Curley is 1969 Ulster Champion
This report is reproduced from Autosport Magazine 25 December 1969.
THE final round of the Ulster Rally Championship took place on December 13 with the Queen’s University Motor Club Winter Rally. Due to the troubled state of the province, this year’s championship was rather curtailed, only five events being run. Nevertheless, the issue was decided by this last event. After four rounds the lead was held by Dessie McCartney with 23 points to reigning champion Cahal Curley‘s 20. To retain his title, Curley would have to finish at least two places ahead of McCartney, who has already won the Ulster Autocross Championship this season.
As has been the pattern recently, the rally took the form of a daylight special stage event, five of the best known forests in Co Londonderry being the scene of the action this time. Two of these were attempted twice, giving seven stages altogether, and a total of nearly 40 stage miles.
From the New University of Ulster at Coleraine, on a very cold and damp morning, Cahal Curley led the almost 100 strong field to the first stage at Springwell. Here Ronnie McCartney created something of
a surprise by throwing his elderly ex-works Cooper S round the six miles in 8m 03s — some 13 secs faster than Curley‘s Escort TC and Ronnie White’s Cooper S.
Equally surprisingly, Dessie McCartney looked rather subdued in his Cooper S, and was 10 secs slower still. However, maybe the ploy was that Ronnie should go all-out for a win, thus robbing Curley of a bonus point, while Dessie concentrated on being a safe third? On this stage Andy Irwin had a very good time of 8:26 with his 998 Mini-Cooper, and semi-expert Jim McCosh was just 1 sec slower with his Twin-Cam.
SS2 was a five-miler in Cam, where Ronnie McCartney continued his fantastic pace with 7m 00s to Curley‘s 7m 07s, with Ronnie White 1 sec slower, followed by the very promising Irwin on 7.23 and Des McCartney, surely taking it too easy, with 7:24.
Veteran Charles Maunsell took his Hunter away for lunch at this point after he and Beatty Crawford had spent an hour and a half retrieving it from the trees.
The four-mile Glenshane came next, and at last Curley’s Escort put McCartney’s cheeky S in it’s place – but just by 1 sec – in 6 :07. Ronnie White continued consistently with 6:14, but by now it was quite obvious that either Dessie McCartney or his car were badly off-form with 6:37. Poor Andy Irwin was out of luck here with a broken gearbox, and the same fate befell Dennis McKeag’s TC, while Brian Boyd wrecked a constant velocity joint on his Cooper.
The tricky Moydamlaght five-miler was next and, for once, it seemed to claim very few victims. However, it ruined Dessie McCartney’s chance of taking the championship when he got a puncture very near the start and lost about 4 mins changing the wheel. Curley continued to increase his pace and took 7:22, which was 11 sees faster than Ronnie McCartney, and yet again White was third fastest.
The very fast and smooth Banagher stage was, at nearly eight miles, the longest in the rally. This time it was the other half of the McCartney duo in trouble when Ronnie lost a front wheel and took the crippling maximum for the stage. Despite nudging the very tight hairpin with a front wing, Curley was again fastest in 10:43, followed by the consistent White.
Thus, with two stages to go, Curley was in a virtually impregnable position provided he kept out of trouble. The penultimate stage was Cam again (in the reverse direction) and with a time of 7:00 to Dessie McCartney’s 7:28 Curley showed no signs of losing concentration by easing up. This stage saw the demise of White, whose differential gave up, and the fighting Ronnie McCartney had to repair a broken tie-rod on the stage and thereby lost another bagful of marks.
The final stage was another run through Springwell and was uneventful enough, although Ronnie McCartney showed himself as a driver who never gives up by equalling Curley’s 8:10 in the rather shattered looking Mini while Dessie put up his best performance yet with 8:20. But, of course, this was too late and the results showed Curley an easy winner – navigated by Austin Frazer, he became Ulster Rally Champion for the second year running.
- C. B. Curley /A. Frazer (Ford Escort TC) 54m40s;
- R. Lyons/H. Johnston (Mini-Cooper S) 58m49s;
- W. H. Scott/K. Atkinson (Ford Escort TC) 60m17s;
- M. Johnston/I. Allen (Mini-Cooper S) 60m22s;
- D. McCartney/N. Henderson (Mini-Cooper S), 61m08s;
- G. R. Baird/A. Walbrldga (Hillman Imp) 61m37s;
- N. Johnston/N. Thompson (Toyota Corona) 62m10s;
- J. J. Campbell/B. Dorman (Hillman Imp) 62m22s.
J. M. McCosh/S. Broadhead (Ford Escort TC) 59m32s.
F. G. Boyle/W. Duncan (Austin-Healey Sprite). 63m33s.
1969 Ulster Rally Drivers’ Championship, final positions:
- Cahal Curley (Ford Escort TC) 30;
- Dessie McCartney (Mini-Cooper S) 25;
- Ronnie McCartney (Mini-Cooper S) 12;
- John McClean (Mini-Cooper S) 11;
- Alec Poole (Mini-Cooper S) 10;
- Adrian Boyd (Ford Escort TC) 10.