Don and I were first introduced after a night rally in 1965, we both had been rallying for years with good results. Little did we know what was in store for us over the years to come. It was obvious from our first event together that we would gel as a team. A good rally crew simply consists of driver, navigator, car and a back up team, Don looked after the office side, maps, route details, timing and pace notes etc. I looked after the preparation of the car, and all that is involved. At the start of events we had little time for anything except the Rally, with one objective in mind, to win.
One other important factor, without which we would never have got started was the total support of our wives Barbara and Gill, who allowed us to go Rallying, for which we will be eternally grateful..
During the years to follow we won the BTRDA Gold Star Championship twice, the BTRDA Silver Star Championship twice, the Motoring News Championship twice, the RAC Rally Championship and our 3rd overall position on the 1968 RAC Rally clinching for Ford, the 1968 European Rally Championship.
Don's navigation was incredible - even in fog - he would count me down to a junction with 400, 300, 200, 100 - in Now. A great strategic tactician who was always spot on.
Thank you Don for the many years and thousands of Rally miles we did together, during which we never had a cross word, well almost. Also for your continued support to motor sport, which must give encouragement to all future Navigators and Co-Drivers alike.
Jim Bullough - 1927-2004
Don Barrow is of an era when the iconic Motoring News Championship was considered to be THE No.1 British Championship, attracting works teams as well as top privateers, an era when driver and navigator each contributed an equal 50 per cent to their team performance. Don won the championship in 1963 & 1964 with Reg McBride (1340cc & 1500cc Ford 105e Anglia's), and then again in 1967 & 1970 with Jimmy Bullough (1967 in a MK1 Lotus Cortina, 1970 in a MK1 Ford Escort Twin Cam).
By winning the Motoring News Championship an astonishing four times in the 1960s, Don Barrow's exploits are not only unique, but stands him out as an extraordinary giant among Motoring News rally champions. But his achievements were not just confined to the Motoring News Championship, he won numerous other top British championships, many of the top UK International rallies and was a works co-driver: one of his driver's being one of the original Flying Finn's, Timo Makinen.
Read Don's fascinating story, written exclusively by him, from Novice club rallyist to the top of International rallying. If Don can do it, so can you - all it takes is a little determination (and a lot of natural skill).
Mick Briant - 2012
When l first started rallying Jimmy Bullough and Don Barrow were one of the top crews to beat, they competed at a time when a good number of their competitors were works cars/crews.
You had to be there - as l was as a mere youngster starting out - to understand just what these earlier long distance events were like. They were flat-out road-racing from start to finish. It is against this backdrop that Don won the Motoring News Championship four times, the BTRDA Silver Star Championship three times, the RAC Rally Championship which was the forerunner of the British Rally Championship and the BTRDA Gold Star Championship.
No wonder l was in awe of him as l lined up for my first event, the Rally Bristowe.
Read about how Don went from raw Novice to the pinnacle of British and international rallying.
Mick Briant - 2012
Having taken an interest in following my cousins, John Whittaker and Geoff Whittaker, of Knutsford, on various rallies, l was persuaded to have a go myself. I first started in November 1956 on daylight events as a driver, driving one of our Plumber's vans, but finding a good navigator was the hardest part (what's changed?).
By looking over my shoulder l could see which way we wanted to go long before l was half-heartedly instructed to do so; sometimes l would simply ask him to hold the map facing me, so that l could navigate myself.
This eventually convinced me to take up the map reading side of rallying. So in October 1958 l teamed up with a local chap, George Hulme, in his 850 Renault Dauphine.
After a fair few practice runs using an Eolite map magnifier and a one-inch to the mile Ordnance Survey map to read the distances and the severity of the bends in order to feed the information to my driver, we entered our first event in January 1959 as Novices in a field of seventy five cars. Much to our surprise we won!
We followed this up a month later with another win and then another win; three wins in three months, unfortunately this elevated us into the Expert's class where we stood very little chance. However, during the following year we improved greatly - this is where l learnt my skills.
I navigated for numerous drivers in 1959 including Ron Wilson, Arthur Hobson and a lady hairdresser, Pam Haggie, all from Macclesfield. So it was imperative that l stuck to my own system of calling the bends and distances off the map. It was far easier for a driver to adapt to new instructions from me the navigator, rather than me changing to suit the driver.
Nearly all the events were what we call 'Plot-and-Bash' whereupon on leaving the start of the rally you would be given a Route Card with maybe up to eighty six-figure map references with specified compass approaches. These you had to plot as you navigated your driver.
Sometimes the first sections may have only been four minutes followed by 4, 6, 4, 6 and so on; it was vital to be able to plot quickly and accurately as well as keeping on the right road and dealing with the time controls and maybe a few closed gates: it was a very hectic scramble to keep on time.
The 7th Series of Ordnance Survey maps were pretty primitive compared with the available maps of today. Firstly you were probably navigating in unknown territory with no prior knowledge of the area or misprints on the map (of which there were always some) and most of the yellow roads of today, were white roads then, therefore, if you had a sixteen minute section you had to use a map measurer (whilst on the move) to try to find the correct combination of roads that measured eight miles.
My secret of being able to cope with such pressure in the tiny confined space of the earlier rally cars was to practice on a Friday night (the Friday night before a rally) in a darkened room sitting in a similar seat and plotting as quickly as possible using the same sized map board, so twenty four hours later l was still switched on to plotting quickly.
