1971 Circuit of Ireland


This report is reproduced from Motoring News April 22, 1971.

AFTER a comparatively trouble free run, Ulster-men Adrian Boyd and Beattie Crawford scored a popular win in the Gallaher Circuit of Ireland International Rally run as usual over the Easter week-end. During the 1500 miles the winners had contested the lead with second placed Chris Sclater and Martin Holmes who had themselves led for much of the time but had mechanical bothers which took away their chances. Billy Coleman and Dan O’Sullivan from Eire, who made such an impact in 1969 when they were in fourth place before crashing, made no such mistake this time and took a fine third place. Leading foreign crew were Lasse Jonsson and Alf Quist who finished in sixth position, not quite up to their fifth of last year.

The Circuit has always been a popular event with its closed public roads and excellent social atmosphere providing quite an attraction, with drivers from Peru, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and of course the UK all clamouring for the 180 places. This was soon reached and indeed many entries were turned down before the organisers increased the number to 200.

In 1970 there was a small contingent of Scandinavian crews who showed that they can drive on tarmac as well as their more usual loose forestry and snow stages. This year their numbers were increased with Anders Kullang and Donald Karlsson leading the challenge in their Opel Rallye Kadett whilst Norwegian Inter Rally winner, Per Eklund, was using a factory prepared Saab V4 with Rolf Carlsson.

Lasse Jonsson and Alf Quist returned to try to improve on last year’s performance in their Saab V4 with another of the Swedish crews, Lars Karlsson and Jan Ohlsson, having the second Opel Rallye Kadett. A strange combination of Swedish crews in Japanese cars entering a rally in Ireland brought Jan-Erik Lundgren, who did so well in the Gulf London Rally of 1966, Ulf Sandler in a group 1 Toyota Coupe and Stig Johannsson and Per Lystrom.

Stig Johannsen/Per Lystrom’s Toyota looking as if they are about to fall off the edge of the world on the Torr Head special stage.

The Swedish girls were represented by Eva Andersson who is only 19 years old and Rose Marie Strand, both sporting a sort of female skinhead hair-style and maintaining the Swedish reputation for lovely blondes.

Fergus Sager who has been rallying for many years and has in the past had good performances in his Cooper S brought along his mother to co-drive, which must be something of a record. (There was a similar pairing in the Safari – VERGLAS.)

The Circult attracts many entries from England and leading these were Chris Sclater and Martin Holmes, entered as usual by J. C. Withers of Winsford in Chris’s own David Wood—powered 1800 cc Escort BDA.

Barry Lee now drives for Clarke and Simpson and after last year’s disaster when he retired from the Circuit when in second place, Lee and John Coles were hoping for better things in their Group 2 Escort TC. Nigel Hollier and Phil Short were using a Renault Alpine and after a week of tension when they had problems getting a car prepared, they fell back on the car they used on last year’s R.A.C. Rally.

The second Withers-entered car was the RS1600 of Roy Fidler and Barry Hughes with a fairly standard engine prepared by David Wood Engineering. John Bloxham and Richard Harper are rarely seen these days but after their fine performance last year in a B.M.W. they reverted to an Escort TC built by Bloxham himself from a basic body shell.

There is always a strong contingent of Yorkshiremen in Ireland each Easter and Phil Cooper and Chris Lord were using one of the ever-decreasing number of competitive Minis. Cooper has several ex-works cars, and the one used on this event was the ex-World Cup and Hopkirk Scottish Mini Clubman.

Bob Bean and Paul Stephens are another crew seen only occasionally but when they do appear they are always competitive in their Escort TC. Making up the trio of Yorkshire crews was the Jack Tordoff/Brian Marchant outfit, as usual in the factory prepared Saab V4 which has already proved as successful as Tordoff’s other cars.

Autoextra attacked last year’s Circuit with two cars, but this year it was left to their latest protege, Jan Churchill, who although only 20 years old has risen rapidly to fame, to drive the single BMW with John Taylor. Team boss Tony Hennin was of course there to keep an eye on things.

The Motoring News Championship circus was represented by present leaders Will Sparrow and Nigel Raeburn in their usual Group 6 Cooper S whilst 1970 Champions Jim Bullough and Don Barrow were driving the BVRT-prepared, Castrol-sponsored, 1800 Twin Cam.

Local interest was centred on favourites Adrian Boyd and Beatty Crawford in a 1760 Escort TC and taking part in their thirteenth Circuit. They were backed up by two other Ulster crews – Robert McBurney and Norman Smith in a BMW 2002 TI, out to improve on their third place last year and Cahal Curley/Austin Frazer were hoping to endorse their Ulster Championship wins in 1969 and 1970.

