This report is reproduced from Motoring News 10 February 1977.
Report by Mike Greasley. Photos from the MN report plus some from Motorsport Yearbook as noted.
ROGER CLARK SNATCHES GALWAY VICTORY
IT was a very bad weekend for the sporting Irishmen. Whilst the rugby fanatics were drowning their sorrows in Dublin after their national team had received a drubbing at the hands of the English, the Irish rally fraternity was in an equally sorry state in Galway. An almost blitzkrieg attack on the Galway International Rally had been highlighted by three English drivers dictating the pace for most of the event; Messrs Andy Dawson, Roger Clark and Chris Sclater being in complete control. It was Dawson in his RAC Rally Datsun Violet who took the lead for the first two days after a brilliant drive in atrocious weather conditions. However, a gearbox problem led to engine failure on the last day, and Dawson handed victory to Roger Clark/Jim Porter in their Boreham loaned but David Sutton run Escort RS1800. Five minutes behind came Chris Sclater/Martin Holmes in the Dealer Team Vauxhall Chevette 2300, a second placing which firmly put the new car on the rally map after only three outings.
Irish honour was however saved somewhat by Dessie McCartney / Terry Harryman who made their debut in the P.R.Reilly STP 3-litre Porsche Carrera RS and came third whilst Gp 1 honours went to Dessie Nutty/John White in their Vauxhall Magnum in tenth place. But, sorry to say, it was only a technical Gp 1 win as the first Gp 1 specification car home was the works supported Avenger of racing driver Bernard Unett. Unett took to the lanes of rain-sodden Galway like a duck to water and on only his second rally outing finished fifth overall with Paul White. Unett’s car was entered in Gp 4, but it was in fact the new 2-litre Gp 1 car complete with homologated suspension and running gear hiding under the old shape bodywork. The Chrysler had been entered in Gp 4 as the new Gp 1 specification applies to the new Series 7 body only. Just to rub the rally drivers’ faces in the mud, Unett even had the indecency to beat team mates Robin Eyre Maunsell Neil Wilson in the pukka Gp 4 16-valve 2-litre Avenger. No principles these racing people!
To the majority of competitors and spectators, the Henley Forklift Galway International belonged to Andy Dawson/Rupert Saunders. Although Dawson has links with Ford for the RAC Championship he is free to drive other cars in non-conflicting events, thus he appeared in Ireland in the same 2-litre Datsun Violet which he had used on the RAC to finish eighth. The minimum of work had been carried out on the 160J SSS and, besides a wash. new rear shock absorbers. a new triple plate clutch and a modiﬁed brake balance system, the Datsun had been untouched. Indeed it seemed that the men in Japan aren’t too happy about their Violet continuing to appear in British events.
Just before he left for Galway, Dawson received a curt telex from Japan requesting him to return the car and spares immediately. The reason was that the Japanese now consider the Violet to be uncompetitive in British events, and until they have carried out more development work they feel it shouldn’t be run. If they could only have been in Galway at the weekend! One wouldn’t dispute that the Violet does need more work if it is going to keep up in the British forest races, but as was confirmed at the weekend on slippery, flooded tarmac roads the all-independent suspension Violet is the car to use.
By the final day, Dawson had a comfortable 1m 25s lead over Clark Porter. A total of 76 stage miles remained, and to many it seemed in the bag for Dawson. But on the first stage on Sunday, disaster struck when the gearbox jammed in fourth, the ensuing change leaving Dawson with at least hefty road penalties, but undoubtedly exclusion for arriving at a control beyond his 15-minutes maximum lateness. But in the end, the engine threw a rod, so that was that.
The question was whether or not Clark would have been able to cut back the 1m 25s deficit if Dawson hadn’t had any problems. It is a question which must remain unanswered, but undoubtedly Clark was driving at his quickest on the final day.
