1969 Newry Frontier Rally

Photo: Esler Crawford
Ron Mullen throws the front of his G.P. Beach Buggy under the expert eyes of Norman Smith, Brian O'Kane and Derek Boyd.

Article reprinted from MotorWeek – 11 October 1969.
Report and Pictures by Esler Crawford.


If they had anticipated the pleasure of driving gently along some minor roads in a very picturesque part of County Down in the warm autumn afternoon sunshine, taking in ten driving tests on the way and having a bit of “crack” at the same time then maybe more than 18 drivers might have entered for the Mini Frontier Rally last Saturday.

Lee Lucas (Right) gets all the gen from Clerk of the Course, Stephen Gibbons.

This driving test meeting on the public roads was held instead of the Newry Club‘s Frontier Rally, which of course was to have been an all-night navigation event and was cancelled in view of the present troubles.  Despite the fact that the five tests carried out twice were all rather similar, involving much to-ing and fro-ing, and the total absence of pylons, this was a very enjoyable event and brought back memories of ten years back when such events took place almost every Saturday afternoon all through the autumn and winter.

It turned out to be a Beach Buggy benefit with Robert Woodside again demonstrating the art of test driving at the highest level (sorry David!) with Charles Crawford second and Ronnie Mullen third. all three being at the wheel of Buggies.

Woodside completely dominated the event setting the fastest time in every test and nowadays even seems to have a psychological advantage over the opposition.  When the rest of the field left the start there was no sign of him so it was assumed he was not driving and morale was high among the lesser mortals.  About halfway through the event, when word filtered through that the dreaded Woodside had been seen at the first test, an immediate
depression seemed to settle on the opposition!


Perhaps his skill was most evident in the last test when even experienced competitors gasped with admiration when he successfully carried out a manoeuvre which no one else had even thought of trying.  He spun his car on a road which was no wider than the length of the car — an audacious move which probably gained him about two seconds.

Despite Woodside’s superlative performance, Charles Crawford’s second place was a well-deserved one.  Originally he had come along just to navigate in Esler Crawford’s Beach Buggy but the owner offered (foolishly) to let him have a go as well, and was rewarded by being given a driving lesson to the extent of being beaten by about five seconds in every test!

Charles normally pilots an M.G. Midget and this was only his second-ever drive in a Buggy but he took to it very quickly and was second to Woodside in nearly every test – showing a nice economy of driving which is the hallmark of the successful test driver.

His main opposition came from Ronnie Mullen who was making his Beach Buggy debut after growing tired of breaking Cooper gearboxes with monotonous regularity.  Although he was obviously not yet quite accustomed to the Buggys rather twitchy handling, Mullen had some good times and should soon be a force to be reckoned with in this car.  Fourth overall was Ken Shields whose continuing good form bodes well for his chances in the forthcoming TV Trophy tests.

Billy Ferguson, who took a fine second in class with his Escort G.T., in action on test three.

The event was notable for the rather unusual composition of the entry. There seemed to be a vast number of locally entered hot Ford Anglia’s entered.  Some of these were driven with considerable vigour but the best effort by a local driver came from Billy Ferguson who drove his Escort G.T. very neatly to take second place in his class behind Albert Lucas’s Viva G.T.  Albert had forsaken his usual Mini to drive the Viva while brother Lee had reciprocated by swopping his Viva for a Cooper.  Maybe we will see David Grant in a Beach Buggy some of these days if this sort of trend continues!

Incidentally, it seemed to be a day for Mini tie-rods to break and both Lee Lucas and Rowan Bell finished the event with front wheels at very alarming angles. Another victim of a most unusual accident was Richard Dugan – who also swopped his usual Mini for a Viva GT – who caught his exhaust system on the very rough surface of a lane used in test three and wrapped it up around the front suspension. By the time he made it to the test finish, he has incurred a maximum penalty.

General classification:
1. R. J. Woodside (GP. Beach Buggy) 333.6 marks lost;
2. C. C. Crawford (G.P. Beach Buggy) 355.4;
3. R. Mullen (G.P. Beach Buggy) 374.2.

Front engined rear-wheel drive cars:
1. A. J. H. Lucas (Viva G.T.) 417.2;
2. W. Ferguson (Escort G.T.) 463.6;
3. R. W. Dugan (Viva G.T.) 495.6.

Cars with engine over driven wheels:
1, W. K. Shields (Volkswagen 1500) 386.6;
2. W. D. C. Grant (BMC Cooper S) 389.8;
3. D. D. Boyd (Volkswagen 1500) 392.2.

Sports cars and specials as the general classification.