1969 Texaco – Motorweek

Eire Champions Noel Smith and Ricky Foott managed third overall with their very nicely prepared Cooper S. Here they tackle a left-hander on the Glen Lark stage.

This report by Terry Harryman is reproduced  from MOTORWEEK dated May 24th 1969.

Heavy Toll in Texaco

Last weekend’s Texaco rally was undoubtedly a huge success for the Larne and Mid-Antrim Motor Clubs. Despite having to cope with a record 120 strong entry, the organisation was of a very high standard.

After an extremely incident packed night’s rallying, Cathal Curley and Austin Frazer brought their very quick Escort Twin-Cam into the Ballymena finish with a considerable lead, to win by almost 6 minutes from the Cooper S of Dessie McCartney and Norman Henderson.

Cathal Curley tries hard at Torr Head. He and Austin Frazer were to compete in the Manx Rally the weekend after the Texaco.

The retirement rate was very high especially among the favourites for outright victory with the most strongly fancy crews, Adrian Boyd and Beatty Crawford (ex-works Cooper S) disappearing after only five tests when they had an excursion on Orra Lodge, last year’s winners Ronnie McCartney and Mike Hart (ex-works Cooper S) calling it a day at Davagh Forest with a very sick engine, and Ronnie White and Harold Hagan thumping the front of the Cooper S on their first time over Torr Head.

Curley and Frazer Dominate

What a rally (or was it, as some people seem to think, a race?) last weekend’s Texaco was. Undoubtedly one of the most exciting ever run in Ulster, it was also probably the toughest and most demanding event we have ever had. The Gallaher Circuit is still the big event, as it covers so much more ground and is of course an International, but in its 12 hours (as against the Circuit’s 84 hours) the Texaco included 135 miles of the most exacting special stages in the North. 

Second crew home, Dessie McCartney and Norman Henderson, splash through a small lake on the Clinty Quarry section.

With such formidable tests as Orra Lodge, Torr Head and Glen Lark all done twice, it was little wonder that the event proved to be too much for quite a number of crews. It was a bit of a shock to learn that just over half of the 120 strong entry reached the finish, and to see so many abandoned cars by the wayside, in bogs, and poking out of hedges.

Equally surprising was the way one crew virtually walked away from the rest. Cathal Curley and Austin Frazer literally dominated the event in their lightweight ex-Lindsay and now Donald McEnaney prepared Twin Cam Escort. They took a fairly early lead and by setting fastest time on no less than 12 of the 19 tests they emerged clear winners by almost 6 minutes from the very rapid, self-prepared 1293 Cooper S of Dessie McCartney and Norman Henderson.

Terry Harryman and Norman Taylor would finish seventh place overall in their nimble NSUTTS, taking one stage win along the way.

Six minutes may not seem a lot but it works out at about three seconds per mile or as a difference in average speed of about 2.3 mph. Their averages over all the special stages (including some where it was quite a thing to beat that 40 mph average) were 52.5 mph (Curley) and 50.2 mph (McCartney).

The entry received for the Texaco (incidentally it was noticed that the road closing posters used the title Texaco “Starlight”) was the best ever for a one-night event in Ireland. However, several of the crews that appeared on the published entry last failed to turn up, including a number of the top names in the national event.


Top seeds Derek Boyd and Norman Smith apparently didn’t have the Lotus Cortina ready in time; Robert McBurney and that Welsh glassblowing gentleman Barry Hughes, were non-runners as their Porsche-VW has serious piston ring trouble, although Barry still came over to spectate; Circuit sensation Billy Coleman with Dan O’Sullivan didn’t make it in the Lotus Escort Special along with their compatriots Mick Barry / Dan Kavanagh (Lotus Escort) and Frank Fennel / Kenny Johnson (NSU TT).

Reggie McSpadden brought out his well-used VW in place of the BMW2002. Donald Grieve was co-driver.

