IMRC Rallycross to Cullen
This uncredited report appeared in Motorweek dated 21 May 1970
Anybody who made the journey to the old town of Kells last Sunday, had the chance to see Ireland’s second Rallycross event taking place on what must be the most “Irish” rallycross course ever devised. The lap length was something in the region of 1.7 miles, and included a section of main road, some rough track, and a rather “yumpy” field, all great stuff.
If the event was good in theory, in practice it proved something less than perfect. For a start, there was a severe marshal shortage, and this led to problems in controlling the sizeable crowd of spectators who turned up to see the fun. In fact, some of the onlookers were not averse to clobbering anybody who suggested that they remain behind barriers and things, and this did little to improve the morale of those trying to run the event.
Despite an apparent lack of interest on the part of the IMRC in getting entries (regs were rather hard to come by), there were some 54 names in the programme, including that of “Jumping Jeff” Williamson, king of Lydden Hill and sundry other places. As it turned out, Williamson elected to remain in his kingdom, and it was left to the local men to provide the fireworks, which they did to very good effect. Other non-starters numbered 24, some of which didn’t appear, including Robin Rennicks, who was down to drive his U2, but who obviously saw the light in time, while others fell foul of the scrutineers, and practice.
Practice, in fact, produced rather more “moments” than the official runs, most of these happening where the cars left the very fast main road section to go through a gate onto the rough. The gate was rather difficult to spot, and “straight-ons” into the bales were the order of the day, one of the best being done by Larry Mooney with the JCB Volkswagen. Another spot which soon proved to be popular, with the spectators if not competitors, was a very high-class “yump” in the middle of the field section, but without exception, the best leaps were all done by drivers on the first lap of their first runs!
When all the first runs had been completed, it was found that local man E. Cunningham, after a magnificent leap in the field, had crunched a wing of his Cortina GT against a gate post, that Paddy Farrelly, had landed hard after a jump and deranged the front suspension on the Renault Gordini, and that Des Cullen had lived up to his reputation of being one of the cleverest drivers around, by setting fastest time in his Cooper S with a very unspectacular two laps in 3-48.4 secs.
Second fastest was Jimmy Reid’s Cooper with 3-53.2, and next up Ronnie McCartney in the ex-McKeag Escort TC with 3-54.4. Terry Power was fourth quickest with his Cooper in 3-55.0, with Cooper-mounted John Hayes, and Frank Fennell in his very sideways Escort GT next in line. Curiously enough the specials, which normally do so well in off-road events, didn’t feature, and even Cecil Vard’s mighty Corvair-engined Beach Buggy, driven by Jim Breach in the official runs, wasn’t able to make the top ten on either run, the engine admittedly sounding off-song at high revs.
After the first runs there was a certain amount of messing about as marshals did their darndest to shift errant spectators away from the course, but it was an unequal struggle, and the top brass eventually abandoned the project for the more attractive pastime of moving cars about the paddock and surrounding area for no very apparent reason.
After one run the top ten were as follows:
- D. Cullen (Cooper S) 3-48.4 secs.;
- J. Reid (Cooper S) 3-53.2 secs.;
- R. McCartney (Escort TC) 3-54.4 secs.;
- T. Power (Cooper S) 3-55.0 secs.;
- J. Hayes (Cooper S) 3-56.4 secs.;
- F. Fennell (Escort GT) 3-58.2 secs.;
- D. Yeates (Cooper S) 3-59.2 secs.;
- L. Mooney (Volkwagen) 3-59.6 secs.;
- N. Reilly (Cooper S) 4-02.2 secs.;
- J. Cullen (Cooper S) 4-07.2 secs.
The crowds once more under control, or something like it, second runs got under way, and Des Cullen immediately proved his point by going even faster to make sure of 1st place, and of course a class win into the bargain. Although the yumping wasn’t quite so vigorous, Andy Irwin, keeping the honour of Castlederg uppermost in his mind, flew through the air with the greatest of ease, and a bit of speed as well, to move into second place overall, with a very good 3-47.0 to Cullen’s 3-43.2. Ronnie McCartney hurtled round sideways again to record 3-50.6 and remain in third overall.
The second runs also saw the only non-finish of the day, when Frank Garry, who had been driving Pat Fay’s maroon Renault Gordini very well, under the watchful eye of “himself,” lost a fan belt. Christine Nemec proved very popular with the spectators with a determined display of driving in her Imp, and on her second run made sure of first place in the 900 cc saloon class.
After one further delay, when a collection of small boys decided to cycle about the course, things came to an end with a run by Cecil Vard in his Buggy, and by Conor Linehan in the new Team Maclin Cooper S, neither of whom had practised. The red, white and blue Mini (sponsored by Amoco, hence the colour scheme) was still running in, and therefore wasn’t terribly rapid, while the Vard Buggy still had its misfire. We think, however, that whenever Cecil and his Buggy are both back to form, they will be nearly impossible to beat in Autocross.
So much for Rallycross at Kells. The venue and the weather were both excellent, and this did much to attract the crowds, who weren’t. It was a pity, for otherwise the event was an enjoyable one, and it could stand repeating too. How about it IMRC?
Top Ten overall:
- D. Cullen (Cooper S) 3-43.2 secs.
- A. Irwin (Cooper S) 3-47.0.
- R. McCartney (Escort TC) 3-50.6.
- J. Reid (Cooper S) 3-51.0.
- D. Joyce (Cooper S) 3-53.0.
- N. Reilly (Cooper S) 3-54.4.
- J. Hayes (Cooper S) 3-56.4.
- C. Gunn (Lotus Cortina) 3-57.8.
- F. Fennell (Escort GT) 3-58.2.
- D. Yeates (Cooper S) 3-59.2.
Class 1. Saloons up to 900cc. 1st, Miss C. Nemec (Hillman Imp) 4-16.0 secs.; 2nd, S. Meyer (Mini) 4-22.6. secs.; 3rd, D. Sheridan (Stiletto) 4-24.6 secs.
Class 2. Saloons 901-1200cc. 1st, J. Hayes (Cooper S) 3-56.4 secs.; 2nd, J. Pryor (Rally Imp) 4-07.4 secs.; 3rd, G. Kehoe (Cooper) 4-14.8 secs.
Class 3. Saloons 1201-1400cc. 1st, A. Irwin (Cooper S) 3-47.0 secs.; 2nd, J. Reid (Cooper S) 3-51.0 secs.; 3rd, T. Power (Cooper S) 3-53.0 secs.
Class 4, Saloons over 1400cc. 1st, R. McCartney (Escort TC) 3-50.6 secs.; 2nd, C. Gunn (Lotus Cortina) 3-57.8 secs.; 3rd, L. Mooney (Volkswagen) 3-59.6 secs.
Class 5. Open Cars. 1st, J. Breach (Beach Buggy) 4-00.6 secs.; 2nd, P. Jenkins (Jen-Buggy) 4-11.0 secs.
General Handicap. 1st, P. Ryan (Cooper S) 3-34.4 secs.; 2nd, F. Fennell (Escort GT) 3-38.2 secs.; 3rd, D. Yeates (Cooper S) 3-39.2 secs.