BRILLIANT sunshine, spectators in their thousands, and a top class entry of 50 Crews were the recipe for the 1984 Burmah Rally, which took place in Lurgan Public Park. It was a recipe that Bertie Law seemed to enjoy fully, for the Ulsterman achieved a fine victory in his 2.6 litre Vauxhall Chevette HSR. Second place had to be settled on a tie break, which went in favour of the Sprint driver Fred Crawford in an Escort RS, from Bertie Fisher in his Manta 400.
The rally was taking place for the fifth time in its present single venue format, and as usual, the entry was by invitation only, with sponsorship coming from Burmah Castrol UK and Craigavon Borough Council.
The local challenge was headed by the 1983 winner, Kenny McKinstry, who had hired an Autotune Nissan 240RS for his first rally in something other than a Ford. Bertie Fisher, who has won the rally on two previous occasions, was present in the Shell Gold Card Opel Manta 400 accompanied by Brian Patterson.
The former Hot Rod World champion, Davy Evans, was having his second ever rally in the Clubman‘s specification Autotune Nissan, and Alan Johnstone had his Sealink Toyota Corolla with Konrad Bartelski as co-driver. There were several visitors joining the strong local line up, including Bob Fowden (Rover), Cyril Bolton (Chevette), Graham Hollis (Corry), and Ian Corkill (Escort).
On stage one McKinstry and Bertie Law in the ex-McRae Chevette were on top of the leaderboard on 2m 16s, with the Sprint expert Fred Crawford on 2m 17s and Fisher on 2m 18s. Disaster struck McKinstry on SS2 when he had a brush with one of the park‘s many trees, damaging a front wheel on the big Nissan. He lost half a minute and fell from contention, but tried hard for the rest of the afternoon and ended up 15th overall.
Law found the going just perfect for his nimble GM product, setting a 2m 13s to Fisher’s 2m 16s. Stanley Orr (who had made a frantic dash to Scotland the previous afternoon to acquire a Chevette) was on 2m 17s, while Crawford was on 2m 18s, and was joined by two young drivers from further down the ﬁeld, David Greer in his Mazda-engined Escort, and Paul Muldrew in a more conventionally powered Escort.
The joint leaders on stage three were Fisher and Law on 1m 55s with Crawford and Hugh O’Brien in close attendance; Hugh had borrowed the engine from Ken McKinstry’s damaged Escort at the last moment, thus enabling him to take part in an event he enjoys very much. So at the halfway stage it was Law on 6m 24s, with Fisher on 6m 29s, and Crawford with plenty to do, on 6m 31s.
Retirements at this point in the proceedings included the past Ulster Rally winner, Dessie McCartney in his Escort BDA, Raymond Knox in an Autotune Nissan, Graham Hollis, whose Corry had electrical problems, and the Escort of John Gileece.
Crawford was firmly in control of stage four, taking 2m 21s in his immaculate Escort RS, while both McKinstry and Law were three seconds adrift, with the amazing David Greer on 2m 25s. By the end of stage five Law had a relatively comfortable six seconds over the opposition after taking fastest time on this one (2m 13s), with Fisher and Crawford next up on 2m 15s, and McKinstry on 2m 16s.
Law had the event firmly within his grasp and was not to be dislodged on the final stage, when Fisher and Crawford headed the table on 2m 05s. As a result, second place had to be decided on a rather complicated count-back system, the verdict going to Crawford. Fourth place went to Greer, fifth to Sean Haveron in an ex-Vatanen Escort, and sixth to Stanley Orr, a fair reward for all his rushing around to do the event. In seventh place was the highest placed visitor, Cyril Bolton, in the Presspart Chevette HSR and in eighth place was a delighted Paul Muldrew. Ninth was Alan Johnston, and completing the top 10 was Ken Colbert in his Lotus Sunbeam.
The eyes of the masses of spectators were firmly focused on the battle at the top of the ﬁeld, but further down there were several very good class struggles: Class A went to Paul Muldrew with Ken Irwin in his Sunbeam only one second behind. Robert Copeland won Class B in his Action Cancer RS2000. Robert came out of retirement for the event and in the process showed that he had lost none of his magic, earning some £700 for charity on the way. Class C was the property of Law, from Fisher and Greer. Class D went to Fred Crawford, Class E to Alan Johnston who had a tremendous battle all day with Sam McKinstry, and gave his co-driver Konrad Bartelski a third rally finish.
Davy Francis drove the works Clan, and although he finished well down the ﬁeld, he was delighted with the little car. It was by far the best Burmah to date. and it must have given the organisers a lot of heart for the future. I.L.
- B.Law/B.Campbell (Chevette HSR) 13m 08s;
- F.Crawford/D.Todd (Escort RS 2.2) 13m 12s;
- B.Fisher/B.Patterson (Manta 400) 13m 12s;
- D.Greer/M.Crowe (Escort) 13m 38s;
- S.Haveron/S.Murphy (Escort RS) 13m 40s;
- S.Orr/J.Davison (Chevette HSR) 13m 42s;
- C.Bolton/D.Ervine (Chevette HSR) 13m 43s;
- P.Muldrew/T.Agnew (Escort) 13m 45s;
- A.Johnston/K.Bartelski (Corolla) 13m 45s;
- K.Colbert/G.Espey (Lotus Sunbeam) 13m 46s.