Reggie McSpadden and Donald Grieve turned up in Reggie’s familiar 1622 beetle as the BMW 2002 still hasn’t had its differential rebuilt since the Circuit. John McAlorum and Ian McFarland arrived in a very pretty but completely unprepared (and unsuitable) 1750 Alfa Romeo GTV in place of their 1293 Cooper S which was suffering from a rattle. Peter McConnell was a non-runner in his quick Rallye Imp and his number and co-driver Peter Lyster were taken over by Ken Shields with his Circuit of Ireland Viva GT.

Thus the scene was set and what an impressive sight the lineup at Carrickfergus was in spite of the teeming rain which rather spoiled the whole operation. At 9.01 pm Ken Carson and Victor McBurney in their ex-works, but now Ford powered and fibreglass bodied MG Midget (which now looks much more purposeful than when BMC owned it, although that was a few years ago) led the huge field away to a rather rain sodden Star Bog. 

Clarke and McGrath get their Escort GT slightly tweaked up at Clinty Quarry.

Determined to stay in front of the field and obviously quite conversant with the test (it was amazing just how many cars were fitted with interior intercoms) Carson/McBurney set the pace in six minutes five seconds, five seconds ahead of Adrian Boyd/Beatty Crawford (ex-works Cooper S) and Ronnie White/Harold Hagan (1293 Cooper S).  Unfortunately the watches here weren’t synchronised properly and this caused several people to be very suspicious of the times announced, but the organisers later got the times sorted out to most crews’ satisfaction.

Surprise Time

After this, a run through Kells took the field to Carnearny Forest for the second test, a roughish two-miler where Gordon McBurney/Wesley Carson (Escort TC) surprised a whole lot of people with a time of 3.00, all of 20 seconds faster than the next crews, who were again Boyd/Crawford and White/Hagan.

Ronnie McCartney receives good wishes from Texaco’s Northern Ireland Manager, Kay Walker.

Even at this early stage some crews were in trouble, with Ronnie McCartney/Mike Hart possibly the most notable. Their ex-Works Cooper S just wasn’t going properly and was starting to use quite a lot of oil, while the NSU TTS of Terry Harryman/Norman Taylor lost a fuel pipe connection which resulted in a very uneconomical, two cylinders slow run.

Back towards the second run over Star Bog came the 2 1/2 mile Ballyboley forest stage. For some reason the test wasn’t open when the first cars arrived (in fact when Carson/McBurney got to the finish of Carnearny Forest, the exit gate wasn’t open and the official wasn’t in position) and there was quite a hold-up at the start, but surprisingly, crews weren’t given a delay allowance which resulted in several people losing time at the first control. 

Neville Johnson and Peter Lane made a strong impression in the early stages of the rally with their Toyota Corona. This incident resulted in a bent prop-shaft and retirement.

Possibly driving in anger after his previous test debacle, Terry Harryman upset the form book here by setting the pace on 2:50, two seconds ahead of Curley who in turn beat White by three seconds. Maybe it was just another case of timing inaccuracies, but it was all in vain anyway as the fastest half-dozen all clean the test. Brian Boyd/Robert Campbell (1275 Cooper S) and Roy McBurney/Brian Rowan (1500 Beetle) were among several who went off on one tricky left-hander through a gate near the finish and nearly became early retirements.

Another Hold-Up.

Over at the start of Star Bog 2 there was another lengthy hold-up as they early runners now got mixed up with the tail-enders who were doing the test for the first time. This resulted in several of the quicker boys getting baulked, but as the roads were considerably drier the times came down and White/Hagan were quickest on 5:40, five seconds faster than McBurney/Carson with the McCartney/Henderson a further seven back. Obviously this was a rally for the very fastest cars and it looked as though the escort TC was the car to beat.

The Ronnie Johnston/Bryce Sands Lotus Cortina shows signs of contact with something substantial as it tackles the hairpins on Torr Head.