The “Oldest Codger” on the event was how Cecil Vard described himself, partnered on this occasion by Paul Phelan.

Leading the challenge from Eire were Noel Smith and Ricky Foott, as usual in a Wolseley Hornet, whilst Cecil Vard, who has been rallying since the 1940’s and admitted to being the oldest Codger on the event, was using the same Porsche 911S that he used in 1969 and 1970.

The excellent performance in 1969 of Billy Coleman and Dan O’Sullivan on this event was not matched by the external appearance of the car for it must still rank as one of the fastest cars in the field, but beauty or ugliness is only skin deep as Coleman was to show later.

Slipping from the scene a little is Charlie Gunn, who only a year or two ago was the leading Eire driver. He always used Fords and this time had an Escort TC with Harry McEvoy.

And so the scene was set for one of the most open Circuits for years with no works drivers to dominate the event. Any one of twenty crews were capable of being there at the finish and it was a clever man who would predict the final result. Malcolm Neill, the Press Officer, did, and actually got the winner.

After using the Gallaher factory at Ballymena for several years and then changing to Bangor, the organisers have finally found an excellent start at the Royal Show Grounds on the outskirts of Belfast with permanent grandstands and plenty of covered areas for scrutineering etc. As the 186 starters arrived on Friday afternoon it was learned that Jan Churchill had arrived in Ireland and broken a cam shaft on the way to the start,

Alan Allard had not even reached the boat at Liverpool due to engine problems and Mike Butler and Dutchman Bob De Jong arrived with only a minute to spare after changing a head gasket on their Capri 3000 in Belfast. Mike Hibbert did not start as he stayed at home to go racing and indeed the whole Clarke and Simpson outfit seemed destined to non-start but arrived in convoy with precious little time left.


The interest shown by television, radio and press was quite evident at the start as was the film unit (with Hopkirk as link man) making a film of the rally for Castrol. The crowds were enormous as usual with over 5000 people in and around the start area and many many more on every bridge over the route into the first special stage at the end of the Ulster M1. Aptly named the Sweat House, and 19 miles long, it proved to be the Waterloo for some cars. Bloxham and Harper had covered only a couple of miles when they rolled their Escort out of the Rally. This held up Cooper/Lord who later had a puncture and couldn’t start afterwards. They struggled on for a couple of stages with an obviously sick motor but then called it a day.

Later runners had trouble on Stage 1 from spectators who found fun in throwing rocks at the cars! Obviously a minority of spectators were no more civilised than monkeys swinging in coconut trees. George Beever and Tony Mason had their windscreens broken and several others had near misses.

The format of the Circuit is such that the pressure is always on, for at each special stage there is a time control, and with maximum lateness at 15 minutes, opportunity for servicing is minimal.

The Ronnie White/Harold Hagan’s eight-port Group 2 Cooper S climbs the Borlin Gap. Note the novel method of disguising the “power bulge” for the carburettors.

The first group of stages in Ulster came in a two-hour bunch and as crews crossed the Eire frontier 30 cars had already retired. Leading was the Alpine of Hollier and Short followed by Sclater / Holmes and Fidler / Hughes. A pattern was already beginning to develop with Curley, Kullang, Eklund and Coleman on the leader board.

Barrys Lee went off on SS.3 losing minutes, whilst on SS.8 Adrian Boyd broke a throttle spring, luckily losing only 4 minutes or so.

A run around Dublin led to another group of stages including the fabulous 25 miles on Sally Gap. Here Nigel Hollier hit a bank when the steering seized on his Alpine, and out went the early leader. Robert McBurney, after a good start, was having trouble with fuel starvation and Noel Smith was having to cope with binding brakes. Jack Tordoff and Brian Marchant were left stranded when the diff. packed up on their Saab and Jim Bullough/Don Barrow had not just one, but two half shafts break within a few yards, so they were out of the rally.

Official placings at Carlow, where breakfast was taken, showed Sclater holding a comfortable lead from Fidler who was really motoring in his near standard RS1600. Curley and Coleman were next with Anders Kullang again showing his liking for the Irish lanes and pressing the leaders hard. Forty-seven crews had retired by this time.

As the run into Killarney was completed, out went Tony Fowkes and Kevin Gormley who had been making quite an impact. They had changed one differential at Carlow but on the very next stage the replacement packed up.

Out too went Bob Bean and Paul Stephens when, only a couple of stages from Killarney, an electrical fire put paid to their steady run. Only just before, Peter Clarke’s Escort broke a half shaft and lost a wheel which makes it four Circuits in a row in which the writer has failed to reach Killarney.

