Curley/Frazer Escort nets second win in two years.
This report by Esler Crawford was first published in Autosport Magazine May 28, 1970.
On May 16-17, 1970 Cahal Curley had his second win on the trot in the Texaco Rally, the only rally of national status in Ireland. Driving his familiar yellow Escort TC, the reigning Ulster champion led from start to finish and never really looked like being beaten despite a fair amount of car trouble.
The Larne Motor Club/Mid-Antrim Motor Club Texaco offers perhaps the best value for money of any rally in Britain today. The entry fee was £9 and in a space of just over 14 hours and 400 miles there were 170 miles of special stages, of which 135 were on tarmac public roads, This is obviously a popular formula with the local boys and at 142 the entry was the biggest ever in Ireland, apart from the Gallaher Circuit. However, the organisers were disappointed that they received very few cross-channel entries, only two Scottish crews making the very short trip to Northern Ireland.
From the start in Carrickfergus at 8.30pm on the Friday evening there was a fairly easy trip to the first stage at Glendun, which was a new permutation on the four roads comprising the Orra Lodge section of Circuit fame.
This was very fast and despite fog on the high ground Curley and Austen Frazer took only 10m 55s for more than 11 miles. Mervyn Johnston/Paul Phelan (Cooper S) were 22 secs slower with Brian Boyd/Noel Smith another 3 secs behind. Next came another traditional Circuit and Texaco stage, Torr Head, where Curley just beat Boyd by 5 secs.
But this included Cahal having a rather unusual accident: a slight nudge at the bank on a tight hairpin seemed to have caused no damage, but 100 yards later all the spotlights fell off the car! Cahal did not bother stopping to pick them up and so his task for the rest of the night stages looked a bit more difficult.
Ronnie McCartney made an appearance on the leaderboard here, having his first ever drive in an Escort TC – his ex-works Cooper S (LRX830E) was being driven by Ronnie Wilson. Malcolm Pedlow had a fantastic prang on Torr and wrote of his Mini completely, but happily neither he nor his navigator were injured.
SS3 was Orra Lodge, running back in a parallel direction to Glendun; at various points the crews could see other cars tackling the same stage. Orra was very foggy and not surprisingly the almost lightless Curley took it easy, leaving Brian Boyd, cousin of Adrian and driving the ex-Adrian Cooper S, to take the honours. Many of the less expert crews ran out of road in the fog, but at the first petrol halt at Rathkenny most of the experts were still going strong.
Glendun 1 (11.2 miles): Cahal Curley (Escort TC) 10m 55s; Mervyn Johnston (Cooper S) 11:17; Brian Boyd (Cooper S) 11:20; Ronnie White (Cooper S) 11:25; Mick Barry (Escort TC) 11:47; David Agnew (BMW 2002Ti) 11.47,
Torr Head 1 (9.2 miles): Cahal Curley 10:05; Brian Boyd 10:10; Ronnie Nesbitt (Cooper S) 10:18; Ronnie Wilson (Cooper S) 10:22; Ronnie McCartney (Escort TC) 10:25; Ronnie White 10:25.
Orra Lodge 1 (9.5 miles): Brian Boyd 9:21; Ronnie Nesbitt 9:34; Ronnie White 9.29; Cahal Curley 9:34; Ron Smith (Imp) 9:38; Mervyn Johnston 9.39.
The ﬁrst three stages were then repeated, Curley again being fastest on the first two with Ronnie Wilson, going very well in his new car, taking Orra Lodge in fog which was very dense indeed on the high ground.
Glendun 2: Curley 11:35; Johnston 11:47; Boyd 12:03; Wilson 12:04; White 12:06; Nesbitt 12:25.
Torr Head 2: Curley 9:49: Wilson 10:16; Boyd 10:22; Johnston 10:24; White 10:28; Barry 10:31.
Orra Lodge 2: Wilson 9.:32; Curley 9:46; White 10:19; Johnston 10:23; Harry Crawford (Cooper S) 10:30; Boyd 10.39.
There was now a 30-mile run across country to the second group of four road stages in the hills of East Tyrone and South Derry. The first of these was Slieve Gallion, where Curley was fastest with young Boyd next, while local man Alastair McConnell put up a very good time in his standard-sounding Cortina GT. Terry Harryman went out when he rolled his NSU in a very big way; although the car was badly damaged, the crew were unhurt.
On Lough Fea semi-expert Jimmy Bovill created quite a surprise by being fastest in his Escort TC, although his later times indicated that this was no fluke. At just under five miles Craigard was the shortest road stage in the rally, and just to rub it in Bovill was again fastest. On both these stages Curley kept well in front by being second fastest. There now followed Glenlark, at over 15 miles the longest stage, and here Curley was fastest, although Bovill continued to show great form and was only 19 secs slower.
Slieve Gallion 1 (11.4 miles): Curley 12:31; Boyd 13:05; White 13:1O; Johnston 13:34; Barry 13:39; Robin Lyons (Cooper S) 13:49.
