Finishing a tremendous eleventh overall and first in the Historics on the Circuit of Ireland National Rally was only telling part of the story for Killinchy’s Stanley Orr and co-driver Stephen McAuley. In their MK Transport supported MK1 Escort Pinto, they lay an amazing fifth overall after the first three stages, leaving many WRC, Group N, and more powerful modified machines trailing behind. Indeed they were opening a few eyes with their times in the Specsavers supported car! Only when conditions dried up did the more powerful machines swallow up the little MK1. Indeed it was all reminiscent of the old classic Circuit of Ireland back in 1983, when a youthful Orr finished ninth overall in an under-powered Group A Escort RS2000. Back then one of the works teams were so dismayed that they insisted that his engine was stripped after the event, but of course the car was found to be perfectly correct.
“We have a good start this year” explained Stanley “but nothing exceptional. We weren’t expecting to be in that position at all. Everything was working well though, Stephen on the pace-notes and the new Hoosier tyres, which I could brake very late on.” They dropped to seventh after stage four, due to a timing error, penalising them fourteen seconds, which the organisers later corrected, and indeed seventh was the over-night position of the Carryduff Auto Parts/ Aziz Turkish Barber MK1 Escort.
“Saturday started well for us on the first loop, but I think in hindsight I picked too soft a tyre all day, and we dropped time. There was nothing much we could do, and on the last loop of stages I backed off to get to the finish. That’s when I made a mistake also, spinning on the penultimate stage, and that probably cost us a top ten position. It was a fabulous event though and I enjoyed it so much!”
For mechanic Stanley however he was lucky to even make the start as just three weeks before he had a sick car and a sick wife! “If it wasn’t for the boys- Cleet, Finn, Colin and Stephen I wouldn’t have started. The engine was a little sick at Bishopscourt, and needed to be sent back to England immediately to be back in time. Just after Bishopscourt however my wife Carol tripped on her shoe in the garage and hit her head off the lamp bracket on the Escort, severely damaging her skull. I had no interest in doing the rally at all then, but the boys took the engine out themselves and sent it away and Carol has since made a great recovery. It’s really thanks to their support and that of our sponsors that we even made the start ramp.”
After finishing third overall in the British Historic Rally Championship last season, this year is a more relaxed one for the County Down driver, and he is unsure of what’s next, citing the Manx and Ulster rallies as events he wants to tackle, but a trip to Killarney or Donegal hasn’t been ruled out. One thing is for sure that this team of dedicated enthusiasts had as much fun as anyone else on the Easter classic, and on a tight budget.