Eire Rally Title Race Hotting Up!
Reproduced from MotorWeek, January 31, 1970 from the Edward Fitzgerald collection. Report and photos by Richard St John Young.
With only two rounds to go the Eire Rally Championship is really hotting up at the moment, and last Saturday night saw some pretty enthusiastic motoring as John Bridges and Noel Smith moved into top gear in their struggle for the championship honours
The event was the Dublin University Motor Club’s Boreen Rally, and surprises were the order of the night with both Smith and Bridges retiring, Robin Powderly and John Tansey putting everybody to shame on the special stages, and plenty of rough roads (some said too rough) putting the emphasis on just reaching the finish, never mind getting there with minimum penalties.
The start was at Avoca, just a few miles south of Rathdrum, County Wicklow, and at 10 o’clock, the first of the 38 entries (34 cars actually started) left for 200 miles of hard driving on a route which included much of County Wexford, and involved seven special stages in all.
Car number one was in fact Rosemary Smith, with Paul Phelan in the hot seat of her Works Austin Maxi. She was lucky to get started because the car only arrived on the boat from England earlier in the day, and it was only by dint of much panicking that Rosemary managed to reach the start in time.
Next in line came John Bridges, his Stee Griffin prepared Cooper S navigated by Brendan Doyle, while Noel Smith ran at number three, still in his familiar white Mini Cooper (presumably that much rumoured Ex-Regan Hornet is being kept for the “Circuit of Ireland”). Charlie Gunn was at number four driving the “old faithful” Cortina with which he scored so many successes back in the dark ages, whilst number five was Pat Fay’s Renault Gordini R8. Fay was another one who nearly didn’t get a drive, since he almost forgot his navigator, arriving at the start without him. All was well by starting time however and the Renault left in its proper place.
The route lead on the straight into special stage one, a very foggy 3.3 miles rejoicing in the name of Ballymoyle. Fog was the big problem here, and several people contrived to get themselves lost in the course of the stage. Fastest here was a Robin Powderly, who seems to have made the change from motorcycling to Ford Anglia bashing without too much trouble. Tied for second place where the Coopers of Connor Linehan and Robert Maharry, the latter in particular being very rapid, while John Bridges and Charlie Gunn were fourth and fifth fastest respectively.
Special stage two was a very smooth 5.5 miler in the grounds of very beautiful Shelton Abbey, and here the problem was water rather than fog. Again Powderly was quickest in spite of a persistent misfire, probably caused by too much water in the wrong places, and poor Charlie Gunn had the wick go out on the veteran Cortina, and was forced to stop to relight it.
Pat Fay found himself in trouble with this one, having plotted the start of the stage in the wrong place, and arrived halfway along, only to have to go back and work it all out again, which cost him quite a bit of time. Also running late was Mick Barry, following adventures on the first stage.
John Bridges was second quickest on the stage, ahead of arch-rival Noel Smith, while Linehan and Maharry again recorded equal times, tied this time for fourth ahead of Mick Barry and John Tansey’s quiet BMW 2002, which proved to be a dark horse so far as stages were concerned.
Rosemary Smith was finding the size of the Maxi something of a disadvantage on the tight bits, but nevertheless brought it through special stage 2 eighth fastest behind Tansey and ahead of David Yeates’ Cooper. Newryman Sean Campbell, who was going very well inhis Cooper, completed the top 10.
Special stage three was again only down the road, and here Powderly was again quickest from Linehan, while Tansey continued his unobtrusive progress, and made third fastest time overall. Tied for fourth were Mick Barrys Escort TC, the only one to actually appear, and Nobby Reilly’s Anglia which, although fast, was suffering from non-electrical electrics, and was destined to retire before long. Robert Maharry was a steady sixth, ahead of Sean Campbell, and then surprisingly far down the list, John Bridges and Noel Smith.
After special stage three, the accent was on road performance for a while, and here the maxi crew started to pull up a bit, with the Maxi’s performance over rough roads helping not a little in this. At the first time control which followed half an hour so later, they were running well ahead of John Bridges and Noel Smith, who managed to arrive in convoy.
After that there were a great many in difficulties including Pat Fay, who suffered a detached fan belt and the car overheated after a short time. Nobby Reilly too was out, his electrics having given up altogether, while Robert Maharry was going very well indeed, as in fact were a number of other people.
The petrol halt was in the village of Ferns, and most of the crews to arrive (there weren’t that many either!) brought with them tales of rough roads, hairy moments, and a surprisingly high rate of mechanical breakdowns. One of the unluckiest was Robin Powderly, whose very rapid Anglia driving was one of the most noteworthy features of the stages, since between a persistent misfire, a dodgy coli lead, and a far from well Brian Cusack in the “hot seat”, he was having to work very hard indeed, to stay within his permitted lateness.
Several people had in fact exhausted their supply of time by the time the petrol halt was reached, while others were pressing on although within seconds of exclusion. Hugh O’Brien, who had come all the way from Omagh with Harry Johnson, was having plug trouble on the Ex-McCartney Renault Gordini, and although very rapid on the stages, was running quite late on the road.