Clark had got steadily quicker throughout the three-day Galway, a modified suspension set-up with revised mountings for the compression struts and a new anti-roll bar making the RS1800 extremely twitchy. Spectators reported that the RS1800 — the same car in which Clark won the Lombard RAC Rally — looked something of a handful, and although he wouldn’t be drawn publicly on the nature of the problem one couldn’t help but feel that Clark was having to drive around the difficulties. For this one event the Boreham Escort was serviced by David Sutton (Cars) Ltd and although it carried the familiar Cossack colours, the red RS1800 had additional backing from rally sponsors Henley Forklift Ltd. No such handling problems affected Sclater/Holmes in the impressive Chevette which came to Galway as a shake-down for the Circuit of Ireland. On the stages, the dumpy Chevette looked extremely stable and its traction and speed out of corners was a revelation, Sclater reporting that one had to drive the Vauxhall with great precision. It was only the third ever rally appearance of the 2300 model and its first-ever tarmac outing, so second place on a well-supported international rally was not to be dismissed lightly. With Chrysler refuge Ricky Bell now looking after the Sclater Chevette at Shepreth, the car appeared in Galway with a number of improvements following the Dean.
Although team manager Gerry Johnstone seemed rather reluctant to go into any great detail, he did conﬁrm that the engine was now canted over at 30 degrees and not 45 degrees. This brings it in line with the specification of Pentti Airikkala’s Chevette. Johnstone explaining that the work had been done to economise on mountings. There is also a report that the re-mounting has produced an extra 8bhp, but Johnstone said that as yet they hadn’t proved this claim by putting the car on a rolling road. As far as the rear suspension was concerned. Sclater’s car had the strengthened upper and lower links, but these had been re-positioned. What with Ford, Vauxhall, Chrysler, Datsun and Lancia — represented by Chequered Flag with the Stratos for last year’s Galway winner Billy Coleman who had Frank O’Donoghue co-driving — all taking part, this year’s Galway International sported the best entry yet. Indeed Galway MC had gone out of its way to attract the major works and semi-works teams from the UK, the club‘s efforts being well
rewarded and much appreciated. The final entry would have done credit to the Circuit of Ireland. the start list being little changed from that published last week in Motoring News.
There was certainly plenty on offer and the route kept even the most critical of drivers fully occupied. Total distance was 500 miles including 300 miles of all-tarmac stages, the rally being split into three parts. Friday consisted of five tests around Athenry village, each stage being covered twice. For starters, on Friday evening there were no fewer than three stages of nine miles each, one of six miles and another of five. However, although Friday night produced its usual high rate of attrition, the real meat of the rally came on Saturday. This time proceedings were centred on Gort with six stages each covered twice.
The shortest was Hollymount at six miles, the longest the infamous Corkscrew at 20 miles. The rally then returned to Galway for another overnight halt and the usual liquid nourishment before the final leg on Sunday around Tuam. Once again there were five stages each run twice, the longest at 10 miles and the shortest covering six.
Besides the compactness of the route —— never more than about 40 miles from Galway City — the rally offers a major attraction in that service is limited to three official points only, Athenray, Gort and Tuam. Each day service crews had to sit in the official service points and wait for the cars to come to them at regular intervals. It is an idea which works well in Europe — particularly Belgium — and is a major plus point for the mechanics, crews and crowds of spectators who stand around and watch the action on their front doorsteps. The only draw-back is that there is a chance of major congestion, but although the situation did get out of hand somewhat on Sunday at Tuam, with crews having to alternate between two official service areas on the town outskirts, it was a small price to pay.
With European Championship points at stake it had seemed that initially, the rally would have had to be run to a pace note format, but Galway MC was sufficiently switched on to realise that a co-efficient 1 status wasn’t going to attract the sort of entry that could be anticipated if the rally remained true to its secret stage format. This was particularly relevant as Galway clashed with two other European rounds, the Arctic and Boucles dc Spa. There was also the question of the extra expense for crews involved in recces, and also the aggravation likely to be caused to local residents in the weeks leading up to the start. Wisely Galway MC saw the problems, and lobbied the CSI success- fully for a waiver to the pace note ruling.
In fact at the weekend quite a few people were wondering whether having European Championship status was actually worth the extra aggravation. After all, wouldn’t it be better to have a two-level British Irish championship, the “A” Championship consisting of all the British and Irish international rallies, whilst the “B” Championship sticks to the British forests and with only national-level events? To a large degree, this would mean that the “A” series attracts all the works and semi-works teams, whilst the “B” championship is left to clubmen. Indeed this idea was getting a lot of support amongst the leading British and Irish competitors at the weekend, so perhaps something will happen.