After this, a longish run took the now fairly well spread out field through Broughshane and McGregor’s corner, where petrol was taken, to the start of Orra Lodge 1. This fabulous test was unfortunately in a treacherous state and caught many people, especially at one downhill right-hander. It was here that the rally came to an end for Adrian Boyd/Beatty Crawford when they tipped their Cooper S onto its side and retired, although the car showed little signs of damage. Aubrey O’Hara/Brian O’Kane (1293 Cooper S) were also off the road here, but not for too long and they were able to continue.

Non-expert pacemakers Brian McIvor/John McConnell plopped their Lotus Cortina off into a bog and was soon joined by the Renault R10 of S. Sloan/P. Shannon, the pair of them staying there for about six hours before a farmer could be found to tow them out. 

John Grant seems slightly sceptical about something as he and driver John L’Amie attack Torr Head. They later retired but didn’t abandon the car this time!

By now, Curley/Frazer were really getting the finger out and set fastest time 8:59, eighteen seconds ahead of the low-flying McBurney/Carson who were now vying for the overall lead, with McCartney/Henderson on 9:37.  At last the Twin-Cam Escort “racing device” of John L’Amie/John Grant came into its own with 4th quickest time, but this wasn’t to last very long, unfortunately.

End of White’s ’S’

A short run down the Glendun valley led to the other side of Cushendun and the infamous run over Torr Head. It was here that Ronnie White’s valiant effort came to an end when he planted his Cooper S into the bank on a slippery right-hander and quite seriously modified the front suspension. Denis McKeag/Hugh Brown also went home around this time when their Escort TC lost all but top Gear, while John L’Amie/John Grant were also having gear selection problems in the lighter and much hairier looking car, although they soldiered on. 

Norman Thompson had problems when his Cooper S “fell over”, but he continued to the finish nonetheless.

Ballypatrick Forrest came next and again it was Curley/Frazer but some suspicious times brought people like McBurney/Rowan and Jim Campbell/Drexel Gillespie (875 Imp) onto the leaderboard ahead of the McCartneys, Smiths, etc.

Back at Orra Lodge, the first few miles were shrouded in fog when the cars arrived for the second run. This slowed things down by about half a minute but the eventual winners were again quickest, only this time it was from Class 2 runners P. A. J. Teuton/Alan Cunningham in an Escort GT!  This pair of boys motored very quickly throughout the night but the time here is undoubtedly suspect as were several others.

Roy McBurney experiences slight directional difficulties with his VW on the Clinty Quarry section.

Ken Shields/Peter Lyster finished the rally here when they put their Viva GT over the edge without too much damage, while John McAlorum/Ian McFarland and Ernest McMillen/Stanley Eakins didn’t get this far, the former crew splitting their sump on the previous liaison section and the latter pair going off the road while heading back to the route after a bit of a detour.

Torr Head was also slightly slower the second time with the roads being wetter, and yet again the leaders, Curley/Frazer, set the pace, this time by 20 seconds from Dessie McCartney/Norman Henderson.

Ballycastle Forest which followed, showed considerable changes from the stage used in previous rallies, a considerable amount of the test being on twisting, slippery tarmac, this making for a very interesting forest stage but with surprisingly few excursions. A fairly long run now led over through Coleraine to Springwell Forest for the usual slippery test which includes a mile or so of disused main road.

Scottish visitors, brothers R and D Smith, went very well in their rapid Rallye Imp.

Paddy Faye/Dennis Yeates were now running very low on fuel in their thirsty 1440 cc Renault Gordini so they somehow “conned” Paddy Farley/Dermot Flynn (1255 Renault Gordini) to lend them some petrol. To do this necessitated removing the fuel tank from the latter car so that the petrol could be poured from it into the other! Needless to say this took quite a while resulting in them both losing quite a lot of road time.

Frantic Work

Cam Forest came next and on this fairly fast but quite rough test Curley/Frazer continued their amazing run setting fastest time, although by now Dessie McCartney was really feeling the effects of his not-too-reliable brakes. 

Wright and McGillis getting rather close to a bank somewhere on Torr Head.

