Report reprinted from Motoring News 13th February 1975
Report by Rupert Saunders
Photos by Unknown
Dessie McCartney leads the Porsches on tough Galway Rally
PORSCHE Carreras took the First Five places in the STP International Galway Rally which took place in Ireland over the weekend. The three-day event turned out to be a Porsche beneﬁt after the only competitive Escort, that of Billy Coleman, dropped out with mechanical failure while comfortably in the lead. Outright winners were Dessie McCartney and Terry Harryman who inherited the lead halfway through the second day and then held it to the Finish.
Second overall was taken by David Agnew and Robert Harkness driving their newly acquired lefthand drive Porsche and third by Jack Tordoff and Phil Short in their 2.7-Carrera. The similar car of Harold Morley and Rupert Saunders came fourth and the 2.8 engined car of Brian Evans and John Brown fifth. The rally saw several changing fortunes, with the lead being taken by Curley, then Coleman and finally McCartney. Cathal Curley rolled his Porsche out of the rally on Saturday morning and Coleman went with half-shaft failure later on that day. England’s Chris Sclater, driving the Datsun Violet, was lying in fourth position when he crashed during the Saturday run, and Brian Evans had climbed up to third place before he left the road and lost time during the Sunday run. Of the other fancied runners, Brian Nelson/Derek Smyth went off on the very first stage while trying to establish an early lead, and Adrian Boyd retired his Renault-Alpine with sheared differential bolts on Friday evening.
The Friday stages took place in the early evening and night and Saturday and Sundays stages were all run in the daylight. The stages were fast and ﬂowing except for one or two rather out-of-place little dashes around farm lanes. The toll on cars was hard and only 41 of the starters actual|y finished the main rally, with some retirements getting a run on the Sunday Rally. While the stages were excellent, one sometimes felt that the organisation was being overstretched.
The ever-increasing domination of the Irish rallying scene by Porsche is becoming somewhat monotonous and it needs a particularly fine or particularly popular victory to lift the winners’ laurels to their true height. The Porsches once again ran away with the honours on the weekend’s STP International Galway Rally but the loudest cheer of all was for the winning crew, the ever-cheerful Dessie McCartney and Terry Harryman. After what their service crew described as the hardest rally they had ever done, this pair overcame all the problems to finish just under three minutes ahead of David Agnew and Robert Harkness. In third place were the leading English crew of Jack Tordoff and Phil Short, some 50 seconds down after a rally-long battle against the Irish.
Fourth overall was taken by Harold Morley and Rupert Saunders, the latter standing in for Peter Bryant at the last minute, and fifth by Brian Evans and John Brown. For once Evans’s luck held as far as mechanical matters were concerned but this time it broke in another way when he left the road just 10 stages from the end of the rally while lying in third place. Other fancied runners hit all manner of problems both mechanical and physical and the total number of finishers was just 41 from the 95 starters, a fair indication of the toll that the rally took. With just 15 minutes maximum lateness any wrong step could mean exclusion and, as often is the way, getting a good position was a case of “softly, softly catchee monkey” rather than outright heroics. That is not to say that the rally didn’t throw up more than its fair share of little tussles, of course.
Asked to explain to a bystander just why the dropout rate had been so high, one of the English journalists covering the rally had to confess that, “No. it hadn’t been all that hard a rally — but there was a lot of money at stake“, and that is undoubtedly one of the major attractions of Galway. When you add to that the promise of long, tight stages all closely packed then the rally starts to feature high on some crews’ lists of priorities. This year the rally was a qualifying round of the European Rally Championship (coefficient one) and offered a total of some 400 stage miles within a 700-mile route. The first prize was £1,000 and other generous donations meant that the club could boast a prize fund of over £5.000.
