This report by Paul Phelan is reproduced from Motorweek, October 25, 1969.
Last year, the RTÉ Johnson rally was an RIAC Championship qualifier, but with the number of championship rallies reduced to 7, it resumed its more usual style of a gentle, 80 miles outing.
The route chosen could have been improved upon in places as it touched one well-known black spot near Prosperous shortly after the start. Crews had to visit 15 time points along with 9 route checks and 11 via points. Strangely, all the route checks were of the “treasure hunt” type, with road signs etc. to be noted. A couple were rather ambiguous and were missed by many.
The last three sections before the finish tightened up considerably, causing most people to lose time. Only Frank Fennel/Kenny Johnson (Sunbeam Stiletto) and Gabriel Grier/Richard Bruton (Opel Kadett) remained unpenalised for lateness, but Grier had missed a route check, costing him 30 marks. Nobby Reilly/Frank O’Donoghue where one minute down, as were P J. Dolan/Eamonn Cotter (Cooper S), although the latter had also missed a route check.
Jimmy Byrne/Ray Inglis (NSU-TTS) took third place (2 minutes), and with it £15 (Kentread Award). The novice class was won by Mrs Jackie Horan/Billy O’Neill (Mini) on 4 minutes, from Audrey Maharry/Olive Hayes (Sunbeam Stiletto), 5 minutes, and Ken McAllister/Michael Miller (Mini), also on 5 minutes.
CAVAN BREFFNI: A SMALL ENTRY
A disappointingly small entry of 19 turned up for what was a very enjoyable course. From the start at Jackson’s garage, Cavan, the route led towards the North-West, near Belturbet, but where the field ran into the thick fog, reducing speeds to a crawl.
Running at number one, Gerry Forde/Paul Phelan (Escort, TC) dropped two minutes at Time Point 7, leaving only John Bridges/Brendan Doyle (Cooper S) clean. Time Point 9, at the start of special stage 1 in a newly discovered forest at Killashandra, saw the leaders drop 2, as did Forde/Phelan, compared to 5 for Ray McKinley/John Quirke, and 10 for Tom McNally/Derek Johnston, both in Cooper S types.
McNally was quickest on the 3.4 mile special stage in 6-00, followed by Ford (6-05) and Bridges (6-25).
More navigation led the field to Special Stage 2 near Ballinamore. Bridges/Doyle went badly astray here costing them 13 at Time Point 16. However, they were best on the stage in 8-30, from Ford (8-40) and McKinley (9-25). Only these three cars attempted the stage as the rest were cutting rally route in order to avoid the dreaded maximum lateness.
Harry Cathcart/Geoffrey Morrison (Cooper S) had retired fairly early on, cause unknown. (Geoff had been joking at the start that he hadn’t been on half-inch maps for quite some time!).
At the petrol halt at Fenagh, Forde/Phelan were the leaders (8 minutes lost on the road +105 seconds on special stages), ahead of Bridges/Doyle (16+115). McKinley/Quirke had been off the road on Special Stage 1 costing them over six minutes, and third place. A few miles after the restart, the leaders had an excursion which caused instant retirement. This left only eight cars still running, of whom four were over maximum lateness at the finish at Oldcastle.
John Bridges/Brendan Doyle were easy winners (161 marks) from McKinley/Quirke (748), McNally/Johnston (838), and lastly, Audrey Maharry/Frank O’Donoghue (Sunbeam Stiletto), 872.
The rally certainly deserved more support than it received as a lot of hard work had gone into a good route.