And so to the petrol and refreshment halt in Garvagh where a considerable number of crews were late clocking in. By now, daylight was appearing and things seem to be drying up considerably but with six more tests to come the “Texaco” was anything but over and there was going to be some pretty frantic work going on all along the main street. There was also some displays of lack of consideration for the people of the town by non-competitors.

A long haul over the Sperrins and through Dungiven took the by now very depleted column to Mount Hamilton and the start of the 14 mile Glen Lark stage which runs along the Glenelly Valley before turning up over Barnes Gap to run back through Glen Lark. This was another fantastic test and one where Curley really showed his supremacy taking nearly half a minute off second placed man McCartney.  John L’Amie’s rally finally came to an end here when they ran completely out of transmission. 

Bert Reid and Austin Burnett retired early on in the event in their ex-Norman Thompson Rallye Imp. Here they tackle Torr Head.

Davagh Forest came next and despite the organisers efforts to avoid the bad bits of this, the stage was still quite rough, although Curley obviously didn’t think so and took the most of another 30 seconds off McCartney. Ronnie McCartney/Mike Hart finally called it a day here in a cloud of blue smoke after a very frustrating run which only once saw them in the fastest half dozen.

From here it was over towards Draperstown for the 10 miles at Slieve Gallion; this was a funny sort of test with some very long straights, quite a bit of quick twisty stuff, and some very narrow, rough and slow lanes. Even this failed to slow Curley/Frazer who this time were no less than 33 seconds quicker than McCartney/Henderson. 

This test saw quite a number of mishaps; Neville Johnson/Peter Lane after a very good night’s motoring in their Toyota Corona, popped over the edge of a bridge exit this damaging the underside of the car quite extensively including bending the prop shaft, and breaking a leaf spring which in turn ripped a tyre open.  All this resulted in them retiring from an almost certain place in the first half dozen.

Kyle and Wilson find the banks on Torr Head just a little too inviting!

At the same spot, Carson/McBurney did exactly the same thing in their Midget but after a wheel change and a bit of bashing they were able to continue, although after their promising start they were well down the field as result of an earlier Torr Head excursion which deranged their steering. Just a little further down the road at another bridge, Norman Thompson/Eddie Magee, who had been motoring very steadily, rolled their 1275 Cooper S, but not too severely and they wasted very little time before continuing.

More Mysteries

From here it was back to Mount Hamilton for the second go at Glen Lark. Unfortunately this time there was something wrong with the watches and this resulted in much slower times with Curley/Frazer 46 seconds down on their first time but still fastest, although this time by only 15 seconds from McCartney/Henderson. However it would appear that the watch errors were not consistent as several crews found themselves well over a minute slower than their previous times although in fact they were over half a minute faster on their own timing.

The second run over Slieve Gallion came next and this time it was something of a surprise to find that Oliver Hadden/Dave Elliott (Escort TC) were credited with the fastest time despite the fact that Curley/Frazer repeated their previous time and Hadden/Elliott would have had to beat their first run by 1 1/2 minutes to get down to the time they were given.

A S Baird’s much-rallied Hillman Hunter has now recovered from that dose of “marathon-itis.” Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Brian Pinkerton here tackle Torr Head.

Anyway, that was the last of the special stages as such for now it was over to Clinty Quarry for the final test which was of the slalom type around the quarry workings. This was quite an interesting little “throw” but it resulted in another big hold-up which caused several crews to be late into the final control in Ballymena. In this final test it was McCartney who set the pace but it was so short, and all the time so close, that I’ve had no effect on the results.

The finish was in the Waveney Road car park in Ballymena where a driving test was laid on for the spectators. However, this was not included in the overall rally results and in fact, a large number of competitors give it a miss. Breakfast was available at the Leighinmore House Hotel, or at the Kings Arms in Larne, where the results were announced later in the day, and the prizegiving took place that night.

Thus Cathal Curley and Austin Frazer scored a very much deserved win which was certainly their biggest at the time of writing (they are taking part in the Manx Trophy rally this weekend and on present form could easily add to the list of successes).

