on the Friday night, some on the Saturday, less on the Sunday, and when they arrived at Larne early on Tuesday morning they marvelled at the stamina of the rally drivers, who slept even less.