Sunday, 6 November 2011

Circuit of Ireland Rally

One of the more interesting projects we did early on, was a total nut & bolt rebuild of a 1937 Alfa Romeo for Dan Margulies, who was a well-known vintage car dealer in London. This was a long term project and Chris had agreed a price with Dan and we used this as a fill in job, which allowed us to always have work when we were a bit slack, which was not that often and for Dan to get a professional restoration job at a reduced price.
Dan Margulies also had a Porsche 911S rally car, registered as LYV 11D, which we prepared and looked after for him. I was lead mechanic for him on a number of rallies including the Circuit of Ireland and the RAC. I remember the Circuit of Ireland for a number of reasons. The first was going through Belfast and down the Falls Road when all the troubles had just flared up in the early 1970’s; the second was that I had never drunk Guinness, which was quickly rectified at the first overnight stop in Killarney!
Fortunately I did not do any driving in the service car, as I had a team of helpers and drivers from Windsor car club undertaking all that work for me. I was chaffered from Berkshire to Ireland and from the beginning of the rally to the end, which was fortunate as I had a very sore head after my first Irish drinking session!
Our service vehicle was a Ford Cortina Estate car, which had been modified by the owners with up rated suspension and a Lotus twin cam engine fitted to it. It went very well considering the massive roof rack had twenty wheels and tyres on it and the back was full of tools, parts and support equipment.
I recall one time when I was in the back dozing off between the service breaks, there was a bit of a commotion in the car. When I became alert it was only to find our car hurtling along a single-track road with a horse and cart crossing from one field to another a few hundred yards in front of us. There was no time at all to stop so the driver drove us through a hedge and the next minute we had done a non-stop 360 degree turn in a field and back out onto the road through the gate the horse and cart had just passed through and continued on our way. We were so lucky that the hedge was just a hedge and not a dry stonewall, which was the norm at the time in southern Ireland. Anyhow we survived, made the next service interval and we all lived to tell the tale.
Unfortunately towards the end of the rally, Dan’s Porsche 911 developed a mysterious misfire and the car became un-driveable on 5 cylinders. I tried everything to fix this in between special stages but it defied logic and made no sense to me at all as everything seemed to be fine. Eventually in his frustration, Dan cooked the clutch, so we had to retire near the end. I had a great time and just loved being in a competitive situation and enjoyed travelling around Ireland albeit with limited service facilities.
In comparison it was interesting to watch the works Ford team who just had fantastic facilities compared to us private entrants and their resources were second to none. If you need to change the gearbox you just did! There were just masses of trucks and spares and they probably could have changed most of the car several times over throughout the event.
Some while later we did a lot of testing on the Ministry of Defence tank proving grounds just off the M3 near Camberley. Dan took me around the test track many times and the noise of the stones and rocks smashing into the underside of the Porsche 911 protective under shield tray were quite frightening.
Whenever I got the car back from Dan after he had been driving it, the steering wheel was always twisted and bent. I think Dan used to get quite worked up whilst driving, although to be honest I did not notice this when I was a passenger, as I was too scared to do anything but look out of the windscreen holding on for dear life! 

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