1975 Galway by STP

This article is reproduced from Auto Ireland February 1975

Dessie McCartney Heads “Survival of the Fittest!”
Report and Photos by Brian Foley

TRUE to form, the 1975 STP International Galway Rally, superbly organised by the Galway Motor Club on February 7/8/9, proved – a real “survival of the fittest” event. Rally leaders Billy -Coleman/John Davenport retired the works- prepared/Shell-sponsored Ford Escort RS with a broken drive shaft; Cathal Curley/Austin Frazer rolled, as a result of too low front tyre pressures on Curley’s famous Porsche; the Alpine of Adrian Boyd/Frank Main broke a drive shaft; Brian Nelson/Derek Smyth (BMW2002) and Chris Sclater/Martin Holmes (Datsun Voilet) were amongst several off the road — but ready to take over when Coleman and Curley dropped out were Dessie McCartney/Terry Harryman to lead home four more Porsches and win the handsome first prize of £1,000, beating fellow Ulster crew David Agnew/Robert Harkness and three British crews Jack Tordoff/Phil Short, Harold Morley/ Rupert Saunders and Brian Evans/John Brown.

Cahal Curley and Austin Frazer’s rally ended on Saturday afternoon when he flipped the Porsche on to it’s roof.

Within approx. half an hour of the 4 p.m. start from Eyre Square on the Friday, the action commenced in earnest and some four miles into the first stage, Annaghdown. Brian Nelson had the dubious honour of posting the first retirement – the former racing man was catching Noel Smith’s Porsche but overcome by his own exuberance he clobbered a rock and the BMW 2002 became undriveable!

John Tansey’s gearbox broke on the first stage, his new 3-litre engine probably proving too powerful for the Porsche 2.7 transmission. Others out during the first night included Adrian Boyd, whose Alpine-Renault broke a drive shaft; Smith in the Porsche; the BMW of Nobby Reilly; and the three fast RS Escorts of Sean Campbell, Ger. Buckley and Gerry McNamara.

Billy Coleman was in tremendous form with the works-prepared/Irish Shell-sponsored Escort RS to beat Cathal Curley’s more powerful 2.7 litre Porsche Carrera by 67 seconds over fourteen stages. The computerised results sheets showed Coleman with a total of 6066 seconds to the 6133 of C.B. Another Porsche held third spot, Dessie McCartney notching up a total of 6236 secs.; with Chris Sclater in the fast but heavy Datsun Voilet in front of the Porsches of Jack Tordoff, David Agnew, Harold Morley and Brian Evans, followed by Munstermen Demi Fitzgerald and Michael O’Connell in RS Escorts.

Adrian Boyd was another top crew to exit the rally on Saturday.

Charlie Gunn was leading the Group 1 category in an Escort RS2000, holding eleventh place overall, in front of Brendan Fagan (RS Escort); while everyone was talking about the speed of Ulsterman Philip McCartan, who was well up on the leader board with another RS Escort and leading such experienced men as Joe Pat O’Kane (Porsche), Derek McMahon (Avenger GT), John O’Gorman (Alpine) and Ray Murphy (2.3 Vauxhall Magnum).

The official placings at the end of Friday’s action were:

  1. Coleman 6066,
  2. Curley 6133,
  3. D. McCartney 6236,
  4. Sclater 6283,
  5. Tordoff 6388,
  6. Agnew 6416,
  7. Morley 6488,
  8. Evans 6580,
  9. Fitzgerald 6687,
  10. O’Connell 6767,
  11. Gunn 6788,
  12. Fagan 6818,
  13. McCartan 6849,
  14. O’Kane 6916,
  15. McMahon 6944,
  16. O’Gorman 6970
  17. Murphy 6991.

Already 21 of the original 88 starters were out, so the STP Galway Rally was certainly living up to its reputation as a pretty gruelling event, with the hot pace being set by the fast men accounting for the high retirement rate amongst the top seeds.

The Saturday run, with its long and fast stages would obviously suit Curley; and true to form, C.B. really tweaked up the Porsche to take back 45 seconds from Coleman in just five stages. Sclater went off in the Datsun on SS 18, Ballinruan; and then there was drama on SS 19, Ballybuck, when Curley clipped a bank and flipped the Porsche out of the rally, fortunately with no damage to himself and navigator Austin Frazer, and little damage to the famous white Carrera.

The spectators were almost delirious with excitement when Coleman came through the next stages with not a trace of Curley — for although everyone would have liked to see the Coleman-Curley duel running on to the very last stage of all on the Sunday evening, now the chances of a Southern driver winning one of the home Internationals for the first time ever (that is, discounting early Circuit of Ireland events) looked really good. But it was not to be, for on the last stage of the day, SS 24 Ballinruan, the Escort retired. Just a few yards off the line at the start of the stage a drive shaft broke to deprive Billy of the international win he needs so badly and Terry Harryman, navigator with Dessie McCartney, put every one’s feelings on the line — “It was Curley’s own fault, but Coleman had really hard luck.” Another Munsterman in hard luck was Demi Fitzgerald who ran out of petrol on a stage and lost out on being sixth overall!

