1984 Ulster Rally
This report is reproduced from Belfast Telegraph and Ireland’s Saturday Night publications by Sammy Hamill.
IT’S JUST A WALTZ FOR ROHRL
“Walter’s Waltz” or “Rohrl’s Romp”? Call it what you will, but the 1984 Rentatruck Ulster International Rally was a dashing and decisive triumph for Germany’s former double World Rally Champion.
He dominated the Rothmans British Open Championship round to such an extent that the opposition were left to admit he was in a different league – like Diego Maradonna in the Irish Cup final, or John McEnroe at the Boat Club tennis tournament.
Rohrl and Audi’s new 500 horse power, stumpy Quattro Sport had a clear cut four-minute victory within sight as he headed back towards Belfast late this afternoon, but it could have been six minutes, or even eight.
Russell Brookes in second place, and leading “the other rally”, never attempted to compete with the great German, concentrating on winning the championship battle with his GM Dealer Sport team mate, Jimmy McRae.
It was a duel in which the determined little Englishman held the upper hand almost the entire way, always a handful of seconds ahead. But such was the intensity of the struggle that McRae almost destroyed his Manta in a “flat in fifth gear” sideways slide, while Brookes momentarily relinquished his second place with a 20-second overshoot on a wet SS19.
That allowed McRae ahead but the Scot never seemed entirely happy throughout the rally, and Brookes came charging back to re-establish his position two stages later. The 1983 Circuit of Ireland winner had suffered his own braking problems early on, but such was the pace that everyone else (apart from Rohrl) had similar complaints – some of them resulting in major accidents.
However, Bertie Fisher in fourth place, a long way back, could not attribute his SS10 accident to brake problems. Instead he was caught out by changing road conditions from dry-to-wet and the Shell Gold Card Opel Manta spun away out of his control and flipped on to its roof. Damage was more cosmetic than serious and he was able to continue, still in fourth place, but his battle with GM team mates Brookes and McRae was over.
Fisher, the 1982 winner, eased back to be sure of fourth place, some two and a half minutes ahead of the Vauxhall Chevette of English privateer Cyril Bolton. In truth, the accident knocked the heart out of Fisher, another body-blow in a season which has been one disappointment after another.
On the other hand, Fisher could be said to be fortunate to be still running strongly. Others had long departed the scene, some in less dramatic circumstances. Harald Demuth, standing in for reigning World Rally Champion Hannu Mikkola, never survived the first special stage, an electrical fire eliminating his Audi Quattro.
Malcolm Wilson made it as far as the service area at Newry after SS2 but a heroic attempt to change both the front and rear differentials of his Audi failed by just a few seconds. In fact the former British Rally Champion was inside the Audi firing up the engine with the car still up on the jacks when time ran out. How he could still smile in the circumstances was amazing.
Austin McHale smashed into a tree on SS3, Stanley Orr crashed through a wall on SS5 and one stage later Alan Johnston’s Sealink Toyota made a dramatic exit head-on into a bank. None of the crews suffered injury but their cars were too badly damaged to continue.
Almost as disappointed was Circuit of Ireland winner Billy Coleman. A series of niggling problems early in the event in his Dealer Opel Team Ireland Manta saw him slump back to sixth place, and for most of the 24 hour rally that was where he stayed. In the closing stages, as Bolton worried about the rising engine temperature in his Chevette, Coleman did close in and snatch fifth place.
Behind this two, Ian Tilke appeared to have the battle for seventh place under control. His Escort had been under threat from Northern Ireland Sprint Champion Kenny McKinstry, but then the Ulsterman wiped the spotlights off his Autotune Nissan during the night and Tilke appeared to have broken clear. However, engine and axle problems for Tilke allowed McKinstry to cut the gap to 30 seconds before Tilke, with problems resolved, pulled away again.
In ninth place it was Pat Dunnion in his Chevette who was some two minutes clear of the Citroen Visa of Mark Lovell and the top Group A car. The Toyota Corolla of David Mann, held tenth, ahead of the diminutive Talbot Samba of Andrew Wood and Peter Scott. The Group A category had been led by Sweden’s Per Eklund but his Toyota retired at half distance with engine problems.
Up at the front, however, the talk was all about Rohrl. The German, it was said, was here on a testing exercise with the new Quattro. If that was the case, it proved totally successful with the Audi recording its first International victory and at the same time protecting the Open Championship lead of Mikkola who is in Argentina this weekend on World Rally Championship duties.
The Finn continues to lead the championship into the final round on the Isle of Man in September, and Audi are also back in the Manufacturers title race with a vengeance. The decision to bring Herr Rohrl to the Rentatruck Ulster Rally seems to have been an unqualified success.
- W Rohrl/C Giestdorfer (Audi Quattro) 200m 37s;
- R Brookes/M Broad (Opel Manta 400) 204m 52s;
- J McRae/M Nicholson (Opel Manta 400) 205m 08s;
- B Fisher/A Frazer (Opel Manta 400) 218m 37s;
- B Coleman/R Morgan (Opel Manta 400) 220m 50s;
- C Bolton/D Ervine (Chevette HSR) 220m 59s;
- I Tilke/I Wray (Escort RS2000) 224m 48s;
- K McKinstry/R Philpott (Nissan 240RS) 225m 46s;
- P Dunnion/N Fitzsimmons (Sunbeam Lotus) 230m 08s;
- D Mann/D West (Toyota Corolla) 233m 48s;
- A Wood/P Scott (Talbot Samba) 236m 20s.