1977 Readymix Moto77

David Wright and Leslie Fannin took the lead of the 1977 Shellsport National Championship with a steady run. to twelfth place overall.


This report by Paul Phelan is reproduced from Rallysport Magazine July 1977

THREE times Irish National Rally Champion Sean Campbell and his wife Yvonne at last got their Porsche Carrera to the finish of a rally – and did it in style – to win the fourth round of this year’s Shellsport Championship, the Midland Motor Club’s Readymix-sponsored Moto 77 Rally, based in Longford. After 100 stage miles on tarmac, they had fifty seconds to spare over the Escort RS18OO of Roy Cathcart and Austin Frazer, with the 3 litre Carrera of Noel Smith/Ian Turkington another minute and a half in arrears.

The rally had a huge entry of 140, with 129 starters and just 79 finishers – some retirement rate for a one day event! The top four seeds were all well there with chance of victory, led away by Dessie McCartney/Terry Harryman in the Team P.R.Reilly Carrera, while Ger Buckley/John Caplice spearheaded the Escort challenge in their Electrical and Pump Services car. Cathcart had his immaculate example at three, with the Campbells searching for that elusive first finish from fourth spot.

Roy Cathcart (seen here on the Ulster Rally) brought his beautifully prepared, ex-Roger Clark RS1800 into second place overall with Austin Frazer navigating. Photo Les Ashe.

Top Group One seeds were Bertie Fisher (RS2OOO) and Dessie Nutt (Speedy Cleaners Magnum) at seven and eight respectively, but John Coyne’s 2-litre Avenger was lurking in the background. The dark horse of the rally was one Cahal Curley (remember him?) who was down to co-drive John Scallon’s RS2OOO, but who in fact did the driving. However, more of that later.

In previous years, Moto rallies have had tremendously fast stages and this year, some steps had been taken to use more twisting stages than usual. Campbell, Cathcart, and Buckley took the first three stages, but things were close at the top – these three, plus Dessie McCartney, were all covered by just eleven seconds at this point. Then, Buckley nudged a bank on stage four, damaging his front suspension too much to continue, while McCartney began to switch himself on, taking the lead two stages later.

While all this was happening, Ron Neely was already out in his Speers Cars Mini with valve problems. The Group One battle was as hectic as expected between Fisher and Nutt, and Brendan Fagan had yet another retirement in his RS1800, this time caused by a punctured tyre wrapping itself around the
axle casing.

John Coyne was troubled by shock absorber bothers, as the shocks which he loaned Will Sparrow on the Circuit still hadn’t been replaced (hint, hint!!). Nobby Reilly’s Imp lost its clutch, but survived another five stages before the gearbox cried enough. Jim McDaid’s Magnum had fuel pump failure, forcing a halt, and Mick Dolan put his RS2000’s steering out when he tried climbing a bank.

A long service halt after six stages led the route north of Longford town, but Sean Campbell was in trouble, having to do two stages with very dodgy brakes. Fellow Porsche pilot Noel Smith was driving well, getting on top of the car after his abortive Circuit outing which didn’t last long.

But at the head of things, Dessie McCartney seemed to be in complete control, taking fastest times on three stages in a row to give himself a healthy lead of some 36s after eight stages. Roy Cathcart, like Campbell, had braking problems, but was still in contention, in a strong third place.

Sean Murphy’s 1600 pushrod Escort was another to visit the scenery, but he was able to continue. Then, on the tenth stage at Drumlish, the leader punctured, dropping two seconds to Campbell, while Dessie Nutt had a slight argument with a gatepost.

The same stage accounted for the Curley/Scallon Escort when the car suffered total ignition failure. One stage later Roy Cathcart had his Escort’s clutch adjusted but still found it difficult to get gears. Then, with five stages to go, Dessie McCartney scored a personal first — he put a Porsche on its roof!

Luckily the next car was running two minutes later as the road was completely blocked and a long convey built up while the damaged Carrera was moved out of the way. This stage was also cancelled, leaving Sean Campbell in a handy lead, which he held to the finish.

Dessie Nutt and John White (seen here in Donegal) secured the top Group One category after Bertie Fisher sustained a puncture.

Bertie Fisher lost his hard earned Group-One lead when he punctured early in along stage, and had to change it, dropping almost three minutes to Nutt, and with it all hope of a category win. In fact, Jimmy Logan began showing very strongly in Group-One towards the end, actually taking best overall on one stage, and topping the Gp1 times on the last four stages. This was enough for second place, just 36s behind the Nutt Vauxhall, and sixth overall.

Paul Phelan

Overall Classification:

  1. S. Campbell/Mrs. Y. Campbell (Porsche) 106m 02s;
  2. R. Cathcart/A. Frazer (Escort RS1800) 106m 52s;
  3. N. Smith/I. Turkington (Porsche) 108m 33s;
  4. D. Nutt/J. White (Magnum) 111m O2s;
  5. E. Kidney/J.Stewart (RS1600) 111m 06s
  6. J. Logan/P. Ervine (RS2000) 111m 38s;
  7. P. McCartan/G. Ke1|y (BMW Alpine) 111m 41s;
  8. J. Coyne/C. Farrell (Avenger) 112m 07s;
  9. B. Fisher/W. Hunter (RS2000) 113m 29s;
  10. J. Gilleece/L. Weir (RS2000) 113m 46s;
  11. D. McMahon/S. Graham (Avenger) 113m 56s;
  12. D. Wright/L. Fannin (Avenger) 114m 54s;

C1ass winners:

  • M. O’Grady/A. Doherty (Imp) 134m 54s;
  • K. Doyle/R. Campbell (Avenger) 120m 255;
  • D. Nutt/J. White (Magnum) 111m 02s;
  • J. Burns/J. French (Imp) 117m 46s;
  • J. McHale/D. O’Neill (Escort BDA 1.3) 118m 30s;
  • E. Kidney/J. Stewart.

Novice Award: J. Hamill/J. O’Reilly (Escort) 12Om 14s.