After Ferns, it was back to the lanes for another few miles, during which the Rosemary Smith Austin Maxi combination again proved it’s worth, and then on to the final four special sections where the rally took a dramatic turn with the disappearance of both Bridges/Doyle and Smith/Foote within a relatively short distance of one another. Transmission failure was to blame in both cases, and this it was thought made a massive victory a very real possibility.
However, between them, Brian Powderly and John Tansey managed to set fastest time on all the remaining special stages, the Anglia driver having a bit of additional excitement when a wheel fell off his steed.
Hero of the night though, turned out to be Robert Maharry, who managed to combine a very good road performance with some consistently fast, if not earth-shattering, special stage performances, and eventually finished with some eight points in hand over Rosemary Smith and Paul Phelan, who had earned their placing mainly on the road section.
Third overall was Farrelly’s Renault Gordini, which was having its first outing on four cylinders in months, and must surely have been the noisiest car out, ahead of David Yeates’ Cooper.
The finish was at the Woodlands Hotel, Greystones, were eventually 11 crews arrived to be classified as finishers of a very tough event indeed, and one worthy of its championship status. There were some moans about rough roads, but after all this is rallying, and rough roads are part of it. The weather didn’t help much in spots either, with fog and floods present just to stop anybody becoming too complacent.
All in all a very good result for Robert Maharry, ably navigated by Kenny Johnson, while, had the Powderly man not had so many other bothers, one wonders what the result would have been.
Special Stage Times:
SS1 – Ballymole.
1st R. Powderly (Anglia GT) 7-09; 2nd= C. Lenehan (Cooper S) and R. Maharry (Cooper S) 7-43; 4th J. Bridges (Cooper S) 7-46; 5th C. Gunn (Lotus Cortina) 7-47; 6th J. Tansey (BMW 2002) 7.51; 7th D. Yeates (Cooper S) 7-57; 8th N. Smith (Cooper S) 8-03; 9th J. Reid (Cooper S) 8-10; 10th S. Campbell (Cooper) 8-12.
SS2 – Shelton Abbey.
1st Powderly 7-23; 2nd Bridges 7-43; 3rd N. Smith 7-46; 4th= Lenehan and Maharry 7-47; 6th M. Barry (Escort TC) 7-48; 7th Tansey 7-57; 8th R. Smith (Austin Maxi) 8-11; 9th Yeates 8-35; 10th Campbell 8-36.
SS3 – Glenart Castle.
1st Powderly 3-32; 2nd Lenehan 3-39; 3rd Tansey 3-40; 4th= Barry and N. Reilly (Anglia GT) 3-41; 6th Maharry 3-44; 7th Campbell 3-45; 8th Bridges 3-48; 9th N. Smith 3-49; 10th Reid 3-53.
SS4 – Cronybyrne.
1st Powderly 7-44; 2nd Bridges 7-50; 3rd Tansey 8-02; 4th Maharry 8-04; 5th Barry 8-14; 6th N. Meghan (Escort GT) 8-28; 7th H. O’Brien (Renault Gordini) 8-29; 8th Reid 8-30; 9th R. Smith 8-38; P. Farrelly (Renault Gordini) 8-46.
SS5 – Barnbawn.
1st Tansey 5-06; 2nd Barry 5-10; 3rd Maharry 5-23; 4th= Reid and Farrelly 5-28; 6th Meghen 5-33; 7th R. Bell (Cooper) 5-36; 8th O’Brien 5-37; 9th R. Smith 5-38; 10th Yeates 5-50.
SS6 – Glenealey.
1st Powderley 13-11; 2nd Barry 13-29; 3rd Tansey 14-09; 4th Meghen 14-14; 5th Maharry 14-15; 6th Farrelly 14-34; 7th Reid 14-35; 8th R. Smith 15-10; 9th Yeates 16-22, 10th G. Greer (Opel Kadett) 17-11.
SS7 – Glanmore.
1st Tansey 4.48; 2nd Barry 5-01; 3rd Yeates 5-04; 4th Reid 5-05; 5th R. Smith 5-24; 6th Farrelly 5-33; 7th= Greer and R. Taylor (Sprite) 5-45; 9th Maharry 5-49; 10th O’Rourke 6-06.
- R. Maharry / K. Johnston (Cooper S) 44.2 marks;
- R. Smith / P. Phelan (Austin Maxi) 53.1;
- P. Farrelly / R. Inglis (Renault Gordini) 121.6;
- D. Yeates / R. McCabe (Cooper S) 83.7;
- M. Barry / D. Kavanagh (Escort TC) 125.8;
- J. Tansey / W. O’Neill (BMW 2002) 367.0;
- L. Murphy / W. Schnittger (Austin Mini) 819.0.
CHAMPIONSHIP PLACINGS – SMITH STILL LEADS!
- Noel Smith 59 points
- John Bridges 48 points
- David Yeates 47 points
- Mick Barry 42 points
- John O’Gorman 38 points
- Robert Maharry 37 points
- Pat Fay 24 points
- W. Kilroy 22 points
- Mick Dolan 20 points
- P. O’Suillebhean 19 points
- Ricky Foote 59 points
- D. Kavanagh 45 points
- N. Davin 38 points
- F. O’Donoghue 37 points
- Kenny Johnston 37 points
- Brendan Doyle 36 points
- Paul Phelan 34 points
- D. Flanagan 24 points
- Mrs K. Bridges 22 points
- J. O’Brien 20 points.