Driving instructor Lexie Hughes prepares for the off at Clinty Quarry. (I wonder if special stage motoring is included in the school’s curriculum?). His navigator was Peter McDermott who, like Lexie, was having his first rally.

Dessie McCartney and Norman Henderson finished a very secure second after a restrained drive while visitors Noel Smith/Ricky Foott and Charlie Gunn/Paul Phelan drove consistently to take the next two places. In what would have been considered a very unsuitable car, Ian Woodside with Alan Bridgham made a tremendous come back to finish fifth, while John McClean/Hal Patton were somewhat unlucky to incur a large road penalty which dropped them back a couple of places to 6th overall.

In the restricted experts class, Harry Cathcart/Geoff Morrison (1293 Cooper S) drove exceptionally well to win by nine seconds from Mervyn and Harry Johnson (1293 Riley Elf) after Gordon McBurney/Wesley Carson fell back with the addition of road penalties.  In the non-expert section, Frank Wadsworth/Dessie Blaney (Cortina1600E) had a clear win from E. P. Clarkw/M. McGrath (Escort GT) who were only 31 seconds ahead of Malcolm Pedlow/Norman Reid (998 Cooper).

All in all a really fantastic rally with some of the best tests to be used anywhere, all of which were very well arrowed after a last-minute change in plan. However, the timing on the tests was not the best I have ever seen and leaves quite a lot to be desired. Also it would have given nobody grounds for complaint at the road section penalties had been discounted as there were some bad hold-ups in places, which resulted in a number of crews losing marks they should not have. However, I’m sure that at least 120 crews look forward to an even bigger and better “Texaco” in 1970.

Stage Times

SS1 Star Bog 1:  K Carson/V McBurney 6.05; A Boyd/B Crawford 6.10; R White/H Hagan 6.10; I Woodside/A Bridgham 6.15; D McKeag/H Brown 6.15; D McCartney/N Henderson 6.20.

SS2 Carnearny Forest:  G McBurney/W Carson 3.00; Boyd/Crawford 3.20; White/Hagan 3.20; C Curley/A Frazer 3.23; Woodside/Bridgham 3.25; McCartney/Henderson 3.25.

SS3 Ballyboley Forest:  T Harryman/N Taylor 2.50;  Curley/Frazer 2.52; White/Hagan 2.55; Boyd/Crawford 2.56; McCartney/Henderson 2.58; Carson/McBurney 3.00.

SS5 Star Bog 2:  White/Hagan 5.40; McBurney/Carson 5.45; McCartney/Henderson 5.52; Curley/Frazer 5.57; Boyd/Crawford 5.58; Carson/McBurney 6.00; Woodside/Bridgham 6.00.

SS6 Orra Lodge 1:  Curley/Frazer 8.59; M Johnson/H Johnson 9.10; McBurney/Carson 9.17; McCartney/Henderson 9.37; J L’Amie/J Grant 9.39; Carson/McBurney 9.40.

SS7 Torr Head 1:  Curley/Frazer 10.55; J McClean/H Patton 10.55; N Smith/R Foott 11.25; McCartney/Henderson 11.27; R Nesbitt/D Trimble 11.30; Carson/McBurney 11.40.

SS8 Ballypatrick Forest:  Curley/Frazer 8.50; B Boyd/R Campbell 8.52; R McBurney/B Rowan 8.55; B Reid/A Burnett 9.07; J Campbell/D Gillespie 9.14; McCartney/Henderson 9.20.

SS9 Orra Lodge 2:  Curley/Frazer 9.30; P Teuten/A Cunningham 9.51; Boyd/Campbell 9.59; A O’Hara/B O’Kane 10.10; McCartney/Henderson 10.10; J Kerr/M Kernaghan 10.12.

SS10 Torr Head 2:  Curley/Frazer 11.00; McCartney/Henderson 11.20; Woodside Bridgham 11.30; Nesbitt/Trimble 11.35; Smith/Foott 11.40; Boyd/Campbell 11.45.

