1983 Circuit of Ireland

Report reproduced from Carsport Magazine No11 May 1983

Brookes gets the Bubbly

Report Sammy Hamill – Photos Harold Moffett and others as noted.

One Circuit of Ireland ends and another begins. At least for Donald Grieve it does. Even before Russell Brookes had the cork out of the magnum of Moet in front of the City Hall on Easter Tuesday plans were already being formulated for 1984.

Grieve, manager of the family-owned Lilliput laundry at Dunmurry when he isn’t managing the considerable affairs of the Circuit, has his ideas largely mapped out for next year and while, by and large, he was“ happy” with the 1983 event there are areas in which he will be looking for improvement — his fifth year in Ireland’s most demanding rally post.

The siting of service areas, especially on the Friday section, caused traffic jams and major problems – problems he is all too aware of. “The trouble is spectators seem to have taken to spectating at service areas” he says.

“The answer, of course, is off-road servicing but the problem is finding suitable places to tie in with the stages we want to use. But I accept that this will have to be looked into more closely for next year.”

He hopes, too, for improvement in the road-book. “All the information was available in the road-book but I think the whole thing could be simplified and we will attempt to do that”.

“But all things considered I was fairly happy with this year’s rally and I don’t envisage any radical changes for 1984, rather I will be looking for a steady improvement in all aspects of the organisation.”

Bertie Fisher and Austin Frazer – Photo by Les Ashe

But there could in fact be major changes depending on developments outside the control of Grieve and the Ulster Automobile Club. The RIAC are due to reconsider their ban on pace notes South of the border sometime later this year and should they decide to allow pre-event practice, then pace notes will be introduced on the whole of next year’s Circuit.

“I think the majority of drivers approved the move towards pace-notes for the Friday section and if the RIAC change their stance then reconnaissance would be allowed throughout the event”

“Obviously, it would call for a complete change of format and even though next year’s route is fairly well mapped out I would be prepared to amend it to suit a pace note rally”.

Ronnie McCartney and Godfrey Crawford on their way to a fine 5th place Overall – Photo Les Ashe.

“How long could we wait? That’s hard to say but remember the 1977 Circuit was to be a pace note rally and a similar type of route could be re-introduced. If the RIAC lifted their ban before the end of this year I think the changes could be made.”

There is of course little indication which was the RIAC will sway and there is little doubt that a considerable body of opinion at grass roots level are fiercely opposed to pace notes but Grieve is all too aware that if the Circuit is to progress above its current — and ludicrous — European championship Co-efficient Two status then notes are a prerequisite.

FISA observers on this year’s rally were hinting that there would be a recommendation for promotion to Co-efficient Three, but it is top-level Four which is Grieve’s target.

Jimmy McRae ran into all sorts of troubles and was almost out of the rally, but put in a tremendous effort and brought himself back to third place overall.

“Co-efficient four is the only one which has real meaning in the European Championship and I believe the Circuit of Ireland is a Co-efficient Four event. But the rules say that all rounds at the top level must have pace notes. We have gone part of the way this year — the rest is out of our hands.”

Oddly, the move towards a full European-style pace note rally will hardly meet with the approval of the Circuit’s newest three-time winner, Brookes. He wasn’t overjoyed with the introduction of a practised Friday section and would be loathe to see any substantial change in the rally’s character.

A traditionalist at heart and a man who loves the Circuit’s unique challenge, Brookes has good cause to oppose any change. He has a record almost second to none in the event and if one had to choose an event on which he would and his three-year victory famine, then it would surely have been in Ireland.

Ernest Kidney and Peter Scott.

As the rally progressed and Bertie Fisher moved into second place behind Brookes on the run-in to Killarney, it was interesting to observe the way in which the little Englishman was regarded by Bertie and his back-up team.

It was a new experience to all of them to be holding second place so early in the event and the question of tactics inevitably arose. Fisher was, at this stage, little more than a minute behind and the question of whether to challenge for the lead or to concentrate on maintaining his own position was one which Bertie pondered on before the Sunday Run.

He had, of course. Terry Kaby close behind which meant that there was no question of easing back but at the same time it was generally accepted that the prospect of taking time off Brookes, unless he struck trouble over the Kerry stages, was slight. Russell has, after all, been fastest over the Sunday stages for the past three years.

As it happened, Kaby crashed halfway round the Sunday Run and with the pressure gone Bertie, almost subconsciously, wound down. He was some 40 seconds slower than Brookes over the Gouganbarra stage and the question of challenging was academic thereafter.

Special Stage 6 took Russell Brookes and Mike Broad through the lovely scenery of Glengariff. Photo – David Harkness.

There remained the considerable problem of traversing nearly thelength of the Mintex Rally on the way back to Belfast without making a significant error — and hoping at the same time that Brookes would run into trouble.

At that point, I believe Bertie would have been happier to see Pentti Airikkala in the lead rather than Brookes. “With Airikkala there is always the possibility he might make a mistake but somehow it’s hard to see Russell letting it slip. When he gets in front he is “very hard to shift” was how Sydney Meeke summarised the situation as he prepared to oversee the Fisher Ascona on the run for home.

Ronnie McCartney (Centre) and Godfrey Crawford receive their awards for fifth place overall.

Bertie didn’t exactly say he agreed but I’m sure that’s how he felt. In any case he had a great deal more on his mind — like hundreds of miles of wet, slippery stages to negotiate to ensure his own second place. He made it of course to promote himself to fourth place — and highest privateer in the Rothmans British Open series behind leader Brookes, Jimmy McRae and Stig Blomqvist. . . pretty select company to be keeping, but no one will question his right to be there.


The rally was led initially by the Quattro of Blomqvist and in their efforts to keep up, Henri Toivonen retired on the fourth stage with rear axle failure and McRae crashed on the sixth stage, virtually eliminating the Rothmans Opel challenge. McRae dropped to 35th place and almost immediately Blomqvist was out with broken transmission, allowing Airikkala’s Lancia Rally into the lead ahead of Brookes, Fisher and Kaby. Pentti stayed in front until the 18th stage where the Lancia parked itself on a bank for seven minutes, handing the lead to Brookes. Austin McHale, in the top six, disappeared around the same time when his Chevette broke its cam-shaft and Brendan Fagan broke his hand when his Chevette hit a bank but he continued still in the top six.

Ernest Kidney and Peter Scott (Left) get their trophies.

Airikkala ran into more trouble on Molls Gap at the start of the Sunday Run, clipping a rock and puncturing two wheels while Kaby ended his good run by launching his Chevette into a field. That left Brookes and Fisher clear of everyone else but the battle behind was catching the attention with McRae and Airikkala making up ground very fast. Ernest Kidney (Datsun) and Ronnie McCartney (Chevette) were among those being swallowed up by the charge but just before Galway, the leaderboard lost two men who had been almost ever-present. German champion Harald Demuth followed the 00-Alfasud of Trevor Templeton into a wall and, less than a mile further on, the Lotus Sunbeam of the Knox brothers hit a tree.

Airikkala and McRae were now duelling for third place but Pentti made another error, this time putting the Lancia off the road for almost an hour, leaving the Scot to take third place which he saw as little consolation for failing to win the rally for a record fourth time. So Brookes came home in the first place some four minutes in front of Fisher with McRae a long way back in third ahead of Kidney, McCartney and Group A winner Chris Lord’ in the Mazda.

Stanley Orr and Jimmy Davison “down on the farm” on the last special stage, and in ninth place overall.