Don Barrow Autobiography 1969 1973 Special Stage 3
The wallpaper on the left in my dining room is covered with 1" to Mile Ordnance Survey Maps, quite a task as the maps were not all printed the same way on the paper, when you pasted the maps they would expand slightly in different ways, some would be wider, some would be longer.
On the Icebreaker rally in North Wales with Ian Harwood running as car No-1 in his MK1 Escort Twin Cam we encountered a cattle truck on a narrow road, we had to reverse a fair distance to let it pass, needless to say we dropped 2 minutes. On the following Tuesday morning I read in the Daily Express that some cattle rustling had taken place on the Saturday night and the local police were seeking info. I telephoned Ian and he recalled the incident and remembered both the colour of the truck and its registration number. So I telephoned the police with the info and low and behold they traced and arrested the rustlers!
Months later I found out that Chris was courting one of Jack's daughters ! - Whom he later married.
The organisers at the last minute decided that cars should carry side numbers and as they had made no provisions for the sale of these, folk had to resort to 'Tank Tape' and what a mess they looked.
This is an epic story.
I had purchased the map in preparation, a quick look caused me to wonder how they were going to run a rally without resorting to a lot of grass tracks, l thought a good Autocross driver might be ideal. One night, some weeks later, l was attending a private meeting with Cal Wither's when the Tour of Mull cropped up in conversation. Cal immediately picked up on my suggestion of an Autocross driver saying: "Look no further, Ian Harwood is your man, he's the current National Autocross champion." So it was all arranged.
We drove there in two cars, one to leave on the mainland, because Ian had to be back at work on the Monday morning; he had pre-arranged to 'escape' on the 06:00 hrs morning newspaper boat. Arriving in Oban on Friday afternoon l discovered that the rally car had some problems with the alternator, spotlights and wiring system. The rally car (which was Ian's Autocross car - you don't need lights for that) was a basic home built 1300GT MkI Escort fitted with a home built powerful Twin Cam engine (powerful for the time) being 1760cc. A 1600 X/F block, crank and rods with a spacer plate made to build up the height of the front timing chain cover and water pump assembly, bored out to 85mm using Twin Cam pistons in order to give the 1760cc capacity and therefore more torque. Together with some hastily fitted Cibie lights and a map magnifier socket - but they didn't work. Ian and his mechanic friend planned to work on the car early on the Saturday morning, so l was left in our hotel with nothing to do, while other crews were out recceing.
GEORGE HILL HAD BEEN THERE ALL WEEK - There were rumours that the up-and-coming team of George Hill and Keith Wood in their British Vita Racing Mini on racing tyres had been there all week! If you want to win, you have to put in the effort. Just like me sat in the Hotel !
Mull in 1969 was a curious place, the map showed just one road ringing the whole island with the odd linking road. This was long before the council started to widen and upgrade certain parts of the road system. I would describe the whole island's extremely narrow road system as one long Abergwesyn - with the odd passing place - fabulous! The biggest difference was that Abergwesyn didn't have huge drops into the Atlantic Ocean. The road network around the Glen Gorm Castle area was all loose surface.
After hanging around while Ian worked on the car; around mid-afternoon John Vipond took pity on me and asked if l would like to see a very unique cattle grid that was part of a stage in the Castle grounds. So l jumped in the back of Peter Kirk's MkI Cortina GT.
THIS GRID BITES! - Arriving at the grid, l was staggered to see how it worked, it had 30" long metal spikes facing towards the oncoming cars and sticking up at 45 degrees from both sides; as you drove onto the grid they automatically criss-crossed and closed down. Peter had tried it at 25mph and it worked, so now he was going to try it at 40mph. But no one appeared to know how fast it could be taken. My alarm was heightened because if the spikes pierced the car floor with me sitting in the back, it could be 'curtains'. In the event it worked okay, but later on someone completely trashed the grid.
That was the only bit of recceing l'd done. Returning to the hotel at about 6pm, l found Ian who announced that their efforts were successful, we had lights! Obviously I was a little apprehensive prior to the start because I had not even sat in the car before, or even experienced Ian's driving, but my consternation was soon to be proved wrong.