The basic format follows the simplest possible pattern, with something like 95 per cent of the stages taking place on closed public roads and all of the stages being used twice so that competitors effectively completed two laps of each circuit. There was a new circuit for each of the three days of the rally, each circuit having its own little characteristics and each testing the car in its own way. Although road timing did exist (to the extent of each minute late on the road being equivalent to 10 stage seconds), the schedules weren‘t as tight as they have been in previous years and there was sufficient time to ensure that everybody drove sensibly on the public highway without still having
time to rebuild the car.
One of the problems with running a major rally in an area such as Galway is that there is a distinct lack of the true enthusiast. Galway Motor Club is very small and they put on a very excellent rally but at times slight cracks seemed to be forming in the organisational team. These were sealed quickly enough and, fortunately perhaps, nothing really major went wrong. One area that did seem a little weak was in the accuracy of the watches and it was nothing to find the finish watch at the end of a stage some 10 seconds adrift from the watch in the car. Over 36 stages it could make the difference but the event is enjoyed so much by everybody that it would be a very churlish co-driver indeed who started to pick up every small point.
Unlike what one might imagine, the area around the town of Galway is relatively ﬂat and most of the stages were on level ground without any steep turns or climbs. The exceptions were some of the Saturday stages where the rally runs around the barren mountains to the south of Galway. Here the rally can be won or lost with stages of 20 or so miles really sorting out who can claim to be eligible for first place. Despite several weeks of heavy rain and flooding, some of which caused the rally route to be altered, the weather held off for almost the whole weekend leaving the roads relatively dry and fast rather than slippery and treacherous. Every so often though, the mud would win the battle with the racing tyres and the consequences could be disastrous.
The stages themselves were, in the main, fast and smooth with short stretches of tighter work and the occasional switchback to throw the unwary driver. Every so often the route would divert down a narrow farm road or across a piece of three-ply and then the troubles with punctures would start to occur. With almost all the top crews running on outright racing pattern tyres, it was fatal to strike a rock or travel too sideways on the loose. There were one or two moans about the quality of some of the stages being not exactly European standards but in general, they were good.
It is not really surprising that, in its first year as an ERC round, Galway failed to attract any continental crews. It falls at a time in the calendar when more senior events in the same series abound and Europeans might well feel that they would be starting the event with some grave disadvantages over those who know the feel of the roads. Slightly more surprisingly, the event failed to attract a full entry from the home countries and one can only put this down to the ever-rising cost of doing an International. No doubt many people did their sums and decided that they simply couldn‘t afford to do the event and it will be interesting to see how longer rallies, such as the Circuit, are affected.
If the quantity of entries was slightly lacking then the quality certainly wasn‘t, for all the top Irish crews and many top British tarmac crews were out. The Porsche Carrera was the most popular weapon amongst those favoured to win though other marques got the occasional look in and there was a welcome variety with both a Datsun and an Alpine in the top 10. Leading the Porsche brigade and, indeed, leading the rally off the start ramp, were Cathal Curley and Austin Frazer, the all-conquering pairing from last year’s tarmac events. Like most of the runners, they were out in the same car as they used last year, the dust covers being shaken off it despite C.B. announcing his retirement back on the Manx.
The other Irish Carrera that is now a familiar sight near the top of most results sheets is the car of Dessie McCartney and Terry Harryman. With brother Ronnie out in the Mathwall Mazda RX3 for most of the Internationals, the
task of driving the faster of the two cars falls to Dessie. That’s not to say that Ronnie‘s skills should be forgotten altogether for he and Lenny Weir brought the Mazda home a very commendable ninth overall and first Gp 1 car. Both the brothers seemed to have more than their fair share of troubles during the rally and, though none of the points was serious enough to put them out altogether, the service crew worked ﬂat out almost the whole rally keeping the cars up to scratch.
Noel Smith brought his Carrera out and John Tansey turned up with an all-singing, all-dancing, 3-litre, twin-plug racing engine dropped in the back of his Porsche. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to have the necessary reliability and, having failed to start in the parc fermé on the very first morning, it then went sick on him on the very first stage.
