Pen Portrait of Adrian Boyd – “Young enough to win for 9 more years”
This portrait was painted by Dr Beatty Crawford for MotorWeek 20 December 1969.
“Carnmoney farmer wins Circuit of Ireland at 19” – “Youngest driver ever wins Circuit of Ireland” – were the sort of headlines which heralded Adrian Boyd and Maurice Johnston’s win in the 1960 Circuit of Ireland at the wheel of an Austin Healy Sprite.
It seems impossible that almost nine years have passed since Adrian surprised the motoring World. It is hard to realise that he is still young enough to win again in another nine years.
Adrian’s motoring career started very early in life. Like many other well known drivers he was throwing all sorts of vehicles around many years before he got his licence. He was fortunate that he had, at hand, many types of machinery with which to practice, as his father is in the quarry and road contracting business.
His first major competition was in 1959 when he and school friend Maurice Johnston decided to have a go at the Circuit of Ireland which in those days was composed of driving tests and tricky navigation. They drove a Ford Anglia but had gearbox trouble and had only one gear at the finish.
Adrian’s appetite was whetted and with parental help, he bought an Austin Healy Sprite. He and Maurice competed in every driving test and navigation event they could find and soon began making a name for themselves. However it was his win in the Circuit which really made Adrian’s name.
He nearly didn’t start since, with about a week to go, he put the Sprite on its side in fog. However, all was not lost and with the aid of a sledgehammer, the car was repaired and they went on to win against competition from such people as Pat Moss.
Since then Adrian has competed in every Circuit, most of the top Irish Rallies and in many continental events. He has competed with success in most forms of motorsport and has even acted as co-driver.
Following his Circuit win he was loaned a Daimler SP250 to do the ‘61 Circuit and was lying in 6th position when he retired after the differential carrier broke.
He had started racing his Sprite in ‘61 and for the ‘62 season he bought another Sprite and fitted a Sebring body. This was the now-famous 505 BZ. He drove this car in the Circuit and was in the lead when, along with Ian Woodside and Esler Crawford he was penalised 100 marks for clocking in a few seconds early at a time control at the Tim Healy pass. This fact was brought to the notice of the officials by a then well-known English competitor!
For the ‘63 racing season he acquired a Marcos. This was the worst decision of his competition career as the car gave endless trouble. It was the dry sump system which was the main culprit but there were other causes. When the steering gave way while passing through Dunboyne village during the Leinster Trophy races, the car Was near to becoming a bundle of firewood; however he still feels that this car described in “Motorweek” a few weeks ago was one of the best handling cars he has ever driven.
For the 1963 Circuit, the Rootes competition“ department took an active interest in Adrian due to enthusiastic reports from their Irish scout – Charles Eyre-Maunsell. They sent over a Rapier and with only the final night to go Adrian and Maurice were in the lead at Sligo. However they were caught out by tricky navigation in County Monaghan and dropped to third place leaving Ian Woodside and Esler Crawford to go on and win.
Rootes persevered and offered him a drive in the Alpine rally. He accepted, only to find that he was expected to co-drive with Peter Proctor. From the start in Marseilles, Adrian, a bad passenger (unless with someone he knows well and in whom he has the fullest confidence) was continually sick. He was somewhat relieved when their rally ended after several hours when they left the road.
This was his only attempt at the Alpine but it is the rally which he would most like to compete in again, since it is most like the Circuit, his favourite event both in its composition and terrain.
On returning from France he co-drove again, this time with Ian Woodside in an MG Midget in the Scottish Rally. He sat through this perfectly and they ended up in 5th position.
For the ‘64 Circuit, Rootes again sent over a car, this time a Humber Super Snipe. This may sound a most cumbersome car in which to rally over Irish roads, however it was the most comfortable car in which one could hope to rally and Adrian was well in the lead by the time the field reached Killarney.
Not only was he leading by virtue of being fastest in his class, but also on scratch times. The only person approaching his times was brother Derek in a Cooper navigated by John Davenport. Driving tests had by this stage been dropped and special stages had taken their place. However, disaster once again befell Adrian when the big car slid off on one of County Kerry’s narrow and muddy roads.
We lost 50 minutes trying to rebuild the side of the road in order to get the car on the road again and fell to 16th place. By this stage I had taken over in the hot seat as Maurice had begun to suffer from the navigator’s nightmare – car sickness. This was the year in which nine cars, including Ronnie McCartney’s winning Cooper, cracked their sumps during a special stage. We didn’t even notice the bump.
Alan Fraser, who at this stage was running a rally team, was so impressed by Adrian’s driving that he offered him a drive at the wheel of a Rapier on the Scottish rally. At the end of the first day Adrian was in the lead but during the night Roger Clark in a Cortina GT took over. They had a really long, battle, Roger getting the verdict by a slender margin. Fraser was again impressed and invited Adrian to join his team alongside Bill Bengry and John La Trobe.
The first event with the team was the Gulf London, which in those days was an all night navigational event through Wales. A new Humber Sceptre was given to Adrian in order to get it sorted for the Spa-Sophia-Liege Rally, but in Wales Adrian took a liking to a Welsh mountain and went off the road on a selective section.
