1967 Moonraker

Robert McBurney and Esler Crawford with their Porsche engined VW Beetle.


A re-print of a report in 1967 by Ronnie Trouton.

The Dungannon Motor Club Ltd. held their event to count towards the 1967 Ulster Rally Championship on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September 1967.  The restricted rally covered 292 miles of straightforward navigation with no ticks, on sheets 2, 4 and 5 1 inch O.S. Maps, and 25 miles of Forestry Division tracks, used as special stages, timed to the second.

The Club were very pleased to receive 69 entries, out of which 58 actually started the rally.  The joint Clerk of the Course, Gordon Taggart, was in complete charge of the organisation of the road section of the rally, while the other joint Clerk of the Course, Ronnie Trouton, was looking after the forest stages.

There were 12 Time Controls spaced out at either 30 minutes or 60 minute intervals.  A petrol halt at Newtownstewart was between Time Controls 5 and 6, after 120 miles of rallying, and here competitors were allowed 30 minutes to re-fuel.  After a further 80 miles (between Time Controls 8 and 9) there was another 30 minute petrol stop at Donemana.  Between Time Controls at these petrol halts competitors were allowed to reduce their lateness without incurring a penalty.

As well as the Time Controls, which incidentally were all “manned”, there were 50 Passage Controls, 49 of which were “manned”, and one had to be “scrubbed” because the marshal had been left at the wrong map reference.  I am sure he had a lovely time if he had his girl friend with him – rally cars can be so distracting!

Just before 10pm, Robert McBurney and Esler Crawford in the “hot” VW Beetle led the long line of clean un-shunted rally cars out of the very busy, spectator-filled Victoria Road car park in Dungannon.  They followed the Dunlop arrows, well placed (I hope) by your scribe, to Time Control 1 where the first car was due at 10:01 pm, with Derek Boyd and Beattie Crawford (1275cc Cooper S) due out one minute later at 10:02 pm.

The nature of the route to Time Control 2, which was manned by Ted Hobson (very well known for his very accurate timekeeping), must have been very complex because not a single competitor reached Ted without dropping time.  It was also notable that it was at this control that many competitors ended their rally.  Least penalised was McBurney who dropped 1 minute, followed by Dessie McCartney who dropped 2 minutes, with eventual third placed crew of Ashley Armstrong and Austin Frazer dropping 11 minutes!  No doubt Austin blames Ashley, while if you talked to Ashley I bet he might blame “Wee Austie”.

To Time Control 3 seemed to be one of Gordon Taggart’s “wee fly moves” because this time Robert McBurney dropped 2 minutes while Dessie McCartney lost only 1 minute.

At Time Control 5 in Newtownstewart, the first car was due at 01:31 and McBurney and McCartney seemed to be jointly in the lead with 3 marks lost each.  At the second petrol halt at Time Contol 8, Robert McBurney was due at 03:31 am and had lost no further time on the road.  Dessie McCartney and Terry Harryman, due at 03:33 am had failed to show up until 03:34 (and ’tis said 59seconds) so he dropped to 1 minute behind Robert overall.

When the crews began to arrive at Altmore House Hotel near Cappagh at Time Control 12 (Due time 06:31 am on Saturday morning) Robert McBurney still led Dessie McCartney by the one minute.  Another very well placed crew at this stage was the well-prepared Toyota of Neville Johnston and Ken Atkinson with 14 minuted dropped.

It was at Altmore House Hotel where a fine example of good sportsmanship was shown by McBurney / Crawford.  Earlier in the event, Esler made one of his rare mistakes and got a wrong approach to a Passage Control.  The Marshal should not have issued a Passage Control Card to a crew arriving in the wrong direction, but it is so easy to make a slight mistake in the heat of the moment, and a card was given to McBurney/Crawford, the first car to arrive.  When approached by Gordon Taggart about the incident, the boys at once admitted the wrong approach, which dropped them from first to third with (now) 18 penalty marks.  It would have been so easy for Robert and Esler to argue that they had the required number of Passage Control cards, and have avoided the penalty.  This is the type of behaviour that makes me very proud to be associated with rallying.  Another later incident involved Dessie McCartney and Terry Harryman:  in the Banagher Forest Special Stage, Dessie was unlucky to hit and kill one of the many  sheep roaming about in the forest.  As soon as the rally was over, Dessie and Terry reported the incident and took full responsibility regarding any cost.  Well done to both crews!

At the Altmore House Hotel, crews were allowed 1.5 hours of rest, get breakfast, and then allowed exactly 3 hours to cover 25 miles of tracks in Davagh, Moydamlaght, Banagher and Glenshane Forests.

Robert McBurney put up fantastic performances on the four Special Stages, with fastest time on each stage, including Banagher where his front, near-side, Michelin XAS tyre burst with 3 miles still to go, and he finished the Stage on the wheel rim.  Dessie McCartney was second fastest on each stage with a total of 57 marks lost to Robert’s 44.7 marks lost.  Ashley Armstrong and Austin Frazer performed really well on the Stages to pull up to 3rd from 4th with 59.2 marks lost to Neville Johnston’s 71.5.

We, the organisers, really enjoyed the event, and we hope all the competitors enjoyed it too.  Many cars did not finish (13 out of 28 experts) and to the crews who suffered “shunts” or breakdowns, we would like to wish you the best of luck with repairs, and hope you will have better luck in future events.

It is a long time since I can remember one of our rallies where no one had any complaints; so far I haven’t heard any about this event – so if you have any lads, please don’t let’s hear them because we all feel so pleased with our efforts it would be such a pity to disappoint us!

Many thanks to members of Omagh, Enniskillen and Newry Motor Clubs, and to the four boys on holiday from Newcastle-on-Tyne.  Without these voluntary helpers. the rally could not be run.

Results (Experts Class 1)

  • 1. Dessie McCartney / Terry Harryman,  1275 Cooper S (61.0 marks lost)
  • 2. Robert McBurney / Esler Crawford, 1584 VW Porsche (62.7 marks lost)
  • 3. Ashley Armstrong / Austin Frazer, 1293 Cooper S (81.2 marks lost)
  • 4. Neville Johnston / Ken Atkinson, 1600 Toyota (71.5 marks lost)

Non-Experts (Class 2)

  • 1. D Hamilton / R. Hunter 875 Imp
  • 2. T Murphy / H.P. Brown 1600 BMW
  • 3. J.J. Campbell / D. Gillespie 1498 Cortina GT