From across on this side of the channel came Jack Tordoff and Phil Short in the 2.7 Carrera, Brian Evans and John Brown in their works-built Gp 4 car and Harold Morley and Rupert Saunders in Morley’s old car from two years ago. While almost all the other Porsche drivers were running on Dunlop tyres, this pair had chosen to run Goodyear and the
men from Wolverhampton had provided an out-and-out racer in the form of some Formula Vee wet weather intermediates. Although the grip provided was nothing short of phenomenal, the construction proved to be rather too weak for rally conditions and the compound rather too soft for the harsh cutting effect of stones and rocks.
A new recruit to the Porsche ranks is David Agnew who has bought a left-hand-drive car from Stanley Palmer. Although never rallied, the car was already in rally trim when Agnew took delivery and this was its first outing. The ex-BMW driver adapted well and was in with the front runners from the very start, something which the wags did not quite expect. Agnew left behind him just one man still faithful to BMW and that was Brian Nelson who once again brought out his 2002 and was much fancied as a possible surprise winner. The rumours are that there is a new car on the way and that it will be another BMW but this time with a quite considerable increase in power. Determined to put in an early bid for the lead, Brian reckoned that the only way to stay in front was to try ten-tenths from the fall of the flag. It was a decision that was to cost him the rally just a few miles into the first stage.
With Nigel Rockey non-starting due to the lack of the necessary cash to run his works—loaned car, there was just one Escort in the top half dozen, that of Billy Coleman and John Davenport. Running under the Shellsport banner, the car was the same one that he won the RAC Rally Championship with and will be using for the first few rallies this year. A Boreham rebuild has ensured that the car has not suffered too much after a hard season, though it is beginning to look a bit droopy at the edges.
The Escort of Derek Boyd failed to materialise, reputedly due to some disagreements between members of the team, while brother Adrian and Frank Main arrived huddled in the newly acquired Alpine. The shell is the ex-works car used by Geoff Shepherd for several rallies both here and in Ireland, while for this event, the car was fitted with a very standard 1600 Renault engine. Just some modiﬁcations to manifolding and head brought in an extra few horsepower and the whole lot had been run-in on the way down from Belfast. Boyd seems to have a wide variety of drives lined-up for the next few events and one can expect to see him out in some very interesting cars and the Internationals this year.
Other fancied Escort runners included Sean Campbell, whose run of results seems to have ended as his traditional bad luck returned on the very first night, and Gerry Buckley, who is a cousin of Billy Coleman’s and very highly regarded by some of the Irish pundits. The unknown quantity of the rally was Chris Sclater having his first drive in the Datsun Violet outside the now-defunct Dealer Team. With help from various companies, he and Martin Holmes had raked together enough to run the car, and very commendably they did it too, giving away over 40 bhp to the Carreras and yet matching their pace down all but the fastest stages. They held a consistent fourth overall before an accident, fortunately not too damaging, put them out of the running.
The Group 1 classes have not caught on the way in Ireland that they have in England but there was still quite a tussle for the prize. Besides the Mazda of Ronnie McCartney, local man Ray Murphy was out in his Magnum 2.3 and Charlie Gunn, Gareth Jones and Dave Cowan all brought out RS2000s.
Scrutineering took place on Thursday evening and Friday morning and the rally itself got underway when the first car left Galway at 16.00. There was about an hour and a bit’s daylight left before the darkness descended, making the bumps and crests even more difficult. The first stage was a 12-minuter and should have been just enough to shake the dust from most drivers’ feet. Unfortunately for Dave Cowan and Fez Parker. in the ex-Tour of Britain Escort, it wasn’t the driver who was at fault, the flywheel coming adrift just over a mile into the stage and giving them the dubious honour of being the first retirement.