That Spa-Sofia-Liege was our next event. This was the last ‘Marathon de la Route’ to be held on open roads and it was won by Rauno Aaltonen and Tony Ambrose in a Healey 3000.
We were again out of luck when the gearbox and over-drive seized due to a leaking oil seal. Frazer had the compensation of having two out of the eleven finishers, both La Trobe and Bengry getting through.
The Sceptre was sorted for the RAC rally and this time our luck held and we finished fourth in our class behind the three works Cortina GTs.
When Alan Fraser sent one of his Rapiers for the Starlight rally we thought we were in with a good chance. Mechanical failure struck again when a petrol pipe fractured and we lost a lot of time.
The ‘65 Circuit was a turning point in Adrian’s attitude to driving. Alan Fraser sent over a Sunbeam Tiger. Unfortunately it was a left hand drive export model. This made it rather difficult to drive fast and Adrian wasn’t helped by the fact that he didn’t sit in it until two days before the Circuit. This was the usual state of affairs before a rally, cars never seem to be ready until the last minute.
The big Tiger had tons of power but was hard to tame. This was the year of the Esso Tiger campaign, and we really had a Tiger in our tank! Its roadholding, particularly over bumps, wasn’t the best and when we hit a puddle on the Sally Gap stage we aquaplaned off the road at 70 mph into a large rock.
The Tiger’s teeth were severely blunted! It was this accident which changed Adrian from an extremely fast but sometimes hairy driver to one who is not only very fast but very smooth.
After this Fraser lost interest in rallying and took up racing Imps with a great deal of success. This left Adrian without a car so he decided to build a rally Anglia using the engine from the Marcos, (for local events). This was an extremely successful car and on its first outing it won the Mid Antrim Motor Club’s Northern Lights rally and followed this with victories in the March hare, Queens Winter and Larne Starlight rallies.
As the Anglia wasn’t homologated for the Circuit of Ireland Adrian had to find another car and he bought Bertie McElhinney’s Cortina GT. This was one of only two Cortinas which had been prepared in the Ford Competitions Department at Boreham for private owners. It was tremendously well prepared but not fantastically fast. With it Adrian finished 3rd in the ’66 Circuit, behind Tony Fall in a works Cooper and Brian Melia in a BRM engined works Cortina.
We competed in a number of local events with this car quite successfully but the engine eventually blew up quite comprehensively and it was retired to become the family hack.
Stuart Turner, impressed by Adrian’s driving promised him a Cooper for the next year’S Circuit and this duly arrived, but meanwhile Adrian returned to his first love, driving tests, in a serious way and driving a Sprite tied with Lee Lucas, in the Grasshopper Special, for the Ulster Driving Test Championship. He was picked to represent Ulster in the TV Trophy tests and won his class. Along with Robert Woodside and Ronnie McCartney he helped Ulster to yet another win.
The promised Cooper arrived two days before the Circuit. This was a group 2 car and had been used by Harry Kallstrom in the RAC rally. It was tremendously well built and gave Adrian fantastic results with two seconds and a third in the Circuit and a win in the Ulster Autocross Championship.
We finished second behind Paddy in ‘67, 2nd again the following year behind Roger Clark, and this year with the car in group VI form, third behind Roger and Paddy.
In ’68 he competed in the Monte Carlo rally in an Imp, taking over as a last minute replacement for Robin Eyre—Maunsell who crashed and broke his wrist while practising for the event. He had the satisfaction of finishing in his first Monte, although in a low position, due partial1y to losing time in fog and suffering from a broken oil pipe.
Adrian has earned the reputation of being a “one rally a year” driver; It is ironic that this year when he competed in more rallies than ever, he has suffered nothing but a succession of bad luck.
He slid off the road on Orra Lodge during the Texaco, and retired with a broken subframe in the Scottish, in the Cooper on both occasions. He decided to buy an Escort and when John L’Amie’s car came up for sale he bought this without an engine. He decided to do the Portuguese TAP rally with Robert McBurney and was fortunate to get the loan of an 1822cc engine from Ford.
The bad luck continued and, had it not been for Robert McBurney’s mechanical feats and Robin Eyre-Maunsell leading them for a night and a half when their alternator packed up and lights failed they would never have reached Lisbon. When they had at last most of the mechanical troubles repaired, they ran out of time after getting lost in fog.
He had the consolation of winning the Erne Safari but there was more bad luck in store, this time in the RAC when co-driving with Robert McBurney in the BMW2002. A rear trailing arm broke after seventeen stages and they had to retire.
What of the future? The next event on the cards is the “Circuit” using the Escort. He is being allowed to keep the big engine until then. Adrian is now keen to get into European rallying and try to get a full works drive. At last he realises that on tar he is as quick as anyone, and this was brought home to him on the Circuit this year when he caught and passed Tom Trana on Sally Gap and was as quick as Timo Makinen.
Unfortunately until now he has lacked confidence but if he applies himself in trying to make the break into continental rallying, who knows what may happen.
The main problem of competing on the continent is one of finance. He had been lucky this year in receiving financial support from the Newsletter. If sponsorship is forthcoming next season we may hear even more of Adrian Boyd’s name.