We were flagged away at 22:41 hrs into the darkness and straight up to SS1... with no pacenotes whatsoever; we would have to rely on my precise map reading and bend calling through my newly designed prototype Don Barrow map magnifier. To my surprise we set some fantastic times - Mishnish Lochs second fastest, Loch Tuath clean, Griban fastest time. On Loch Scridain we set fastest time again, accompanied by a lot of alarming metallic noises coming from the rear of the car. A quick look revealed that a rear Bilstein shock absorber had burst through its turret top after crashing over the huge crests - one after the other - even so Ian still drove on 'max attack'. We pressed on with another good run on Glen More by cleaning the section.
SECOND OVERALL AT PETROL - At petrol we were lying second overall, 7.0 seconds behind George and Keith (Mini) and 16.00 seconds in front of Will Sparrow and Nigel Raeburn, who were using their own pacenotes in their super Arden powered Mini. To rectify our problem Ian simply removed both the rear shock absorbers to balance the handling and to safeguard any further damage. We were certainly giving both the Minis some serious competition and no doubt they were quite worried.
After petrol we carried on as before setting some fantastic times, made all the more hair-raising with no rear shock absorbers. On the long Loch Tuah 2 section a 'not as map' junction, which showed on the map as a slight left-hand bend into a slight right at T junction', in fact turned out to be 'dead-square left which Ian managed to scramble round and a dead-square right at T junction'. BANG! We hit the bridge parapet with the left front wheel hanging in fresh air and the rear wheels off the ground. I jumped down into the water, pushed the car from underneath, and regained the road with a fair amount of seconds lost! We were indeed fortunate not to lose more than just one Cibie and the left-hand headlamp.
SPECTATORS HIDING THE ARROW - George, Will, Ian and myself were neck and neck on Selective 7 which used the roughish Whites around the aforementioned 'spikey' cattle grid area. At one point l took the obvious correct route by turning right at a junction 50-yards before the second cattle grid which was thronged with spectators. However, after half-a-mile we were confronted with an ominous looking tall metal gate blocking the road with a displayed 'NO' board. In our haste to turn round we got stuck and lost five-and-a-half minutes, which dropped us down to fourth overall at the finish.
The incorrect road was not taped off (as it should have been), neither was there a NO board at the junction. l was absolutely livid that such a major mistake on the organisers part cost us so dearly, l filed a £5 protest. At the Stewards meeting the organisers stated that there was an official arrow pointing in the correct direction. "Oh no there wasn't", l said.
I was so adamant that the Stewards and l drove to the actual junction in the daylight, low and behold, there was a straight-on arrow nailed to one of the posts of the second cattle grid, which was 50-yards beyond the junction and had obviously been shielded (unintentionally?) by the throng of spectators. However, in the cold light of the morning and the absence of the many original spectators, the Stewards reached a conclusion that the evidence proved it was sufficiently arrowed and disallowed my protest. However they failed to agree with me that if any arrowed route information was given, that it should have been located before the junction.
FINAL RESULTS - The results of the first Tour of Mull were: 1st George Hill & Keith Wood 1.36 - 2nd Will Sparrow & Nigel Raeburn 2.22 - 3rd Frank Pierson & Colin Francis 5.30 - 4th Ian Harwood & Don Barrow 7.03. Take away the 5.30 and you can see why l was absolutely furious. Furthermore l think the star driver, in his home built autocross car, was without doubt 'Ian Harwood'.
Brian Molyneux in his Tour of Mull book commented about only ever having one protest in the history of the event and the person in question was never allowed to enter again. This was not the case as l competed again the following year (1970) with Jim Bullough in a British Vita Racing experimental 3-litre Capri - what a car! - finishing 5th overall.
I competed on 15 of the 19 MN Rallies with 4 outright wins, one with John Bloxham, together with other National and International events navigating a variety of drivers that included Jim Bullough, Ian Harwood, John Bloxham and John Sprinzel. I lost out on winning the MN Championship again, by one point only !
