1984 Inter-Association Autotest

There was still a great deal of dash and style about Paddy Hopkirk, even if it was more than 20 years since he last took part in an autotest.

Report reproduced from Belfast Telegraph 29 September 1984
By Sammy Hamill

Northern Ireland’s champion line-up at the British Inter-Association and International Autotest at Larne. The “A” team of Noel Cochrane, Lee Lucas, Colin Earney and Robert Dickson carried off the major prizes, including the top individual award for Dickson.

Larne Motor Club may seek Autotest Breather

NORTHERN Ireland’s victory in the British Inter-association Autotest Championship entitles the province to play host to the series again in 1985.  But in the next few weeks, the Larne club, who instigated the return of the championship to Ulster and have been superb hosts for the past three years, will take stock of the situation and may decide the time is right to take a breather.

Anything you can do, I can do….just as well. Clerk of the Course William Rutherford trying out the course before the start of the second series of tests. He is the reigning N.I. Champion.

“The championship has been here for three years in a row and perhaps it would be a good idea now to let one of the cross-channel associations take over again”, says clerk of the course William Rutherford. “But whatever we decide, you can take it as certain we will be continuing with our own international events – and hopefully again with television coverage. The reaction all round has been excellent and the BBC themselves seemed to be
happy with the programme.”

George Windrum (Left) and Ken Shields with the commemorative plaque which was presented to the N.I. drivers who had competed in the Ken Wharton Memorial Autotest over the past 25 years.

It is the international event, won of course by Northern Ireland, which began the return of major autotesting to Ulster and over the past couple of years it has risen up to rival the Ken Wharton Trophy in importance if not prestige. Indeed it was England’s Malcolm Livingstone who pointed out that, for him, the Larne event was No. 1, a view supported by new RAC champion John Underwood.

Perhaps Robert Woodside and Paddy Hopkirk were recalling one or two memories when caught in deep conversation. Two men who have made an indelible mark on Ulster motorsport.

“I particularly enjoy this event – and not just for the hospitality. It has a great atmosphere and is run by people who really understand autotests,” said John, a man who spent many weekends on Irish driving tests developing his skills.

The Ken Wharton Trophy is the next target for the Northern Ireland team who find themselves in the almost embarrassing position of having to leave winner Robert Dickson to make way for current champion Rutherford.

One of the stars of Northern Ireland’s virtual “clean-sweep” at Larne was Colin Earney, competing in his first International series.

As the winner of the NI series, William is automatically selected for the Wharton team — as indeed he was for his own event.  However, he made it clear early in the season that he would continue in his role of chief organiser whatever happened in the championship.

Dickson will also go to England as a member of the Northern Ireland B team and having won the individual titles in the two international meetings at Dublin and Larne, will have his sights set on a hat-trick.

Coming into such a successful team puts extra pressure on Rutherford — pressure that he is fully aware of. “The Wharton Trophy is a team competition and I will be driving 100 pc for the team,” he says.  “If I can help the team to victory and Robert wins the individual section that will be a double bonus”.

Autotest driving isn’t just a question of skills behind the wheel. It tests the memory too, and Harold Hagan needed his hands to figure it out.