WINNERS TIE IN WINTER RALLY
This report by Austin Frazer is reproduced from Motorweek, 7 March 1970, and photos to illustrate from the Bryce Sands collection.
The first navigation rally to be held in the extreme West of the province for over a year, was the “Winter Rally” promoted by Enniskillen Motor Club last Friday – an 80 mile, map-bashing event in Fermanagh and Tyrone. In contrast with the snowed-up conditions for the Jack Frost rally the previous weekend, mother nature was kind, and provided a perfect night for rallying with dry roads and clear visibility.
Car preparation for the “Circuit” was very much in evidence, with only four entries and the Experts class, and seven runners and the Semi-Experts, while the Touring Class, as usual, provided the bulk of the entry where 21 hopefuls were straining at the leash, and raring to go.
Mike Hart re-occupied a very familiar seat in the ex-Ronnie McCartney Renault Gordini, which has now passed into the capable hands of Hugh O’Brien – this incidentally being the debut for their “Circuit of Ireland” partnership – while Harry Johnston had his first run in the hot seat of Ronnie Reid’s very crisp sounding (and crisp going) product from the Rootes stable.
Ken Irwin’s attempt to return to rallying was foiled on his way to the start when he (sorry, his car) melted a piston, and he returned home for the Midget, which he then used to get to various vantage points during the rest of the evening. Eddie Scott, more usually seen on the race tracks, had entered his road going MGB GT, but the “B”, sensible car that it is, was obviously not looking forward to getting the same treatment as her sister, the Midget, so she promptly developed clutch trouble and laughed at Eddie’s attempts to get her to the start.
The route itself consisted of 9 Time Controls, almost all being 15 minute sections, and 16 Route Checks. Conditions being as they were, the route was just about “on”. The leading crews in all three classes still had clean sheets by the time they reached time control 3, situated in the mountainous area South-West of Fintona.
The next section however, into Time Control 4, soon put an end to this state of affairs, with all crews in classes one and two dropping time. Best here were Ronnie White/Harold Hagan, Harry Cathcart/Geoff Morrison and Hugh O’Brien/Mike Hart, who all dropped just one minute; not surprising really when you consider that in the 15 minute section they had to stop at 4 route checks and change direction at no less than 19 road junctions.
The Touring Class, who were covering a somewhat simpler route, were not quite so hard-pressed. Rodney Burrows/Brian Quinn, Richard McCourt/John Palmer (the eventual co-winners in the class) were on time, as were George Deane/John Brown, while Jim O’Laughlin, George White and Stanley Best were next best on 1 minute dropped.
The direction of approach into Time Control 5 caught the careless napping, and no less than eight “wrong approaches” paid the penalty of an additional 30 marks each.
The route continued to the North of Dromore, and then Southwards towards Trillick and Ballinamallard. Tighter sections into controls seven and eight saw further penalties accumulate, with Ronnie White dropping two minutes although both Harry Cathcart and Hugh O’Brien were within time.
A rough road in this section caused Ronnie Reid/Harry Johnston to lose all their lights, whereupon they decided to give up the chase and have a smoke. However, after stretching their legs for 15 minutes, they switched on, and behold – illuminations again, so they decided to continue and get full value for their money.
A junction on this same rough road saw Malcolm Pedlow overshoot, and on returning to the scene of the crime, had the misfortune to drop the side of the car into a drain, requiring agricultural assistance to get going again.
George Dean, going well in class three, had the misfortune to puncture on the last section only 2 miles from the final control and the resultant delay of six minutes to change the wheel dropped him from 1st to 4th place.
The results, which were later announced in the Manor House Hotel, Killadeas, showed a rather unusual coincidence of ties. Experts Harry Cathcart/Geoff Morrison and Hugh O’Brien/Mike Hart were on the same score, while in the Touring Class, first place was shared between Rodney Burrows/Brian Quinn and Richard McCourt/John Palmer. Richard McCourt had clearly been handling the Zephyr to good effect.
Derek Hamilton/Ronnie Hunter recorded another very good Class 2 result in their Escort GT by winning the class with a very comfortable margin over Wesley Abraham/Bryce Sands.
Class 1 – Experts
- =H.Cathcart/G.Morrison, (Cooper S), 1 Mark;
- =H.O’Brien/M.Hart, (Renault Gordini), 1 Mark;
- R.White/H.Hagan, (Cooper S), 3 Marks
Class 2 – Semi-Experts
- D.Hamilton/R.Hunter, (Escort GT), 19 Marks;
- W.Abraham/B.Sands, (Cooper), 64 Marks;
- M.Pedlow/R.Harkness, (Cooper S), 117 Marks.
Class 3 – Touring (Novices)
- =R.Burrows/B.Quinn, (Escort), 0 Marks;
- =R.McCourt/J.Palmer, (Zephyr), 0 Marks;
- J.O’Laughlin/T.Daly, (Riley Elf), 1 Mark.