Halfway through the year Jim's own Escort Twin Cam was re-shelled with a big winged body.
Sadly Eddie Green passed away in May 2003
A lot of the Motoring News stories can be read in Peter Robinson's excellent series of books called 'Memory Lanes' which spotlights the era of Motoring News Rallies of which Jim and I feature in the results on a lot of the events.
Quote from Peter West - OWH 322H was built by me and Tony Taylor in a disused stable at Harwood Lodge, Bolton. When you add the magical skills of Don Barrow to the mix along with our record of reliability in that era, it was bound to produce something special. It certainly did. Jim was an exceptional pilot not the 'balls out' quickest but as the results always showed they were always well up there at the finish, furthermore Jim always looked after the hardware when ever possible by keeping out of trouble.
We set off for Glasgow on the Friday morning and had to collect a Trophy from Jim Bullough at Forton Services, where Jim informed us that a guy from Withers had just collected his Twin Cam engine which was to be fitted into our rally car back at Winsford, with Scrutineering taking place in the afternoon ! Roy not expecting the car to appear before the closing time arranged with the RAC scrutineer for an early Saturday morning slot.
After a fair few anxious phone calls the car eventually arrived at 07:30 hrs, our start time was something like 08:15 hrs. The scrutineer asked Roy to knock on his hotel room door when required. At which the answer was "what number are you" to be followed by a 'Passed' scrutineering slip emerging from underneath the door !
Well on inspecting the car it was fitted with road tyres on steel rims, we were informed that the Minilites with Dunlop SP44s were in another car and would not be here for at least an hour. Needless to say we started the event on the road tyres, after 2 stages we were greeted by the guy with the Minilites. Upon fitting they found they had only brought 12 Minilite nuts, so we did 2 stages with 3 nuts on each wheel while they managed to scrounge 4 from other service crews. We were also having brake problems and were stopped on a road section, when a smart young guy in a MK1 Cortina GT pulled up enquiring what our problem was. Within a couple of minutes he produced a workshop type hydraulic jack and had the wheels off and made some adjustments and he said he would see us at the end of the next stage. He serviced us after many stages, it turned out this heroic guy was non other than Dave Campion (Who later became a big name at Pro-Drive) having a weeks holiday following the rally.
Eventually we started setting some decent stage times when on a road section just prior to the Newcastleton stage, we pulled into a fuel station. There was a team of folk checking over the car, cleaning the rally numbers, registration plates, windows etc with two other guys checking the oil and water levels etc. Halfway through the stage the engine dropped onto 3 cylinders where at the finish, Ford's, Mick Jones, who listened to the engine reckoned it was a damaged valve. So we retired and went back to Glasgow to collect Roy's car. I drove the rally car with Roy following me down the M6 where I constantly checked the fuel gauge decreasing at an alarming rate, so much so it took three full tanks of fuel to reach Knutsford. I had been racking my thoughts as to why the engine was so thirsty and it felt like the engine was on full choke. I then began to wonder whether the guy who had checked the oil level had left his oily rag in the engine compartment. So on stopping for yet another full tank of fuel, I mention my thoughts to Roy. Low and behold Roy felt into each Weber carburetor trumpet and there in number 4 was a well and truly stuck oily rag !
Roy was gutted and said "I wish you had not told me that" - On removal it ran like a Twin Cam engine should and we both very embarrassingly returned the car to Winsford with our sorry tale.
Needless to say I was annoyed with myself, but we were both overjoyed at our stroke of luck and that is when Mike Wood must have taken this picture; when the results came out we even put up Ftd on the Glen More 1, Selective, because we obviously went a faster route along the new road.
That's what being called 'Lucky Jim' does for you.