Brian Nelson went soon afterwards, clipping a low wall on the inside of a right-hander and being bounced out and astride the wall on the outside. The front suspension pulled away and there was nothing that he and Derek Smyth could do except sit and dejectedly watch the other crews ﬁle past. John O’Gorman had some teething troubles with the ex-John Price Alpine when he found that the gearbox linkage was jamming and Harold Morley suffered a puncture, not the most heartening occurrence on the very first stage. John Tansey limped through and called it a day at the end of the stage while most of the rest of the ﬁeld ran up the road to the second stage.
This nine-minuter was less eventful as crews began to settle into the pace and only Cathal Curley lost out when he collected a puncture and dropped about 30 seconds to the quicker times. A second nine-minuter, cleaned by Coleman and Curley, led to the first service halt and a chance to review and take stock. Coleman and Curley were setting the pace, perhaps not surprisingly, and Dessie McCartney was also there, these three already pulling clear of the rest of the ﬁeld despite the fact that a rear damper on the McCartney Porsche was already giving trouble. While his service crew worked away to change it, Harold Morley‘s crew were attacking the sump-guard with a hammer, having found that the guard was rubbing the inside of the tyres and causing the punctures.
By the time that the service halt was over. darkness had fallen and everybody took it fairly easy through the next few stages, feeling their way. Unfortunately, however careful the drivers were, some of the cars weren’t so reliable. Adrian Boyd was the first to go when the crown wheel bolts sheared, leaving him totally without drive and poor Sean Campbell also found himself without power when the half-shaft pulled out just a couple of hundred yards from the stage finish. It was almost as if the transmission gremlins were out in force, for Brian Evans reported a very noisy wheel bearing and had to stop and change a punctured wheel rather than risk further damage to the bearing itself. The result and delay cost him three minutes on one stage and a further minute on another when he stopped after the car started to handle badly. He and John Brown were halfway to jacking the car up when they realised that they hadn’t actually got a puncture this time, it had been a very slippery bit of road.
The first of the organisers’ problems began to manifest itself when a queue started to build up at the start of the longest stage, a 17-minuter. Although the night was still fairly dry, some marshals had not turned up and the stage was undermanned. There was no pool of extra resources to call upon and so the stage was cancelled, thereby taking out a hefty chunk of the night’s competitive mileage. The second ‘lap’ began as competitors returned to stage two and ran over it in the same direction, only this time in the darkness. Coleman took a healthy few seconds off Curley and it became obvious that the battle was between these two, with the others just tailing behind. By the time that the cars came back for service again, they were already nearly a minute clear of the ﬁeld with just McCartney and Sclater in touch. Scalier had some problems with soft brakes and Coleman took advantage of the delay allowance from the cancelled stage to complete a long service, checking everything.
On the next batch of stages he was quickest every time and even without looking at the times it was obvious to the spectators who was making the running. A slight drizzle started to fall, making life more difficult still and Keith
Rogers found the Capri running away with itself and straight on through a brick wall. Fortunately the wall collapsed around them and the car was backed out relatively undamaged and even with most of its light working, albeit without any lenses in them.
The long stage was cancelled again second time round and crews found themselves with plenty of time to sort out the first few problems. The most worried man of all was Brian Evans, whose wheel bearing was getting steadily worse. The general consensus amongst the service crews was that it would take about half an hour to change the unit and there just wasn‘t that sort of time available anywhere. The only thing that he could do was drive on and keep hoping that it would last the rally out.
Dessie McCartney was playing with rear shock-absorbers again while brother Ronnie moaned about the Mazda being over-tyred. With only 4.5 in. rims fitted, finding a suitable racing tyre was proving to be quite a problem. The biggest crowd of all, though, was gathered around David Agnew’s car where a service mechanic was committing sacrilege and attacking the Porsche door—sills with a hatchet. The car had been built with the oil cooler pipes running down the inside of the sills rather than underneath the car and one of these pipes had decided to spring a leak. With remarkable accuracy a hole was cut and the offending joint sealed properly.
