1969 March 8 Rally Notebook


This notebook, by Terry Harryman, was published in MotorWeek dated 8th March, 1969.

Tough Task is still ahead of UAC.

With four weeks to go before Easter, the U.A.C. have just to make the final arrangements for this year’s Gallaher “Circuit of Ireland”. One thing they have to do now is to “seed” the entry. With the greatly oversubscribed entry list now closed, the details of the 150 accepted entries have been released, and looking through them, I wouldn’t like to have the task of sorting them out in numerical order. I would wish David Mitchell and his assistants the best of luck in trying to keep everyone (or nearly everyone, or even a few people!) happy in this task. Let’s have a look through the runners and try and sort them out a bit, without, I hope, offending too many competitors.

Of the total, 47 crews are from Northern Ireland, 27 are from the Republic and no less than 76 (or just over half) are visitors to this island. This is a real turn-up for the book and indicates the splendid reputation the ‘Circuit’ now has across the water. Naturally, with such a large entry, each of the 11 classes are fairly well filled despite the fact that over a quarter of the runners have opted to go in one class, this being the 1300-1600cc Group 2 class which has no less than 41 candidates.

A few weeks ago I predicted that the Escort Twin Cam would be the most popular car this year but in fact the Cooper S still just has the edge, there being 38 of these (34 ‘1275’ variants and 4 smaller ones) as against 32 Escort TCs. The Escort GT hasn’t proved nearly as popular as there are only two of these entered, but the Cortina GT is still fairly highly rated with eight entered compared with 17 Lotus Cortinas. Along with seven 850 Minis and a couple of Anglias, this lot makes up over two thirds of the total entry!

Rootes are represented by 2 Imp Sports, 6 Rallye Imps, a Hunter, a Rapier and a Tiger while Vauxhalls only runners are a trio of Viva GTs. The rest of the cars are as follows: two Fiat 850s, one Saab 850 plus three V4s, two Wartburgs, two NSU TTSs, one Toyota Corolla, one Lancia Fulvia Rallye HF, four Renault Gordinis, one VW 1600, three BMW 2002s, one Volvo 122s, one Triumph 2.5 PI, one Austin Healey Sprite, one Triumph GT6, one MGC, one MGB three Porsche 911s and one Rover 3500. Altogether quite a formidable array of machinery.

Who then are the people to look out for in the respective classes? Well, in the 850 class there are several unfamiliar names but I would suggest that John Eakin and Peter Johnston, Jim Henry and Mitch Maguire and visitors Rodney Baynham and Bob Guy are the men to watch here. In the 850-1100 cc class I doubt very much whether anybody will match Bob Freeborough and Johnstone Syer whose Cooper S gets regular attention at Abingdon.

Their main opposition should come from Ashley Armstrong and Harry Johnston who’ll also have a quick S, although the NSU TTS of Eamonn Cotter and Joe Dempsey could provide a surprise and David McCullough and Stuart Carphin should finish well up in their Sunbeam Imp Sport.

Of the 24 entries in Class 3 (1100-1300cc), only five are not in Cooper Ss and to my mind one of these latter will make the running. S Favourites must be Phil Cooper and Doug Griffiths in the ex-works car which they took to fourth place on the ‘RAC’ but they could get some stiff opposition from Will Sparrow and Nigel Raeburn in a similar car.

Other contenders will include Harry Cathcart and Geoff Morrison and Ernest McMillen and Stanley Eakins, both in S’s, and possibly Derek McMahon and Mike Hart in a semi-works Renault Gordini and David Agnew and Chris McNally in the Lancia that Messrs. McSpadden and McBurney took to fourth place overall last year.

Timo Makinen and Mike Wood must be favourites in Class 4 (1300-1600cc) in their Clarke and Simpson entered Escort TC, even though Tom Trana / Stig Andreasson are running in the same class in a ‘works’ Saab V4. Other interesting runners in this class are Rosemary Smith / Mrs. A. Watson in a ‘works’ Escort TC (Timo’s is a thinly disguised ‘works’ car), Crawford Harkness in another ‘works’ Saab, Doug Lockyear / Ted Cowell in an ‘assisted’ Saab, Alan Allard / Tom Fisk, Charlie Gunn / Norman Henderson and Dennis McKeag / Hugh Brown all in Escort TCs, and Derek Boyd / Norman Smith (Lotus Cortina).