But on Friday evening most brains were being applied to the more pressing problem of weather predictions. The weathermen said that it would be a frost and fog-free moonlit evening, but would it rain‘? Galway had been damp and dreary, so intermediate racing tyres seemed a good choice. However, as crews arrived at Athenry for the first stage, the heavens opened.
It was a real downpour and a forewarning of similar conditions for the remainder of the weekend. Indeed it seemed to the service crews that whenever a rally car appeared, at the same moment the rains would come down in torrents. Dawson in the Violet immediately diverted to the service point. and changed to full wets, as did Sclater who’d had a puncture on the way to the stage when he’d run over his own headlight glass after it had been broken by a stone. It was a wise decision, as once-committed, the crews would have to drive two tests totalling 15 miles before they could change tyres. The proof was in the stage times. On the first stage, Dawson was a clear 15s quicker than anyone, although on the next John Taylor/John Jensen set the pace in the Haynes of Maidstone RS1800 by being 12s faster than Sclater.
Taylor had in fact passed Brian Nelson/Malcolm Neill who were getting it all together again after an excursion in the Tuca Tiles Porsche Carrera, but the Englishman’s fast time was not without drama. At the fast finish to the stage he collected the stop line marshals car, both vehicles being damaged, the RS1800 emerging with a badly bent rear three-quarter and a holed dry sump tank.
When Taylor approached the stop line, McCartney was getting his time, Taylor saying that he had to spin the Escort RS to avoid hitting the Porsche. However, McCartney said that the problem was that Taylor was going far too fast, and needless to say a few words were exchanged between the two drivers.
All the crews reported that the opening stages were slippery in the extreme, and amongst those to fall foul of the conditions were John Scallon/Martin Whale who did £500 worth of damage to their Equipment Sales Ltd RS2000 after going straight on at the first 90 right on the first stage. The same spot had also been visited by Brendan Fagan/Kenneth Johnson (RS1800) but they got going again only to roll further in the stage. The high-flying Unett had been delayed by all these goings on, but seemed undeterred although co-driver White reported his driver became confused when marshals didn’t start to wave blue flags when he caught a Porsche!
It was however mechanical rather than agricultural problems which saw the demise of Philip McCartan/Victor Armstrong in the opening stages when they ran the bearings on the BMW Alpina after the oil line broke to the pressure gauge. Also out was Eddie McKenzie/Charlie Nicholl who had travelled all the way from Scotland only to have the crown wheel fail on their RS1600. Indeed it wasn‘t a good weekend at all for them as on Saturday night someone pinched their service car from Galway.
After the first two stages, Clark arrived at the service point complaining that his Escort wasn’t answering to the helm, so the mechanics set about altering the front suspension settings. But it all took time, and Clark booked into the following control five minutes late. The penalty was 50s (10s per minute late), but luck was with Clark and during Friday night it was decided to cancel all road penalties at this control after later numbers had experienced delays. Not so lucky was Coleman in the Stratos. On its wide tyres, the Lancia had been aquaplaning on the stages, a situation which was no doubt helped by the fact that he thought the low-slung Lancia a little too wide in the bodywork for the narrow lanes. But then during the next batch of three stages, the Stratos stopped on a road section when an engine mounting broke. and although it was replaced he just scrapped into the control with just a minute remaining before going OTL. This was worth 140s penalty, and unlike Clark, Coleman didn’t have the luck to have penalties at this control scrubbed.
