1970 Omagh Pre-Circuit

John McClean and Hal Patton pressing on during the Omagh MC's Pre-Circuit rally.

Reproduced from MotorWeek March 21 1970
Report by Austin Frazer.

Omagh make it three hits in a row.

Omagh Motor Club got their 1970 season off to a good start with their annual “Pre Circuit Rally,” held last Friday night. Although this was the third event to be held on three consecutive Friday nights, the previous two being the Enniskillen and Dungannon rallies, entries did not suffer as a result. 41 starters from the 48 entered gathered at Colum Devlin‘s Service Station for signing-on and receipt of route instructions covering the first 3/4 of the route.

Although Ronnie White and Oliver Hadden were non-starters, there was sufficient “class” among the remainder to make the entry the most competitive seen so far this season, with quite a few drivers taking the opportunity to try out their Circuit prepared cars.

Ronnie McCartney and Robb Pollock were first away in their completely rebuilt ex-works Cooper S, Robb no doubt out to show his ability as a proper ‘on the maps‘ navigator. The entire route up to Control 10 was by ‘Tulip’ instructions, and provided good practice for the Circuit, while the final two controls were covered by map references handed out at Control 10 – good old “plot-‘n-bash.”

Just to ensure there would be no ties in the results, 3 selectifs were thrown in for good measure, these only being used in the event of a tie in the navigation.

The first selectif, a short distance after the start, saw Mervyn Johnston and Ken Irwin set the pace, each on 79 seconds, with Ronnie McCartney close behind on 81 and Robin Lyons on 83. This proved that some of the Class 2 (semi expert) drivers are not to be over-looked, with Jimmy Conlon on 84 secs and Ronnie Hunter on 85, while in Class 3, John McCallister got his G.T. along in 86 secs.

Ken Irwin, after two unsuccessful attempts, had finally got going in a rally, although he was later numbered among those reported missing at the final control. Mervyn Johnston was running-in his car after an engine re-build and had even managed to get 65 miles on the clock before the start, while Bert Reid and Austin Burnett retired their Imp shortly after the start when their trip meter stopped metering.

Shortly after the first selectif, Mervyn Johnston/Austin Frazer ‘boobed’ by short sightedly driving past a route check without noticing the control sign. Mervyn had not had his glasses on, and his navigator obviously needs his changed.

Two further selectives followed between Controls 2 and 3 and Ronnie McCartney had obviously ‘got the finger out‘ by taking fastest on the first by 3 secs. from Mervyn Johnston, and sharing fastest time with Ken Irwin in the second, both being 5 secs. faster than Mervyn Johnston. Others showing fast form on these two sections were Robin Lyons, Ronnie Hunter, Malcolm Pedlow, R. McFaul and John McCallister.

By Control 3 all the clean sheets had disappeared, Mervyn Johnston being the only car still on time, while Robin Lyons, John McLean and Ronnie Nesbitt had all dropped one minute.

In Class 2, Pedlow, Hunter and Irwin were all on 2 minutes while in Class 3, R.McCourt had got the big Zephyr wound up and was also on 2 minutes – Class 3 incidentally were getting no concessions and had the same route to cover on the same time allowance as “the big boys.”

However, from here on it all seemed to happen. Ronnie McCartney was forced to retire with an over heating engine, and a little further on Robin Lyons did his power-house no good by breaking the camshaft.

Hal Patton had a brain storm in the vicinity of Baronscourt Forest, and he and John McClean next turned up 3 controls further on – perhaps John just nipped into the forest for a quick Special Stage on his own – or had he some other attraction in the woods.??

Ronnie Hunter’s car was by now all go, but unfortunately, no stop, and he retired without brakes.

A worse than usual bump at 4/374640 was the source of many lurid stories about jumping exploits, the most spectacular one going to Ken Bolton. who managed to get his sump guardless Cooper airborne for 17 yards, and on landing found the bonnet rise several inches as a result of broken engine mountings — needless to say, he joined the growing ranks of the retired.

The route then skirted Dromore with most crews making Control 10 on time. However, here Johnny McAleer, one of the stalwarts of Omagh Motor Club, took great pleasure in pushing a list of references through the window and at the same time saying “good luck boys, you’re off”.

A Ford (a watery one), a road diversion due to a collapsed bridge, and several roughish whites, resulted in everyone dropping time into Control 11. Best was Mervyn Johnston on 5, John McClean on 7, John Fullerton/Brian Rowan (Class2) on 8, and Will Farren / Gordon Taggart

in Class 2 between John Fullerton/Brian Rowan and Wesley Abraham/Billy Crooke, the former getting the decision, while in Class 3, after having taken third place in both the Enniskillen and Dungannon rallies, Jim O’Loughlin — Tom Daly managed to get their Elf home 1 minute in front of the Thompson brothers to take the class.

Overall Winner –
Ronnie Nesbitt / Geoffrey Morrison, Cooper ‘S‘, 13;

Class I

  1. W. Farren / G. Taggart Cooper, 17;
  2. M. Johnston / A. Frazer, Cooper S 20;
  3. E. Oliver / D. Turkington, 998 cc Imp. 21.

Class II
1, J. Fullerton / B. Rowan, Cooper ‘S‘ 16;
2, W. Abraham — B. Crooke, Cooper, 16;
3, J. Conlon – P. Scott, Escort T.C. 19.

Class III
1, J. O’Loughlin / T. Daly, Elf, 24:
2, K. Thompson / R. Thompson.