Lough Fea 1 (7.5 miles): Jimmy Bovill (Escort TC) 7:38; Curley 7:55; White 7:55; Boyd 7:57; R. Wilson 7:57; Johnston 5:08.
Craigard 1 (4.7 miles): Bovill 5:06: Curley 5:14; White 5:17; Boyd 5:21; John Kerr (Lotus Cortina), 5:29.
Glenlark 1 (15.2 miles): Curley 17:13: Bovill 17:32; Johnston 17:39; Boyd 17:39: McCartney 17:42; White, 17.43.
After a petrol halt at Draperstown the four previous stages were tackled again, this time in daylight, and times were rather faster on the dry roads. Not having to rely on his lights, Curley was now unbeatable and set best time on every stage, but Alastair McConnell was going amazingly well in his Cortina. Bovill was not quite so impressive the second time round.
Slieve Gallion 2: Curley 12:21; White 12:46; Kerr 12:46; Alastair McConnell (Cortina GT) 12:57; Johnston 13.02; Jim Campbell (Imp) 13:07.
Lough Fea 2: Curley 7:17, McCartney 7:30, White 7:32, Campbell 7:37, McConnell 7:38, Johnston 7:39.
Craigard 2: Curley 4:37; Barry 4:45; McCartney 4:45; Bovill 4:52; White 4:49; Johnston 4:55,
Glenlark 2: Curley 15:50; McCartney 16:33; White 16:37; Barry 16:39; Johnston, 16:44: Boyd, 16:57.
This ended the road stages, and now came the forests, with Glenshane first on the list. Mick Barry obviously enjoyed this roughish stage and was 23 secs faster than Curley, while Scots visitor Ron Smith also had a good time in his Imp. Cam Forest was next and here it was Curley back on top, with Barry next and John Kerr putting up a good time in his Lotus Cortina.
Glenshane Forest (4.5 miles): Barry 5:50; Curley 6:13; White 6.16; Smith 6:23; McCartney 6:30; Campbell 6:36.
Cam Forest (6.0 miles): Curley 7:00; Barry 7:15; Boyd 7:16: McCartney 7:19; Smith 7:21; Johnston 7:24.
By now it was time for breakfast at Aghadowey, but many people were more concerned about their cars than their stomachs. Curley was in trouble just as the car arrived at the control: at first a burnt piston was feared, but less serious carburettor trouble was diagnosed, although the car still sounded horrible as it set off after breakfast. Brian Boyd was in even worse bother with a blown head gasket and looked like losing a very good second place. Ronnie Wilson also had the same malady and missed the three stages before breakfast trying to do something about it — successfully, it later transpired.
Springwell was the first stage after breakfast and Ronnie McCartney, after an uncharacteristically quiet rally despite being in a new car, was best, followed by White. The tarmac-surfaced Ballycastle Forest was to have been next, but the timekeepers were late and the field went straight to Ballypatrick Forest. Here Barry was fastest, but Curley‘s trouble suddenly cured itself (apparently an O-ring was playing up) and a much relieved driver was second best.
Finally came Ballyboley Forest, and Curley finished off with a flourish by winning the stage by 2 secs from Barry. White’s very fast Cooper S came through sounding very sick indeed, but it was downhill for the last four miles to the finish in Larne so he was safe enough. Poor Boyd also had a broken suspension to add to his troubles, but limped on, and happily there were no last minute retirements, although McCartney free-wheeled over the finish with a dud fuel pump.
Springwell Forest (6.5 miles); McCartney 7:50; White 8:01; Barry 8.05; Johnston 8:12; R. Wilson 8:14; Curley 8:15; Smith 8:15.
Ballypatrick Forest (7.0 miles): Barry 7:19; Curley 7.23; McCartney 7:27; White 7:27; Campbell 7:36; Smith 7:36.
Ballyboley Forest (3.9 miles): Curley 4:45; Barry 4:47; R. Wilson 4:49; Campbell 4:56; Johnston 4:57; Smith 5.00.
The final results confirmed Curley as the winner by nearly 6 mins from White, with the consistent Mervyn Johnston third another 2 mins behind. Barry was the best Eire competitor ahead of Boyd.
- C. B. Curley/A. Frazer (Ford Escort TC) 178m 18s;
- R. White/W. H. Hagan (Mini-Cooper S) 184m 28s;
- M. Johnston/P. Phelan (Mini Cooper S) 186m 18s;
- M. Barry/Dan Kavanagh (Ford Escort TC) 188m 29s;
- J. B. Boyd/N. Smith (Mini-Cooper S) 19Om 12s;
- R. J. Smith/D. B. Smith (Hillman Imp) 191m 32s.
- J. Kerr/D. Gillespie (Ford Lotus Cortina) 195m 24s;
- H. Cathcart/G. Morrison (Mini-Cooper S) 196 m 59s;
- D. McCullough/S. Carphin 198m 45s.
- K. Bolton/R. McCormick (Mini-Cooper S) 187m 56s;
- D. Russell/B. Russell (Mini) 188m 38s;
- W. M. H. Brown/B. O’Kane (Mini-Cooper S) 194m 32s.