SS11 Ballycastle Forest:  Curley/Frazer 7.57; Smith/Foott 8.18; McCartney/Henderson 8.19; Nesbitt/Trimble 8.22; Cathcart/Morrison 8.25; T McNeil/N Leonard 8.31.

SS12 Springwell Forest:  Curley/Frazer 8.27; McCartney/Henderson 8.40; Smyth/Foott 8.55; M Johnston/P Lane 9.02; Woodside/Bridgham 9.03; R McSpadden/D Grieve 9.04.

SS13 Cam Forest:  Curley/Frazer 7.17; Nesbitt/Trimble 7.39; McCartney/Henderson 7.43; Smith/Foott 7.57; McClean/Patton 8.02; McSpadden/Grieve 8.02.

SS14 Glen Lark 1:  Curley/Frazer 16.44; McCartney/Henderson 17.12; Johnston/Johnston 17.17; Gunn/Phelan 17.31; Smith/Foott 17.32; Woodside/Brigham 18.02.

SS15 Davagh Forest:  Curley/Frazer 10.58; McCartney/Henderson 11.26; Gunn/Phelan 11.30; Woodside/Bridgham 11.42; McSpadden/Grieve 11.48; Harryman/Taylor 11.53.

SS16 Slieve Gallion 1:  Curley/Frazer 11.26; McCartney/Henderson 11.59; Gunn/Phelan 12.15; Woodside/Bridgham 11.25; Smith/Foott 12.27; McClean/Patton 12.29.

SS17 Glen Lark 2:  Curley/Frazer 17.30; McCartney/Henderson 17.45; Gunn/Phelan 18.09; Johnston/Johnston 19.25; Smith/foot 18.26; O Hadden/D Elliott 18.34.

SS18 Slieve Gallion 2:  Hadden/Elliott 11.18; Curley/Frazer 11.26; McCartney/Henderson 11.40; Smith/Foott 12.01; Cathcart/Morrison 12.20; McClean/Patton 12.20.

SS19 Clinty Quarry:  McCartney/Henderson 0.55; Smith/Foott 0.56; Gunn/Phelan 0.56; McClean/Patton 0.56; Harryman/Taylor 0.57; McSpadden/Grieve 0.57.

Results – National:

  1. C B Curley/A Frazer (Escort TC) 160.39;
  2. D McCartney (Cooper S) 166.10;
  3. N T Smith/R H Foott (Cooper S) 172.10;
  4. C A Gunn/P Phelan (Escort TC) 174.36;
  5. I Woodside/A Bridgham (1275 Midget) 177.29;
  6. J S McClean/H L Patton (Cooper S) 183.54;
  7. T A Harryman/T N Taylor (NSU TTS) 184.40;
  8. R J Smith/D B Smith (Rallye Imp) 185.59;
  9. J P O’Kane/A N Other (Lotus Cortina) 186.35;
  10. J R McSpadden/J D Grieve (VW) 186.40

Results – Restricted Experts:

  1. H Cathcart/G Morrison (Cooper S) 177.34;
  2. M J Johnston/H P Johnston (1293 Elf) 177.43;
  3. G B McBurney/G Carson (Escort TC) 180.33;
  4. O Hadden/D Elliot (Escort TC) 184.24;
  5. K Irwin/P J Winters (Cooper S) 187.08;
  6. J Lennox/D Wilson (Cooper S) 191.57

Results – Restricted Non-Experts:

  1. F A Wadsworth/D Blaney (Cortina 1600E) 141.47;
  2. E P Clarke/M McGrath (Escort GT) 151.59;
  3. M Pedlow/N Reid (998 Cooper) 152.30;
  4. J Fullerton/G Parker (1650 Anglia) 153.23;
  5. J E Cathcart/A Elliot (998 Cooper) 154.04;
  6. J O’Neill/Miss M Dunlop (Cortina GT) 155.28.