The rain started to come down properly as cars made their way down to the start of the last stage of the night, a reverse run of the first stage. The wet roads made life all that more difficult but nobody reported any mishaps and crews turned back towards Galway for a good night’s sleep before the long stages of the next morning. With just 12 of the 36 stages gone, Coleman had a lead of just over a minute from Curley, with McCartney a further minute down and Sclater tailing him. Evans was down a bit after his delays but was starting to make up time and was obviously going to be a man to watch.
Saturday‘s stages took on a completely different character from those on Friday evening. Run down in the mountains to the South of Galway, they were longer and harder on the cars. Jumps and crests abounded and, for the first time, power up the hills was to be an advantage. The morning started on a dark note though. It was obvious to other co-drivers, and indeed John Davenport made no secret of the fact, that when a stage was used twice, he was making pace-notes on the first ‘lap’ and using them on the second. His argument was that he was not practising, but doing the event and as such was not breaking the no-reconnaissance rules. The opposite argument was that there was a specific rule banning pace notes, and however sketchy his notes were, they were certainly pace notes. The organisers went away to think the matter over and the crews made their way South to the start of the first stage of the day.
Again the organisers hoped to wake crews up with a start and that they managed, a long, fast and flowing 14-minuter giving fastest time to Dessie McCartney. Brian Evans had decided that today was going to be win or bust as far as he was concerned and set off at a flying pace to start a day of “brilliant” driving. Morley was also back in his stride after playing himself back into the rallying game after a two-year absence and it became obvious that, while Coleman and Curley fought out the battle for the lead, there was going to be no less fierce a tussle taking place behind.
The first two stages passed without incident and then came the dreaded Corkscrew; a 21-mile stage that included jumps, some fast, sweeping bends and some uphill hairpins before running back into the lanes. Curley and Coleman both cleaned it, while Evans lagged some 30 seconds behind, the fastest of the pursuers.
Floods and the heavy rain had caused the next stage to be shortened and there was a delay here while the marshals sorted out the revised arrowing. What the rain had also caused over this particular agricultural area was a mud ﬂow, which meant that much of this stage was effectively loose.
Despite some soft-pedalling by all the drivers, incidents were frequent. Brian Evans spun and pushed in a front corner on the end of a bridge parapet, fortunately losing hardly any time at all, while Mike O’Connell spoilt the front of his Escort by going straight on into a bank. Again the damage was not disastrous and he recovered well. Dessie McCartney slid back nearer to the clutches of the pursuing mob when he lost a lot of time with a puncture and Harold Morley came off the stage with two soft tyres though he in fact lost little time.
Another cancelled stage, this time through some pre-rally problems, and then to the last stage of the first lap. This tight and twisty little offering was to mark the beginning of a change in the whole rally as the first of the leading crews made that vital mistake. Chris Sclater, driving with two ﬁat tyres on one side of the Datsun, clipped a wall, pulling a rock into the road and pulling away the track rod arm in the process. The car turned sharp right and buried itself in the bank, sliding across and blocking the road in the process. Jack Tordoff was first on the scene and the road was soon cleared to keep the stage open. Most other competitors had moments missing the rock that had been pulled out and Brendan Fagan hit it fair and square.
Road timing tightened up slightly and Jack Tordoff dropped a few seconds tracing a misﬁre that he had thought was a shutoff valve to the more commonplace problem of sticking points. A new set was fitted and he was on his way. The repeat of the first stage saw the road surface drying out after the early morning damp and, on a right-hander halfway through, a second leading crew made their mistake. CB’s Porsche understeered off, up a bank and over onto its roof, landing in the middle of the road and sliding along. Billy Coleman, running one minute behind, arrived just as the crew were sorting themselves out and swears that he ran over the back of the Porsche while taking avoiding action. There were enough spectators to get the car back on its wheels but the engine wouldn‘t restart and the Derryman was out of the rally.