The Saturday afternoon stages are of course a benefit for people like Billy Coleman, for the stages are not only through his back yard but also past his front door! By Killarney, his-local knowledge pulled him right up into third place. Anders Kullang retired with broken transmission and Robert McBurney was out too after damaging the steering on his BMW. Per Eklund dropped down the field when he hit a bank on SS.17 damaging the body work. Offcial placings as the 118 crews reached Killarney were as follows:

Sclater 246.8;
Boyd 280.4;
Coleman 281.0;
Curley 282.4;
Fidler 288.9;
Sparrow 316.4.


The famous Sunday run on the Circuit represents as fine a day’s rallying as one can find anywhere, with 11 classic stages packed into 7 hours of motoring. Such names as Tim Healey, Cods Head, Borlin and of course the main road out of Killarney over Molls Gap, bring out the fiercest competition and Boyd showed that he meant business by taking fastest on each stage, winning the Killarney Trophy for the best performance of the day. Tony Fowkes was quickest in the class for retired crews.

Will Sparrow and Nigel Raeburn brought their 1275GT home in 4th place overall.

There were plenty of troubles for Sclater who hit a sheep on Curramore and also broke a rear spring. Barry Lee stopped on Molls Gap when a coil lead came loose but most unfortunate of all were Roy Fidler and Barry Hughes who retired during the day after a fine drive when the valve drive on their RSl600 broke. Per Eklund had lost first and second gears and Ronnie White’s Mini was looking worse for wear after an excursion. So, at the end of the Sunday run the placings had not altered, but Boyd was creeping up on Sclater.


On Monday morning the surviving crews set off on the long drag up to Larne with first a group of seven stages before a meal halt in Galway. Sclater‘s lead was further cut back when he was delayed with two more broken rear springs although Boyd was in trouble too when a loose coil lead cost him 2 minutes or so. Cahal Curley’s challenge ended on SS.34 when the car came to rest with a defunct clutch. Peruvian Henry Bradley who had by now come to terms with the twisting narrow lanes and was putting up some excellent times, hit a gate and was forced out of the rally.

The leaders in the ladies class were Jill Robinson and Frances Cobb in the Benson and Hedges RSl600 but they expired after SS.37 with distributor troubles. Several people were welding at Galway with Sparrow fixing a broken rear subframe and hoping for some more loose stages where he could pull back some time from the flying Coleman.

Along the west coast Sclater’s lead was finally lost when he went off for a short time on SS44, letting Boyd through. The other placings were largely unchanged but Barry Lee was putting in a determined bid and had crept up into fifth spot. A nasty shunt on SS.39, when the Capri of Mike Butler and Bob De Jong hit a rock, blocked the stage for a while. The Dutchman spent a night in hospital, fortunately with only minor injuries.

Sclater had a gear lever break just before the end of Atlantic Drive 1 but this did not delay him and the top placings at breakfast were Boyd, Sclater, Coleman, Lee, Sparrow and Jonsson. Robin Eyre-Maunsell was making his bid too, and had several fast times, but retired before SS.55 with a broken drive shaft coupling.

Top seeds, Chris Sclater and Martin Holmes, fought valiantly all weekend but had to settle for second place overall.

Sclater was pulling out all the stops and had only just regained the lead when he went off on SS 55, losing 8 minutes which put paid to his chances of victory and indeed put him down to third position.

The final stages were certainly taking their toll for it was on SS.57, with only two stages to complete, that the Saab of Per Eklund and Lars Carlstrom finally expired after completing 30 stages with only two gears.

And so it was left to Boyd to continue his fine turn maintaining the pressure to the end and cleaning some stages in the process. Sclater pulled back into second place and Sparrow overtook Lee. The Ladies Award was won by Sue Sinclair, with Isobel Thompson second, which cost many people a lot of money because Isobel was being sponsored on a mileage basis with the proceeds in aid of Handicapped Children.

The Circuit is by nature a gruelling event for the pressure is relentless and consistency is a necessity. Adrian Boyd and Beatty Crawford had the skill and temperament to cope, and their victory follows one of the most exciting Irish battles to date.

Keith A.Wood.


  1. A. Boyd/B. Crawford (Escort TC) 530.9;
  2. C. Sclater/M. Holmes (RS 1600) 585.7;
  3. B. Coleman/D. O’Sullivan (Escort TC) 587.9;
  4. W. Sparrow/N. Raeburn (Mini 1275 GT) 642.2;
  5. B. Lee/J. Coles (Escort TC) 659.5;
  6. L. Johnsson/A. Quist (Saab V4) 718.7;
  7. N. Smith/D. Flanagan (Wolseley Hornet) 737.5;
  8. C. Vard/P. Phelan (Porsche 911S) 754.2;
  9. M. Johnston/H. Johnston (Cooper S) 762.2;
  10. P. 0’Gorman/L. White (Escort TC) 770.5.