Billy Coleman indulges in a little 2-wheel motoring on the Corkscrew Hill special stage, but his rally would end on the last stage on Saturday with a broken driveshaft,

The retirement of Coleman and Curley saw Dessie McCartney in the lead, and with 224 seconds to spare over David Agnew he looked good to repeat his success of ’72 when he shared the winning Triumph 2.5 P.I. with his brother Ronnie. Five Porsches filled the leading placings, with English trio of Evans, Tordoff and Morley in that order after McCartney and Agnew. Then came Philip McCartan, nobly flying the Ford flag and beating O’Kane to prevent Porsches from filling the first six places. Mick O’Connell had a slow run up the famous Corkscrew Hill part of SS 15 and 21, first time around, being passed by McCartan. The Cork driver had no brakes, but eventually these were sorted and he was placed a good eight overall.

John O’Gorman W135 – still unaccustomed to the lhd Alpine, but had moved up from 16th to 9th. Ray Murphy in the Magnum had a spin on the Corkscrew, overdoing it on a loose surfaced hairpin to almost find himself going back in the direction he came from, but in the three-cornered battle for Group 1 honours he had overtaken Charlie Gunn’s now very noisy RS2000. Brendan Fagan was driving to finish rather than “bursting my boilers” (unquote) to get into the top ten or so, and had moved up a place to 11th overall.

The drive of the day must surely have been that of Ronnie McCartney, 22nd after Friday’s run and now 12th in the Mazda RX3, splitting the Murphy~Gunn Group 1 battle with some spirited driving, and no doubt being egged-on by an appreciative crowd that enjoyed his handling of the Rotary-engined Japanese car. McCartney spun on the Corkscrew and executed a neat uphill reverse-throw to point the car in the right direction with little loss of time. He also ‘found the car more throwable on narrower tyres, with cooler and consequently better braking power too! Big Derek McMahon had two punctures on the Corkscrew and continued the stage on a flat!

The overall placings at the end of the Saturday action were:

  1. D.McCartney 15172secs
  2. Agnew 15396,
  3. Evans 15432,
  4. Tordoff 15459,
  5. Morley 15601,
  6. McCartan 16149,
  7. O’Kane 16250,
  8. O’Connell 16359,
  9. O’Gorman 16397,
  10. Murphy 16513,
  11. Fagan 16519,
  12. Murphy 16560,
  13. R.McCartney 16583.

Only 45 cars were still in the rally on Sunday morning, with a dozen or so at the end of the field, having retired on the previous two days and out for the Sunday gallop. Adrian Boyd had hoped to run the Alpine for -the experience of getting used to the car, but a replacement drive shaft could not be obtained in time to effect la repair. Through another dozen stages, over new territory in North Co. Galway above Tuam, the battle of the Porsches continued, but McCartney and Agnew maintained positions, with Dessie cooling the pace to drop 63 seconds to the second man but ensuring himself first by a 156 secs. margin. The forceful Evans had an off which dropped him from second to fifth, Tordoff and Morley moving up two places as a result. Philip McCartan held onto his hard won sixth spot, for which he earned the Ford of Ireland award and the novice award.

Dessie McCartney and Terry Harryman were able to ease off towards the end and still take the win in Galway.

O’Kane and O’Connell maintained station, but O’Gorman dropped out; Gunn’s RS2000 retired with the exhaust manifold falling off and an under-bonnet fire, just as he was pulling back vital seconds on McCartney and Murphy, so Group 1, 1600 cc class honours went to McCartney’s Mazda, in 9th place overall, with Murphy 10th in front of Fagan. The other Group 1 classes went to David Yates, in an old-type Opel Kadett, Robert Craigie (Fiat 128 Coupe), and G.B. visitor Bernard Banning (Avenger). The special prize for the “unofficial” Sunday run, that is those out for the crack but officially out of the rally, appropriately went to STP agent Nobby Reilly in the Gulf-liveried BMW 2002.


  1. D. McCartney/T. Harryman (Porsche Carrera) . . . 20765
  2. D. Agnew/R. Harkness (Porsche Carrera) . . . ….. 20921
  3. J. Tordoff/P. Short (Porsche Carrera) . . . . . .20973
  4. H. Morley/R. Saunders (Porsche Carrera) . . . . 21254
  5. B. Evans/J. Brown (Porsche Carrera) . . . . . . .21757
  6. P. McCartan/A. Rice (Escort RS1600) . . . . . . .21850
  7. J. J. O’Kane/R. Sloan (Porsche Carrera) . . . . .21920
  8. M. O’Connell/A. O’Connell (Escort RSl600) . . . .22169
  9. R. McCartney/L. Weir (Mazda RX3) . . . . . . . . 22446
    10 R. Murphy/G. Brittain (Vauxhall Magnum) . . . . .22470