KING ROGER – Clark rules best Circuit yet.
This report by Richard Young and photos by Esler Crawford appeared in MotorWeek dated April 4th 1970.
As everybody secretly expected, the 1970 Gallaher Circuit of Ireland provided Roger Clark with his third win in as many years, and established him as the new “King of the Circuit”.
This year, for the first time, there was a really strong challenge from Sweden, with several cars making the trip for the event, but with Jerry Larsson non-starting his Porsche (the one car that might have provided a challenge to Clark’s Escort BDA), the Leicestershire driver had things very much his own way for most of the event.
In fact, the “Circuit“ this year was a real Ford walkover, and, after Barry Lee had held a very fine second place for most of the event, only to break the crank of his very rapid, self prepared Escort TC, Londoner Chris Sclater, a very rapid driver, who was seeded surprisingly low down the field, took the honours with his similar car.
Of the local favourites, both Cahal Curley and Adrian Boyd suffered dire misfortunes with their Escorts, Curley’s car apparently disliking the air north of the border, for, on the first special section, at Strangford Lough, the throttle cable broke, and Cahal “drove” the stage lying on the bonnet working the throttle by hand, while navigator Austin Frazer steered the beast. Austin said afterwards that things Were particularly hairy when they met up with other traffic on the nine mile section!
From there until the border, the pair met up with all sorts of electrical bothers, but these cleared up on Saturday and Sunday, and the familiar, yellow Escort ran like a clock on the famous “Sunday Run”, only to fall foul of the dreaded hoodoo once the border was re-crossed on Monday evening, this time with a cracked cylinder wall, which enforced their retirement Most unfortunate, since, despite their troubles, they were in fourth place at the time.
Adrian Boyd was tipped by many to give Roger Clark a run for his money, but things didn’t work out like that, and suspension bothers, together with a slight off course excursion, kept him out of the running. One local driver who did do well was Robert McBurney, who seems to have defeated the evil spirits which followed his BMW around the place last year, possibly by changing the colour, and he had a very encouraging run to finish well into the top ten at No. 4.
The Swedish visitors, in general, were extremely hairy, and their tendency to motor sideways, and even backwards on every conceivable occasion brought about the downfall of many, not to mention several service cars as well! Of those‘ who remained on the island, Lasse Jonsson (Saab) and Jan Henriksson (Opel) were very impressive, and both finished well up in the honours list.
The route, of course, followed much the same pattern as last year’s, and from the crowded start area at Bangor (where most of the cars started off beside the large starting ramp, rather than off it), it was a short haul to SS1 at Strangford, the immensely popular stage along the shores of the Lough which as usual, was jam packed with spectators.
Clark was quickest here, and this set the scene for the rest of the event, the 1800 cc, four valve, 180 bhp Escort, with its five speed gearbox, four wheel disc brakes, and, surprisingly, left hand drive, proving far superior to most things.
Not surprisingly, local Comber men were well represented in the top ten on this stage. Dennis McKeag actually getting his Escort TC into second fastest spot behind the meteoric Clark, although there were those who suggested that McKeag would have been considerably quicker than the works Escort, if he’d had his lorry with him instead of the car!
Tom Lawther, with his Jet propelled Mini Cooper S was also well up here, and the tales of over exuberance on this one stage would fill an entire volume. Most spectacular of all was Robin Eyre-Maunsell, who scared many of the spectators in Ardmillan village to death on his way through, and then rolled the Imp a little further down the road, fortunately with little damage.
The rest of the night’s motoring to Blessington was relatively quiet, although several people did manage to get themselves over several hedges, most unfortunate being Messrs. Brown and Parker from Scotland, who did an enormous “Ooh Nasty” to their almost brand new Cooper on the Sorrel Hill section just before breakfast, seemingly in the middle of a particular1y straight piece of road.
Several of the Swedish visitors also managed to depart during the first night, as did one of their Service cars, which was seen on its side near Blessington, looking rather out of it all!
From Blessington to Killarney, things went reasonably smoothly at the top of the ﬁeld, although SS17 at Rochestown had to be cancelled following an enormous shunt by Phil Cooper and Chris Nash, whose Mini did some quite horriffic things.
SS18, too, was scrubbed when a forest fire developed at the wooded bit of Cannon Wood, but through it all, Clark remained securely in front, with Barry Lee snapping at his heels and proving that Rallycross is pretty good training for this sort of thing.
Poor Adrian Boyd, who should, by rights have been up with the top men, was paying the price for going off the previous night, and although his Stage times on Saturday were very good, he was no longer at the top of the leader board.
SUNDAY RUN SPECTACULAR
The famous Sunday run was its usual spectacular self, and Clark covered himself with another layer of glory, but going very rapidly indeed, to pick up the award for fastest on Stage Three (The Sunday Run).
By this time, the field was sadly depleted, and out of the 180 starters, barely 70 re-started from Killarney on the long haul up to Enniskillen. More problems in the Limerick area brought about a very relaxed section in the middle of the day, but despite this many top names disappeared from the list of runners, including Noel Smith, who had had his Wolseley Hornet as high as fourth on occasions,
Charlie Gunn, who was also fighting hard with his Escort, and John Bridges whose Cooper gave up the ghost, not to mention Cahal Curley, of course, whose Escort fell foul of the afore- mentioned “Border Bogey“.
Out into Donegal on Monday night, and even fewer cars were left. Poor Pat Fay was involved in an accident with a non competing car while leading class 3, and several others, including Barry Lee, who went out with a broken crankshaft early on Tuesday morning, failed, just when success was within their grasp.
Roger Clark, however, didn’t fail, and arrived in Larne on Tuesday, victorious, and well ahead of second man Chris Sclater, who had driven an excellent rally in what looked very like the car Clark used to win last year. Jan Henrikkson, one of four Swedes to finish, made it to third place in his hairily driven Opel Rally Kadett, with Robert McBurney a really excellent fourth.
Lasse Jonsson brought his, semi-works Saab into fifth, ahead of John Bloxham’s BMW, the Boyd Escort, which had made a magnificent recovery, Mick Dolan’s Escort, and Arthur (Tony?) Fowkes incredible Mk.1 Lotus Cortina, which, running at No. 124, had been going amazingly well. Bror Danielsson and Olle Syren, in Opel and BMW respectively took the next two places, and Rosemary Smith had a good run in the under-powered Works Maxi to capture the Ladies’ prize.