Article reproduced from MotorWeek 4th June 1970.
JUST TO PROVE that patience and perseverance pay off in the long run, Belfast, Bangor and Newtownards Motor Club ran their “Jack Frost” rally last Saturday and were rewarded by a 100 plus entry enjoying themselves in five forests all afternoon without major mishap.
Of course, the weathermen got their bit in, as they did back in February when the event was originally due to be run, but this time, instead of snow blocking stages and other dramatic bothers, troubles were confined to what the BBC would call “occasional drizzle” which did little except make spectators and marshals more than a little uncomfortable from time to time.
Despite the fact that it came during a rather busy period for rallies (the Texaco and the Manx just over, and the Scottish due to start next week), the Jack Frost had a fair quota of “star” crews in the 105 strong list, headed, of course, by Ulster Rally Champions Cahal Curley and Austin Frazer, with the demon yellow Escort TC. No. 2 was another Escort, rather more standard looking one this time, crewed by Charlie Gunn and Harry McEvoy, while Ronnie White and Harold Hagan gave Mini fans something to cheer for at the No. 3 spot.
Mervyn Johnston, who must surely now have the title of the “most improved driver of the year,” was at No. 4 with his familiar red Mini, partnered by Paul Phelan, while Ronnie McCartney, who now appears to have his Escort TC well and truly sorted, was wearing No. 5, with Bob Pollock in the hot seat. At No. 6, Robert McBurney, fresh from South America and the World Cup Rally, had his BMW 2002 TI.
From the start, at the Shanksbridge Service Station, on the Antrim Ballymena Road, the cars had a fairly long run in to the first stage, a rather exciting dash through Ballypatrick forest, where Ronnie White made the running, with a 10.39 to Curley’s 10.42, Mervyn Johnston’s 10.43 and Ronnie Wilson 10.46 next in line. Wilson was, of course, driving his latest acquisition, the ex-McCartney Cooper S LRX830E, which made Ballypatrick something of a Mini preserve, although of course “that” Escort has a habit of going very rapidly wherever it is! The only other car to really go well on this one was Gunn’s Escort with 10.50, all the others being over the eleven mark.
Springwell was the next port of call, and again it was Ronnie White who did all the really quick stuff, although this time Curley was only one second behind, with 7.47 to White’s 7.46. Gunn made it to third fastest this time, with 7.50, then McBurney and McCartney with 7 .53 and 7.56 respectively.
While Ronnie McCartney was going rather well in the ex~McKeag Escort, brother Dessie was having rather less luck and had officially retired his Midget on Ballypatrick with a blown head gasket, although he was, in fact, motoring on through some of the stages strictly for fun. Another car in trouble at this stage was Norman Thompson’s Toyota, which although another official retirement was bowling along merrily, shedding bits of itself from time to time. The intrepid crew eventually decided to call it a day at Cam when it was found that there was
probably more of the car lying along the various stages than there was left!
Cam was a Curley preserve, and the Escort took two seconds off the White Cooper on the fairly fast five and a half-miler, with Ronnie Wilson and Charlie Gunn next in line, and then a very sideways Ronnie McCartney.
Among the Semi-experts, Tom Lawther was doing most of the quick running, with times well into the top ten on all the stages so far in his yellow Cooper, while Ken Irwin, Rowan Bell, Billy Ferguson and David Agnew were all getting “in among ’em” with a vengeance.
The very large novice class was, of course, providing lots of surprises, biggest of which was the rate at which Pat McCourt, a protege of one C. B. Curley, was travelling in the ex-O’Kane Lotus Cortina. Others who were going indecently well at this stage were Tim Buckler with his Mini Cooper, and Leslie Arthur with his hairily conducted Imp Sport.
The petrol stop at Garvagh saw a bit more excitement when it was found that a cycle race was using the same piece of road as the rally. However, after a confrontation between officials of both events (and a number of “near ones” as high-speed bicycles, and low-speed motor cars came rather close together) things were smoothed over. It was a pity the police, who authorised both events, hadn’t spotted the clash beforehand, but as they say, all’s well . . .
After petrol, Moydamlaght came next and here, Curley was again fastest over the twisty, slippery stage, with Charlie Gunn only one second slower. Ronnie White was third, but rather a long way behind the Escort duo, while Ken Irwin was best of the semi-experts.
SS5 was at Glenshane, and there, or just after it, the Clerk of the Course came to grief, which at least made a bit of a change! The “official” Escort expired with a lack of water and was only revived when Robert McBurney came to the rescue and supplied a tow to Dungiven. On the stage itself, it was a Charlie Gunn benefit for a change, the white Escort taking two seconds less than Curley’s car for the bumpy and rather slippery stage. Ronnie White was a further two seconds adrift, but still several seconds ahead of Gunn on the overall list, having lost his outright lead to Curley on Moydamlaght.