Squadra Budino Nero
(Team Black Pudding)
Jim Bullough & Don Barrow
FTW 44H - Ford ex Works MK1 Escort Twin Cam
'Super Car' - 'Super Driver' - 'Super Nav'
2nd - Torbay Rally - 1970
Running as number one, we were once again the mechanical hare for the night, warming the marshals up and losing time at each Time Control, here you can see Morley/Bryant are catching us up even though we have both dropped time on the road. Approaching the next Time Control I asked for a card with a time of 12.05, (Targa Timing Cards) (This is all hectic stuff) the marshal gave me a card and off we go, I immediately notice that the marshal (who assumed we were running on time) had given me a card with 12.01 on, Hells Bells, reverse back to the marshal quick. Morley/Bryant are now passing us, (unbeknown to us at this stage they also accepted a wrong time card) I eventually get another card and off we go again, only to find the marshal, instead of giving a new card had simply altered the card by crossing out the 12.01 and encircling the 12.05 time. Losing at least one extra minute we had to press on at a hectic pace. When the results came out we were posted as the winners with Morley/Bryant 2nd, but then the organisers noticed we both had altered time cards, I was fully aware of mine, however Morley/Bryant did not reverse back to the Time Control, so how they acquired an altered time card, is anyone's guess !! We entered into a protest, which the Stewards adamantly rejected, the regulations stated that no altered time cards would be entertained whatsoever, this I was fully aware of which prompted my earlier actions at the inept marshals Time Control. A senior official witnessed the time card fiasco and came over to us at the finish and offered to give evidence at our protest. But the Stewards rejected any third party interference and categorically stated that altered time cards were deemed as not visiting the control. Absolutely dejected and disgusted that a win had been taken away by poor marshalling, we left for home. Can you imagine our feelings when Thursdays Motoring News arrived only to find that Morley/Bryant had been declared the winners.
A touch of the Barrack Room lawyers, nod, nod, wink, wink.
No little wonder, they could never catch us !
Standing from L to R - David Stephenson, Colin Francis & Rob Lawrence.
L to R - Chris Beynon, Frank Pierson, Winners - Jimmy Bullough, Don Barrow, Nigel Raeburn & Will Sparrow.
On the 1971 RAC Rally with our car in British Vita colours and motives, we were posing for a photo for Autosport on the RAC Rally when the photographer asked, "who's sign written your car" why? we asked, it stated across the top of both front wings, 'Prepaired by British Vita Racing', how embarrassing, what a spelling mistake! So every time we got out of the car Jim made a bee line to stand in front of the mis spelled word.
Towards the end of the year I was being tempted by Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams - whom I had successfully navigated for on several previous occasions - to join DTV (unpaid of course) in pioneering the, wait for it, Vauxhall 'Firenza'.
By this time I had managed to produce some moulds on my lathe and could successfully build my Don Barrow Light - Map Magnifier and they went on sale around this era in it's grey colour form for about £5.00.
I also did a couple of rallies with David Cowan in his Escort Twin Cam, the first rally we retired in Wales with a cam belt problem, the second was also a retirement on the Devils Own Rally in the Lake District with an inversion in a narrow lane. David's dad, Les lived just North of Manchester and so that I could recognise their house he said he would leave his car parked on the roadway, "just look out for the registration number LES 777" he said, well sure enough it was there. On driving in I could see the rally car LES 7 and when I was ringing the front door bell I caught sight of a MK1 Austin Healey Sprite with a registration plate, wait for it, MRS 777. Yes you have guessed it, Les was a right comedian.
The RAC was another epic affair, having vigorously warmed up a set of racing tyres for the last 6 miles, prior to entering the Special Stage in Bradford sewage works, can you imagine my thoughts when there was a 30 minute delay on the start line! During this delay it also rained, so with a wet road on cold racers, away we sped. However as I had predicted, 'Whizzo' caused another 30 minute delay when he terminally assaulted a solid oak tree at a fair rate of knots. We were lucky not to have drowned to death in the previous day's outflow of the population of Bradford. Needless to say a near wasted year all round.
The life of Whizzo Williams in his hilarious book, written by Paul Lawrence
After you have read Whizzo's book you will probably agree that with me that - as Oscars are awarded to the most outstanding acting performances - if there ever was an annual Oscar award presented by the International Panel Beaters Association for the best performance in bending the most motor cars, Whizzo would probably have won several.
Dealer Team Vauxhall
Thank God for Roll Cages !