This article is reproduced from Autosport Magazine – 3 July 1975
Report by Ian Sadler, colour photos by Fred Gallagher where noted.
Taylor-made Texaco Triumph
The Texaco Rally has, for a number of years now, been widely regarded as a typical tarmac / forest rally, good enough in its routing and organisation to be a round of the R.A.C. Rally Championship. Then, last year, the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs voted to give the vital road closing order to the Omagh Motor Club – not Larne. Omagh Motor Club will be running their tarmac rally, the Duckhams Bushwhacker within the next couple of months…excellent — but what about Larne M.C.? This motor club has been virtually unique in its thinking during the past few years, its magicians‘ inventiveness and creative repartee a bye-word in the North of Ireland.
Loathe to lose the very valuable Texaco Oil Company sponsorship, some serious thinking was necessary and the results — an amazing way around their problem — came to fruition last weekend with a totally new style Texaco-backed event in place of the familiar rally. The result was a loose special stage rally, all at one location, ideal for spectators and service crews used to rushing around the country side, and with a big fat cheque for the quickest driver over the 20 or so accumulated miles of flat-out motoring. Describing the Texaco like that, it sounds very much like a glorified rallycross, which it certainly was in many respects, so it was no real surprise to record, in that vein, that John Taylor was quickest.
The event, with a first prize of £500, a second prize of £200 and a third place award of £100 attracted an understandably healthy interest right from the time of its inception. All the Irish stars, with the exception of Billy Coleman, were present. Overseas drivers lured across included Pink Stamps man, Nigel Rockey, and Tony Drummond who stayed over with his Carman Catering Butcher / Wakefield Abany Inn car, after a gap of just six days since his successful Donegal sortie. Also entered were Tony Fowkes’ dazzling orange Cables and Components car, plus the Escorts of both John Taylor and Scottish Championship leader Bill Taylor with his Royal Bank of Scotland car. Also across from Scotland were a couple of Group One entries in the form of Ian Gemmell’s Maconochies of Kilmarnock Avenger, and the very hard worked Marshalls Chunky Chicken SMT Vauxhall Magnum for Andrew Cowan.
A mysterious chap by the name of Andy Benson (according to the programme) failed to turn up with either Andy Marriott or the Kleber Datsun. Unfortunately the right sort of parts for this Japanese nmachine have disappeared off the face of the planet and Andy has been forced to put the car in a quiet corner under a dust cover. A great waste. Of the local men, Paul Martin couldn’t compete due to his temporary attack of “gearbox-on-foot”, and Sean Campbell arrived with a 3-litre Capri, his co-driver’s car, as Sean has disposed of his own quick, but unreliable Escort RS. Otherwise, all the starts appeared in their expected machinery, including Adrian Boyd and Frank Main in their Renault Alpine.
The little Alpine was not the only attraction for the dashing Jean-Pierre Boyd’s many fans…they were watching their day’s motoring entertainment on hallowed Boyd territory, at Mallusk, Glengormley, without which ground there would have been no event.
Using fleets of earth-moving and mountain re-arranging equipment, the Boyd quarries were hacked and chopped into shape to provide nearly three miles of varied motoring. Huge masses of boulders had to be strategically placed (some to prevent the daunting possibility of a car falling from the quarry top) to create a most effective barrier, while whole new sections of track were created from scratch to link every likely quarry road together. Included was the manufacture of a rallycross course for use in October!
The scenery for any given lap varied from fern and scrub, through pine trees and open field and of course the dry, hard and dusty quarry, looking for all the World like something imported from the Moroccan Rally. By the end of the day, many sore drivers reported that it felt very much that way too. With the passage of so many cars, problems did develop with some of the newly constructed links and one particular stretch had to be chopped from the agenda as the grooves were visibly growing to “car engulfing” proportions.
In other places it was on the rough side, as was readily admitted by Larne M.C., Adrian Boyd, Mike Ford-Hutchinson (Clerk of the Course) and others, but in no way could it be branded a car-killer; certainly no more so than many ‘Scottish” stages experienced earlier this month. Tony Fowkes was one driver slightly disappointed with what he found, reckoning that if he had a “real go”, the results could easily negate his plan to trundle the car across to Duns afterwards and leave it there, ready for this weekend’s Jim Clark.
Regarding the surface roughness, an important factor to be taken into consideration was the fact that cars were travelling complete with co-drivers, and this intrepid band were very busy shouting-up pace notes, or any similarly effective encouragement to their frenzied drivers. Coupled with the assumption that the more astute drivers might remember to remember which way the road went, the “’tis all flat here” warbling of the note men meant that cars were tackling some sections at speeds approaching the incredible.
How there were no high-speed rock contacts or rolls is something many spectators will be wondering about for a long time to come. Serious spills there might not have been, but spectators certainly did receive great value for their 50p admission charge. Even to the most disinterested Belfast day-tripper (a number of the crowd showed an extraordinary interest in the generously sized beer tent) cars nearly, but just not quite, having big accidents was a constantly repeated sight well worth observing.