The Friday night run in Galway is becoming notorious for its high retirement rate, and this year was no exception, the growing ranks of the unemployed being joined by Nelson/Neill who had the misfortune to retire when the gearbox jammed itself in fourth on their Porsche. Ken Shields Peter Lyster were another Porsche crew to experience terminal transmission bothers when they had a clutch plate break on their Carrera. Finally, Taylor who had been somewhat unsettled by his earlier incident had damaged the front of his RS1800 on one stage, and then on the final loop of the night left the road at high speed, landed on top of a stone wall and pushed a front wheel almost back into the bulkhead, tearing off a brake line and breaking a front compression strut in the process. It took a long while for the accident to stop, but although the car was ‘hors de combat’ fortunately neither crew member was hurt, a fact signified by co-driver Horton to other competitors by holding up a board with an “S” written on it. These had been supplied by the organisers, the board informing other competitors that the crew were OK and could the service crew be told, whilst a board with an “A” written on it denoted that an ambulance was needed. Simple, but effective.
At the end of the first day the leading positions were:
1, Dawson/Saunders, 78.43;
2, Clark/Porter, 80.18;
3, Sclater/Holmes, 80.45;
4, McCartney/Harryman, 81.10;
5, David Lindsay/David Sandford (RS1800), 82.83;
6, Coleman/O’Donoghue, 82.86;
7, Eyre-Maunsell/Wilson, 82.28;
8, Unett/White, 82.30.
After his good start, Sclater had lost time on three of the night stages when the fuel pump cut out on the Chevette, the power unit stuttering to a halt for a few heart-stopping seconds. Sclater immediately flicked on the reserve pump, and the engine ﬁred again, team manager Johnstone later expounding the theory that the problem was probably due to the pump picking up aluminium swarf from the fuel tank. Finally, Eyre- Maunsell was very aware that team mate Unett was only 2s behind.
Over the first 76 miles, Dawson had eased out a useful 1m 35s lead, but Saturday would be the telling day. In fact the day got off to a bad start when on stage 13, Thoor Ballylee, Manx ladies Gillian Pickard/Janet Welldon had a large accident at the finish of this 7-miler, collecting the stop line marshal‘s car in the process.
One marshal had to be taken to hospital with cuts to the face, but she was not badly injured. The marshal’s car was in fact tipped over in the collision, the vehicle having only been bought the day before. The Porsche was also in a mess, but both crew members were unhurt, it being thought the accident was caused by a slowly delfating rear tyre. This incident left Jill Robinson/Pauline Gullick in their Castrol-backed RS1800 in a commanding position in the ladies’ category, and with a trouble-free run they finished l5th overall and won the ladies by a wide margin. Amongst the ladies, Brigid Clarke and Miss Ireland (Jackie Moore) were busy raising £l,000 for the County Galway Association for Mentally Handicapped in a sponsored drive in a Polski Fiat 125P. But the trip wasn’t without drama as Brigid went off twice during Saturday.
Although it wasn’t raining as drivers set off on the first batch of three stages, the roads were still extremely slippery, and the big question was what were conditions on the next 46-mile loop of three stages. The 20-mile Corkscrew test caused-most concern, and no one really knew if it was raining on the high ground. Dawson elected to stay on intermediate tyres, Clark and Sclater staying on wets. It was Dawson who made the right decision as the stage was reasonably dry, but it didn’t make that much difference as Clark was only 11s behind. Sclater had lost a minute on the Piccadilly Tubber stage with a front tyre puncture for six of the 18 miles.
Coleman had been having his problems with a bent gearbox shaft, a legacy from the engine mounting breakage, and he had been stuck in third gear for five stages. This impediment was cured at the lunch halt, the most noticeable feature of the stop being yet another torrential downpour. “If this was a cricket match then we’d all be going home,” said an optimistic Jim Porter whilst taking refuge under the Dunlop shelter. The weather certainly was not cause for good cheer in the McCartney camp, and although Dessie wouldn’t say it in so many words, one couldn’t help but gain the impression that he was experiencing difficulties with the handling of the ex-Cahal Curley 3-litre Carrera. Co-driver Terry Harryman wasn’t saying anything either, although another co-driver had plenty to say about his driver. Brian Evans had teamed-up with Geoff Crabtree in the Petbow Generators Carrera, and Porsche driver Evans was keeping up a lively banter by telling his driver to go faster. For Crabtree’s part his comment was: “I’m having navigator trouble; Evans is playing with my stick!”