Mervyn Johnston and Ronnie McCartney were both going very well, and the Mini driver was in fourth place overall. McCartney was one of the few who had incurred road penalties, and this dropped him down the list a bit although his stage performance in the second half was very good indeed, and he was almost certainly one of the most dramatic to watch.
Cam the second time around was rather quicker than before, despite the fact that some of the corners had cut up rather badly, not to mention the rather wetter surface. Curley really pressed home his advantage here with a 6.33 to the 6.47 of second man White. Gunn was again third one second behind.
Things at this stage were very close, and some rather odd times on the final stage, a second run through Springwell, where everybody or nearly everybody was credited with bogey time. Poor Ronnie White, however, managed to go off, losing about ten minutes in the process, and removing himself from contention. Also out of luck with a maximum on this one was John McClean.
Although there were plenty of holes in the scenery to show that a rally had gone by, there were pleasantly few comprehensive shunts. It wasn’t for the want of trying, however, and there were several monumental close shaves. Ken Bolton had a good go at rolling his Mini at the finish of Cam 2, but eventually had to settle for a broken tie rod, and there were others . . .
The finish at the Brown Trout at Aghadowey saw rally crews mingling with a wedding party, much to the amusement of those who had been caught in a funeral procession on one of the road sections earlier. All that was needed was a birth on a special stage to complete the picture. So far as we know, none of the crews managed that!
All in all, a good win for the Curley/Frazer combination, although once again, the Escort didn’t behave perfectly all day, and there was a slight water leak to contend with in the early stages. Mervyn Johnston once again proved himself very consistent and took second overall when Ronnie White had his excursion. A road penalty at the final Time Control robbed Charlie Gunn of the second spot, but he took third ahead of Ronnie Wilson and Robert McBurney.
Among the semi-experts. halfway leader Tom Lawther had a couple of misfortunes in the two final stages, which dropped him from contention. This let Ken Irwin take the class after a very rapid run, with Trevor Fleming’s Cooper ‘S’ second, and David Agnew’s BMW next in line. Paul Martin (Escort) and Rowan Bell (Cooper) came next.
The novice class. of course, supplied the star of the show in the shape of Pat McCourt, who took the class with his ex-Curley, ex-Joe Pat O’Kane Lotus Cortina, although he was pushed quite hard by second man Jim McCullough’s Cortina GT, and Tim Buckler’s 1000 cc Cooper S.
It’s worth mentioning that all three classes were very closely contested, and by a fairly wide variety of cars for a change. A feature that can only be good for the future of special stage rallying generally. Even the Army Land Rovers went pretty well despite their unsuitability for special stage rallying.
Special mention, in fact, must be made of the 26th Squadron RCT, for, in addition to providing three entries, they also had a “Rover” on hand for the express purpose of pulling other competitors out of trouble. A service that was no doubt appreciated by all concerned, in particular, the organisers.
Experts Class 1
1, C. Curley-A. Frazer (Escort TC) 51.29 marks;
2, M. Johnston P. Phelan (Cooper S) 53.11 marks;
3, C. Gunn/H. McEvoy (Escort TC) 25.37 mks;
4, R. Wilson/D. Duffin (Cooper S) 53.35 mks;
5, R. McBurney/N. Smith (BMW 2002) 53.52 mks;
6,. J. Kerr/D. Gillespie (Lotus Cortina) 55.21 mks.
Semi-Experts Class 2
1, K. Irwin P. Winters (Cooper S) 55.25 mks;
2, T. Fleming/S. Ellis (Cooper S) 56.931 mks;
3, D. Agnew/T. McVeigh (BMW 2002) 57.04 mks;
4, P. Martin/D. Hollywood (Escort 160.0) 57.24 mks;
5, W. Ferguson/A. Masterson (Escort GT) 57.49 mks;
6, R. Bell/C. McClatchie (Cooper S) 57.51 mks.
Novice Class 3
1, P. McCourt/B. Saulters (Lotus Cortina) 57.36 mks;
2, J. McCullough/R. Hunter (Cortina GT) 58.22 mks;
3, T. Buckler/R. Taggart (Cooper S) 58.27 mks;
4, L. Arthur/R. McGhee (Sunbeam Imp) 58.55 mks;
5, T. McQuade/ .S. Regan (Cooper S) 59.08 mks;
6,.W. Minnis/B. Cook (Datsun) 59.26 mks.