Class 5 is for the big saloons and here we should see a battle royal between the BMW 2002s of Reggie McSpadden / Robert McBurney (TI version) and Roy Fidler / Barry Hughes with intervention from Leslie Fitzpatrick / Donald Grieve in the fuel injected Triumph 2500 and the Viva GT of Ken Shields / Peter Lyster. The up to 1300cc Group 5 class should result in a tremendous scrap between the Cooper S’s of Des McCartney / Mervyn Johnston, Stuart Brown / Stuart Parker, John McClean / Hal Patton and Ronnie White / Harold Hagan with each of the other runners joining in. In the over 1300cc Group 5 class, the main contenders must be Barry Lee / John Coles, and Cathal Curley / Austin Frazer, both in Escort Twin Cams.

Unless Brian Mitchell / Brian Pinkerton (Sprite) can upset the form book, the up to 1300cc Group 3 class will be a Rallye Imp benefit with David Baird / Colin McMeekin, and Peter McConnel / R. Bingham the most likely winners. In the bigger Group 3 class three Porsches are running and here I would say Jock Russell / Peter Valentine must be favourites despite the presence of similarly equipped Cecil Yard / Dudley Reynolds and Doug Harris / Mike Hayward.

And so to the final and undoubtedly most interesting class, that for Group 6 prototypes which has a very good turn-out of 19 entries. Last year’s winners Roger Clark and Jim Porter in their ‘works’ Escort TC and many times previous winner Paddy Hopkirk with Tony Nash, who was over here a few years ago as co-driver to David Seigle Morris in a ‘works’ Cortina GT, come together here and this will undoubtedly be the struggle that most eyes will be upon as it will not only be for class supremacy but for overall victory as well. Close behind these two will be Adrian Boyd / Beatty Crawford (Cooper S) and Tony Chappell and Hywell Thomas (Escort TC) and probably John L’Amie / John Grant in their ultra-light Escort TC.

Overall the battle will, as I have just said, be between Clark / Porter, and Hopkirk / Nash in their Group 6 cars, and also Makinen / Wood in their Group 2 machine, while behind this trio there will be» some furious jousting going on right down through the field to make this undoubtedly the best ‘Circuit’ so far.

Advice to Novices

Glamour comes expensive

Last weekend’s Mid-Antrim rally brought home a point which has puzzled myself and a few others for quite a while now. Why is it that so many Non-Expert crews, especially Novices, opt to do the Restricted events rather than the less demanding Closed-to-Club rallies?

There can really only be one reason and that is that the glamour of the bigger events attract them. However by doing this they are likely to find that rallying is too expensive for them and will pack it in before they even know what it’s all about.

Nowadays, even the smallest club rally is a well organised affair as clubs have found that they can’t get away with dishing up any old rubbish. Therefore those competitors who are still trying to learn a bit about rallying will learn just as much from a Closed ‘half-night’ event as they will from a Restricted one and at a greatly reduced cost to themselves.

Rallying at Restricted (or National) level in Ulster is quite a costly past time now, especially to the crew who wants to do anyway well (and for quite a number this means getting to the finish). So that Championship rallies can be interesting to the top crews, clubs have to make them tough and demanding, and this means that it usually takes a well prepared car to get the whole way round.

Preparing a car for this type of event costs an awful lot of money and if the job isn’t done properly then it is just money wasted. On top of the cost of preparing the car there are also the costs of fuel, oil, tyres, entry fees and insurance to consider. To do a Championship event will cost a competitor well over twice as much as it would to do one of the small closed ones and although the latter may only last for 3 or 4 hours, they are a much better proposition for the less experienced crews.

My advice (for what it’s worth) to those competitors who have been going out on Restricted rallies and haven’t been having any success, is to try some of the several closed rallies coming up now and get some comparatively easily-gained experience and leave the Restricteds alone for a while.

If you must get in on ‘the scene’, why not volunteer to officiate on a couple of the forthcoming Championship rallies? This won’t cost you much, your assistance will be welcomed by the clubs with open arms, it’s quite interesting and, I can assure you, it can be quite an education.

Terry Harryman.