Usually, to watch such aces as Rockey or Drummond through the forests, a hectic (and expensive) day of scurrying around the countryside is requited. Even then, to see six stages would be hardly likely. Here, the form was quite simply to find a good sized rock and just lie back and take in the sun, sound and spectacle.
An admirable public address system was in operation, and times of the top cars were broadcast almost immediately the competitior completed the stage. It was a great days sport for the enthusiastic crowd and reinforced the clever thinking from Larne M.C. – an idea worthy of further development. Their sponsors, Texaco, must have been very gratified with the response.
Towards the business of winning that number £500 first prize for being the bravest/most reckless/most skilled driver of the day, practice started several hours before the 1pm start. The route was basically a run between two vast flat-bottomed quarries which, with the use of a link-loop, would provide six stages, three each way comprising two runs each of three combinations.
Cars burbled around at low speeds while the notes were being constructed, drivers traversing the loops in what could only be described as random fashion, and the situation became quite tense with such combinations as Rockey, Cowan and Eyre-Maunsell going one way, and Fowkes, Drummond and Bertie Fisher travelling in the other. Added to this melee were several course cars, a water spraying truck, and a grader. Quite an obstacle course at times!
Although most drivers became quite familiar with the course, notes proved to be quite an advantage, for it was all too easy to become disoriented in the lunar-like quarryscape.
With Coleman non-starting, the first car on the track was Nigel Rockey’s snarling Pink Stamps Escort, very competently guided around by Peter Scott. Rockey’s car was joined on the course moments later by John Taylor, then by Tony Drummond, with Dessie McCartney’s Porsche following; the noise of such raucous BDA Escorts and rattling flat-six Porsche engines filling the entire complex and silencing the enthralled crowd. Just minutes later the first times were announced and Taylor, accompanied by Charles Reynolds, learned that he had taken four seconds off Adrian Boyd. Some of the Partisan crowd didn’t like that very much. They did, however, like seeing Ronnie White’s spectacular 1425cc autocross Mini taking third quickest behind Adrian and ahead of Tony Drummond and Dessie McCartney.
Unfortunately for many of them, that is the way it stayed, Boyd just unable to match the speed of Taylor. One particularly unusual entry was that of Ronnie McCartney, back in action in a most unlikely Triumph 2.5pi – the car with which he and younger Brother Dessie won the 1972 Galway. They had recently taken it back in part-exchange. The Triumph, unfortunately, ruined its steering and rear suspension on the first run after a short excursion.
The Group One category proved to provide the closest results of all, and some of the most spectacular driving, with Grewer’s Opel Ascona taking the first session by just one second from Gemmell’s Avenger, and Eyre-Maunsell’s Ulster Dealer Team car a further one second back. Again, the first stage dictated the pace of things to come and Grewer comfortably took the award at the end of the day. His driving of the Opel was one of the highlights of the day. All credit to both car and driver for staying right side up.
As the day progressed, so the times slackened slightly – due entirely to the track surface cutting up, for several drivers were visibly trying harder each time. Tony Drummond kept turning in impressively good times, his opposite-locking, arms and elbows style another favourite with the Crowd. Fowkes, Rockey, and Bill Taylor seemed content to stay just short of top times by comparison, sensibly conserving their cars for the important RAC Championship round coming up.
Apart from the dice at the top between Boyd and Taylor, most drivers were treating the rally in a light-hearted way and there was not much disappointment about times. John Taylor obviously took the proceedings in a more serious vein with that £500 well on target and, although bitter at the pounding he had to inflict on the car, kept up a magnificent performance to the end and was thankful that the final run did not use the rallycross section which was just too far gone. A few cars were, perhaps, too much the worse for their experiences by the end of the day but, by and large, the Texaco proved to be a most worthwhile exercise. An open event on Friday night was won by Trevor Fleming in his Mini Cooper S.
1975 Texaco Rally – Results
- John Taylor 19m 21s
- Adrian Boyd 19m 33s
- Tony Drummond 19m 37s
- Dessie McCartney 19m 58s
- Derek Boyd 19m 58s
- Ronnie White 20m 20s
Group One: Colin Grewer 20m 40s
- J.Taylor 3.18;
- A.Boyd 3.22;
- R.White 3.24;
- T.Drummond 3.25;
- D.McCartney 3.25;
- J.Taylor 3.27;
- A.Boyd 3.28;
- D.Boyd 3.32;
- T.Drummond 3.33
- D.McCartney 3.33;
- J.Taylor 3.19;
- A.Boyd 3.19
- T.Drummond 3.23
- D.McCartney 3.24;
- N.Rockey 3.24;
- J.Taylor 3.25;
- A.Boyd 3.30;
- T.Drummond 3.30;
- D.Boyd 3.33;
- D.McCartney 3.34;
- J.Taylor 3.20;
- A.Boyd 3.21;
- T.Drummond 3.21;
- D.Boyd 3.24;
- D.McCartney 3.25;
- N.Rockey 3.25;
- J.Taylor 2.32;
- A.Boyd 2.33;
- D.Boyd 2.33;
- T.Drummond 2.35
- R.White 2.35;
- N.Rockey 2.35.