Coleman could now afford to ease off for he was well in the lead and knew that he had plenty in hand. The battle would now be for second and third with the rally just halfway over. Evans was moving up fast and had caught Morley and Tordoff while McCartney was having another bad spell with spongy brakes slowing him considerably. The Corkscrew came up for the second time and settled several people’s fate. Keith Rogers hit a rock and pulled away a spring on the Capri to join team-mate Gareth Jones in the ever-increasing list of retirements. Derek McMahon, then leading his class by a comfortable margin, collected one puncture early on and then another later which forced him to do about half the stage on the rim and drop him way out of contention. His run of bad luck continued on the next stage when the throttle cable snapped and the ignition burned out. Bernard Banning took the lead in the class by a country mile.
With stage 23 being a repeat of the cancelled stage and thus also cancelled there was just one stage to go before the run back to Galway. Billy Coleman, with a lead of just over six minutes on the rest of the ﬁeld, completed just 100 yards of it before the half-shaft broke apart. Suddenly the ﬁeld was wide open again.
Sunday morning’s rallying didn’t start until 11.OO and for Brian Evans nearly didn‘t start at all. His battery had been split in the off and the car wouldn’t start. Fortunately, Curley’s car was there to be pirated. McCartney now had a reasonable lead, with Agnew behind him and Evans, Tordoff and Morley in a chasing bunch. Evans was obviously going to try for second and had the speed to do it while the others checked times to see what was possible.
Morley took fastest on the first two of the morning’s stages and thought that he might be able to catch Tordoff until Jack put in a very good time on the third stage and pulled it all back. Evans tried just that bit too hard and slid wide on a left-hander, dropped over the edge and sunk in a peat ﬁeld — so far down that pursuing crews were
sure that he was there for ever. They hadn’t reckoned on the lifting power of John Brown though, and amazingly the car was returned to the road; but not without the loss of 12 minutes.
McCartney could afford to ease off. Morley knew that he couldn’t catch Tordoff and the rally began to look settled. There were just nine stages to go and the battle shifted down the ﬁeld. O’Connell, McCartan and O’Kane were fighting over fifth, sixth and seventh places and suddenly Evans found himself in the middle of them. There was private Gp 1 battle going on between Ronnie McCartney and Ray Murphy for ninth and tenth. John O’Gorman had retired with a broken gearbox.
Suddenly Tordoff found some second wind and started to set some very quick times. Agnew became aware of the danger and put on a spurt and then suddenly it was all settled. The final lap of the day’s stages passed by without incident with everybody waiting for the other to make the mistake that never happened. Evans managed to lift himself clear of the fight for the bottom half of the top 10 and climbed back into fifth place, leaving McCartan just behind him.
After the dramas of the Saturday stages and the early Sunday run, the last few had seemed very settled. One or two crews had had their worries. notably Bernard Banning who, with a 20-minute lead in the class, had a half-shaft bearing start to seize. He didn’t dare stop in case it cooled down and seized solid so he just kept moving and prayed hard. Keith Rogers went off again in the Capri and left the prize for the ‘Retirements Run‘ to STP importer Nobby Reilly, which seemed very appropriate and suddenly it was all over bar the prize-giving.
Three days of hard-fought stages had resulted in a decimated ﬁeld. The most consistent crews scored at the end of a very enjoyable weekend’s rallying. Galway has the stages, the atmosphere and the competitiveness of a very good rally. One suspects that the club could do with a little more backing from some of the local trade organisations to make a good rally a great one. Running a full International is no easy job and requires a large. well co-ordinated team.
Dessie McCartney couldn’t have been a more popular winner for so often he has been overshadowed by the other quick Porsche drivers. The unluckiest man was undoubtedly Billy Coleman but anybody who took part in the rally can count their blessings for a very enjoyable event.
1977 STP Galway International Rally – Results:
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
95 starters — 41 finishers