This report appeared in Motoring News, and compliments the Autosport Report posted elsewhere.
1969 Texaco Rally – Motoring News.
With masterly and consistent driving, Derryman Cahal Curley and his co-driver Austin Frazer in their Escort Twin-Cam walked off with the major award in the first Texaco Rally held in Northern Ireland last weekend. Curley took the first special stage easily, made second best time on number two, equalled best with three other drivers on number three, dropped back a bit on number five, and then went off. Not off in the accepted rallying sense which usually means “off the road”, but off into the distance ahead of the rest, for he made best time on sections six to seventeen inclusive. Then, finding he was was well ahead, eased off on the final two tests.
Adrian Boyd and Beatty Crawford overturned on Orra Lodge where fog made the going distinctly hazardous. In all, twelve drivers in the “Experts” class failed to complete that section.
This was the first event of its kind sponsored by Texaco and is a replacement for the former “Starlight Rally”. Organisation was an amalgam of effort by two clubs, Larne Motor Club and the Mid-Antrim Motor Club, and 120 crews turned up to sample the resulting event.
The Texaco ’69 was a kind of mini-Circuit, in that it followed closely the pattern of the International event, but the competitors were nearly all Irishmen from North and South of the border.
The rally was planned to cover a period of only twelve hours, from nine o’clock on Friday evening until nine o’clock Saturday morning. In distance terms, it covered 310 miles, of which roughly 135 were either on closed public roads or forest tracks.
At nine o’clock on a wet Friday night the first car, the Carson/McBurney M.G. Midget, was flagged away. Half an hour later it was at Starbog, the first special section. This did not present much difficulty to any of the competitors but the following Carnearney Forest was expected to give trouble. This track had been used on the Circuit of Ireland and with the heavy rain, was expected to be rough.
Ronnie White made the best time of 3m 20s on it, and most of the top drivers were within 30 seconds of him. Ballyboley Forest followed and was taken by five of the Expert Class drivers in 3minutes dead. Most of the rest were within 10 seconds of this time. A second run over Starbog followed when nineteen of the first twenty drivers improved their times.
Then it was on to Orra Lodge at midnight, and with a fair amount of fog, a lot of people people seemed to go off the road or hit something, and the long list of casualties included Adrian Boyd (who rolled the Cooper S), Ronnie White, Dennis McKeag, John McAlorum, Ernest McMillen, Ken Shields, Pat Fay, Ronnie Reid, Ronnie Johnston, George Windrum, W.J. Andrews and D. Shaw! One almost feels like adding “Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all”!
This was the stage at which Cahal Curley decided he had had enough horsing around and started on his winning way. His time of 8m 59s was well clear of the second man – Dessie McCartney – at 9m 20s. This pattern continued throughout the night with the Derryman drawing ever further away from his mates until on the second time around Slieve Gallion he eased back and then did the same on the final test at Clinty Quarry.
These two sections were taken by Dessie McCartney (Cooper S) who ran second to Corley in several sections. The other drivers who were pressing Dessie close were Noel Smith from Greystones in his Cooper S, and Charlie Gunn from Dublin in an Escort Twin-Cam.
Indeed, Smith beat McCartney for second spot on both the Torr Head runs, and again at Ballycastle. John McClean in a Cooper S was not far behind and on the first Torr Head run had equalled Curley’s time.
Terry Harryman was back in the sport in the lone NSU 1000 TTS and he followed McClean closely for most of the way, in company with the Smith brothers, the only Scottish visitors in their Imp. The Johnstons, Mervyn and Harry, also found the going rough, a rock on which the Cooper bounced making a hole in the floor and bending the cross-member.
Of the 32 cars that started in the Experts Class, only 19 arrived back in Ballymena, some, like Thompson’s Cooper, showing signs of damage. There were 29 starters in Class Two (Semi-Experts) and only 17 finished, while Class Three (Novices) had a shorter route and had a slightly higher proportion finishing.
RESULTS – EXPERTS
- C.Curley/A.Frazer (Escort TC) 160m 39s;
- D.McCartney/N.Henderson (Cooper S) 166m 10s;
- N.Smith/R.Foott (Cooper S) 172m 10s;
- C.Gunn/P.Phelan (Escort TC) 174m 54s;
- I.Woodside/C.Crawford (Midget) 177m 29s;
- J.McClean/H.Patton (Cooper S) 183m 54s;
- T.Harryman/N.Taylor (NSU Prinz 1000) 184m 40s;
- R.Smith/D.Smith (Hillman Imp) 185m 59s.