On a more serious note, Mike and Anne O’Connell were not having too good a first outing in their Burgolarm Ireland Ltd., RS1800. The fuel injection on the BDA engine was causing problems, so much so that the unit would not rev over 6000 rpm and a leaking rocker gasket which spread oil over the plugs wasn’t helping. Fellow Escort RS1800 Irish crew Ger Buckley/John Caplice were locking front brakes on their Electrical and Pump Services-sponsored car. A worse fate befell Gp1 refugees Sean and Yvonne Campbell whose debut in a Porsche Carrera ended in a minor conflagration in the boot. The spare wheel wore a hole in the petrol tank. A hand-held fire extinguisher didn’t put out the blaze, Sean resorted to the Fire Eater System, but this didn’t work, so in the end an anorak was thrown on the flames and the fire was out.
In Gp1 at the Saturday lunch halt it was the ex-EyreMaunsell 1850cc Avenger of Robin Lyons/Ian McFarland from the Magnum of Nutt/White, the latter car having broken its clutch cable. Dawson re-started 1m 45s in front of Clark, so the Ford contracted Datsun driver [?] had opened up 10s during the morning. Sclater had, however, dropped back due to his puncture and was now 1m 39s behind Clark. Dawson elected to start the re-run over the first three morning stages on A2s, feeling that they would be more suitable following the lunch-time downpour.
But Clark was soon in trouble. He broke two fan belts, and although this didn’t seem to slow him, it was estimated that he‘d run for at least ten minutes with the temperature gauge off the scale. At service back in Gort after the three stages, the problem was traced to the rubber bush in the alternator bracket having slipped and therefore putting the alternator out of alignment. There was no way of being sure that the engine had not been “cooked”, but after a lot of water was poured into the radiator, the RS1800 set off for the final visit to the three long stages.
Troubles were also coming thick and fast for the likes of Oliver Hadden/Chris McCaul who had the oil filter unscrew on their RS2000, Jim and Miriam Dougherty who ran the bearings on their Avenger after the sump plug unscrewed, and Steve Carr/Simon Cocksedge who were battling on in the lurid coloured Autofarm Porsche despite a leaking differential seal which needed a litre of oil at every service.
It wasn’t mechanical matters which trouble Eyre-Maunsell during the second run over the Corkscrew. He’d been complaining to team manager Wynne Mitchell that the Gp4 Avenger was understeering, comments which apparently were met with some scepticism. But Mitchell decided to see for himself, and on Corkscrew witnessed his driver understeer off on a corner to demolish a wall. Nothing like giving a practical demonstration to a doubting manager! Whilst talking about Chrysler, it is worth mentioning that the official team had some of the thunder stolen from it by none other than Derek McMahon who had a new Series 7 Avenger prepared to Gp1 specification.
Derek entered it in Gp2 so he could use more comfortable seats. Although co-driver Starrit Graham was happy with the added comfort, driver McMahon wasn’t so pleased and by the end of the event was complaining of bad bruising to his hips as the bucket seat wasn’t wide enough to accommodate his..umm…ample frame. It didn’t stop him from winning his class comfortably, and the car ran perfectly throughout, going better by the mile as the new engine ran itself in.
Fortunately, Clark’s engine hadn’t suffered any ill-effects due to its “cooking”, but the final visit to Gort on Saturday evening brought more serious problems. On the three final stages he lost the use of fourth gear, and again it was fortunate that there was sufficient time to put in a replacement unit before the return to Galway. As for Dawson, the Violet was running like a train, but he had a slight misfire on one stage, but this was no more than an oiled plug. But Clark had closed in again, and the difference was now 1m 25s with ten stages remaining.
Positions at Galway on Saturday night were:
1, Dawson/Saunders, 200.45;
2, Clark/Porter, 202.10;
3, Sclater/Holmes, 205.15;
4, Coleman O’Donoghue, 206.35;
5, McCartney/Harryman, 207.26;
6, Lindsay/Sandford, 209.06;
7, D Boyd/R Cole (Porsche Carrera), 210.24;
8, Eyre-Maunsell/Wilson, 210.32;
9, Unett/White, 211.22;
10 David Agnew/Robert Harkness (BMW2002), 212.12.
Coleman had overcome his earlier penalties to move steadily back up the leaderboard and take McCartney for fourth. Steady, drama-free drives by Derek Boyd in his Carrera and David Agnew in the ex-Achim Warmbold Donegal winning BMW 2002 were beginning to pay dividends. But on the deficit side, Ger Buckley had slipped down the placings after a four-minute puncture on Corkscrew.
With a l2 noon re-start on Sunday, many drivers could afford to let their hair down on Saturday evening, the Great Southern being the centre of activities with more than 1,000 people crammed into the ground floor. But those who may have raised their glasses to heaven in the hopes of a sunny final day were to be disappointed. If anything, Sunday was wetter and windier than all the other days put together.
Dawson had every right to be confident, whilst Clark had that determined look in his eye. But on the way to the first stage, Dawson had trouble selecting gears. He went straight to the service area at Athenray and had the gearbox oil topped-up and changed to full wet-weather racing tyres. But on the first stage the Datsun jammed in fourth gear, and Andy had no alternative but to return to the service area and change the gearbox before tackling two more stages prior to a time control in the town. Time was very tight, but the job was done and he carried on, somewhat resigned to the fact that he would be OTL. Still, Athenray could become jammed with traffic and the organisers could delete road penalties. Then there could be official delays at the two stages prior to the control. Yes, it was worth carrying on.
As for Clark, he had been ﬂying, and was quickly informed of, the Dawson situation! But then noone could say with any certainty if Dawson was OTL or had collected road penalties. For Clark the situation soon became clear when he was subsequently told that on stage times alone he had moved in front. But Dawson isn’t the sort of driver who gives up easily, and he was trying hard to pull back on stage times. However, lady luck was not with him and the clutch had stopped working, the clutchless gear changes meaning the engine was having to take a lot of stick. Finally on stage 30, the unit let go with a bang. It was a sad and underserved end to a noteworthy drive.
In the Chrysler camp the battle was still on between Eyre-Maunsell and Unett, the racing driver finally getting the decision, although both Avengers had battle scars at the end of the day. Eyre-Maunsell finally moulded the front of his Gp4 car to a more suitable profile, whilst Bernard dinged his Gp1/4 hybrid at the finish of stage 27, Grange, when he simply understeered off whilst on a trailing throttle slowing for the stop line. Mr. Unett was not too pleased with himself!
Almost overlooked in the dramas amongst the leaders came news of official Gp1 leaders Robin Lyons/Ian McFarland who went out in the closing stage, handing victory in the category to Dessie Nutt/John White in the Magnum. Then McCartney got back in front of Coleman whose limited slip differential stopped working.
As in previous years, Galway had been a tough, exciting challenge run in a friendly relaxed manner under the guidance of Brian Thornton, Bob Bradley and Marcus Sweeney on behalf of Galway MC. There are one or two problems, in particular the long wait between finalising the results (21.00 on Sunday) and the official prize ceremony (at 01.00 on Monday). Also there was one or two cases of “vanishing” arrows — one corner in particular caused confusion when the arrows had been either removed or knocked down – and the old problem of crowd control raised its head again. Spectators persisted in blocking off obvious escape roads, despite the fact that the club took the trouble to broadcast warnings of the dangers. But as a competitive challenge, Galway is well able to stand on its own two feet, and offer a unique challenge. Certainly those new to the rally this year would like to go back in l978.
1. R. Clark/J. Porter (Escort RS1800) ………….277.50
2. C. Sclater/M. Holmes (Vauxhall Chevette 2300) ..283.13
3. D. McCartney/T. Harryman (Porsche Carrera RS) ..287.19
4. B. Coleman/F. O’Donoghue (Lancia Stratos) . . . 289.12
5. D. Lindsay/D. Sandford (Escort RS1800) ………289.49
6. B. Unett/P. White (Chrysler Avenger) ………..290.29
7. R. Eyre-Maunsell/N. Wilson (Chrysler Avenger) ..291.46
8. D. Boyd/R. Cole (Porsche Carrera) …………..292.34
9. D. Agnew/R. Harkness (BMW 2002) …………….295.34
10 D. Nutt/J. White (Vauxhall Magnum) ………….301.51