During 1959 George Hulme and I were always battling to beat Reg McBride and Terry McBride who became a great friends and competitors and by doing so l gradually gained more experience with every rally.
In 1960 Reg asked me if l would do a few rallies with him, needless to say l jumped at the chance.
(David Barnett was an avid supporter and marshal of the Motoring News Rally Championship events in the early 1960s and without his own transport, no matter where the start was, would turn up at every MN rally to marshal a Time Control usually out in the wilds. Dropped off by the Clerk or the Course and collected by a sweeep crew.)
I was aged 24 and Reg was 50. But what a brilliant and forceful driver he was in his Anglia 105e cars. During the 1960s you could look in the RAC Blue Book and see how many road rallies were being run on every Saturday night; there were plenty to choose from with up to sixty per weekend, up and down the country. By competing on some of these you could gain valuable map information and also mark your maps up with the white road 'goers' and 'non-goers'.
Winning the odd Restricted club rally also boosted your confidence ready for the next event, needless to say we were out rallying nearly every weekend.
So it was in 1961 the Motoring News Championship was announced and we entered nearly every rally and eventually picked up a few wins together. We finished fourth in the 1961 Motoring News Championship and also won several Restricted club rallies.
As our results improved we found that our seeding also improved and more often than not we were seeded No.1, thus being the mechanical hare for the night. This had its advantages and disadvantages, most marshal's were well prepared, bless them, but the odd one was not expecting the first car to be on time. So you had to teach the marshal where to sign, where to put the time in, always assuming they knew the time and had the timepiece with them.
Gill and l were married in 1961, it's a great credit to her that she tolerated my lifestyle of sleeping during the day on Saturdays to enable me to compete on Saturday nights
You must remember that the cars and equipment used in the early Motoring News Championship events were very basic, standard cars, cross-ply tyres, ordinary headlamps and spotlights and drum brakes which would crack and then start to lock up. Sometimes this would teach a new driver when to lift at a strategic point in order to get steerage on the front end; they were relatively small underpowered cars (compared with today) but could still be threaded down the narrow lanes pretty quickly.
The Anglia 105e was very prone to throwing fan belts; this was another of my jobs to dash out and forcefully roll on another belt until it could be re-adjusted - when time permitted - together with pouring in oil and changing punctured tyres. We didn't have service crews in those days and l never had the finance or time to go recceing in any case. I worked a 48.5 hour week including Saturday mornings and also had to attend practical night school for 2 hours, three nights a week, so you can clearly see why.
On the 1962 Mini Miglia it had fifty one closed gates to open and shut, this was the norm when landowners had livestock and no cattle grids, hence l was nearly always wearing rubber boots with my trousers tucked in my socks.
Speed was the essence both in and out of the car at all times; it was pure determined teamwork that won events. Together with good car preparation which was carried out at a local garage in Middleton.
These were 'derring do' times up against the cream of the country's rallyists. Entry lists on Motoring News Championship events featured just about every top name in the country; road rallying, particularly Motoring News events, was the place to be seen and recognised. The series, conceived by Stuart Turner, known under the `nom de plume' of 'Verglas' - the then Rallies Editor of Motoring News - quickly became the No.1 British Championship with oversubscribed entries on every round; a position it held for a good number of years.
The pseudonym `Verglas' was used by Stuart's successors, John Brown, Gerry Philips and a few more.
Events attracted up to 160 entrants, to emerge as the winners gave an enormous amount of satisfaction, particularly, as in many cases, to win would be to beat a works team. As with all rallying, then and now, there were no cash awards only a cup and a trophy. Rallies were nothing short of 200 to 250 mile grand prix's; winning against all the odds and to beat such high-class opposition was a formidable achievement.
To win was to prove to yourself that you had the right amount of determination and tenacity, especially when you didn't know how the rest of the entrants were fairing throughout the night.
In 1962 l achieved second place in the Motoring News Championship. Twelve months later Reg and l finished first in the 1963 Motoring News Championship. Among his many other achievements, l suspect Reg also holds the record for the oldest Motoring News Championship winning driver too.
Reg was a powerful driver but lacked the delicate touch on grass and ice. We were traversing some wet grassy fields between some gates with a high bank to our right when we thought a light aircraft was overtaking us because some lights rapidly appeared at the back and steered up the slightly banked field, passed us, and a Mini zoomed down back onto the track just before the next gate posts. "Bloody Hell" said Reg "Who on earth was that!?" By the time we got through the gates he'd gone. I noted the number and checked it out at the petrol halt, it was an entry of R. Clark and J. Porter! This being the start of the fantastic pairing of Roger Clark and Jim Porter.
During 1963 l also co-drove Roy Fidler in a Works Triumph TR4 (6VC) on the Tulip Rally in Holland, my first experience of European rallies where we finished third in our class winning a single silver tulip trophy.
The event finished on the Friday in Noordvjik. l flew home from the Tulip on Saturday evening, arriving in Manchester Airport at 6.45pm and quickly left home with Reg McBride at 7.45pm for the start of the Bernie Rally at Queensferry, a round of the Motoring News Championship, which we promptly won. A local gents outfitters had donated two suede jackets for the overall Bernie Rally win, very nice indeed, but unfortunately I had mine pinched the following year while recceing for BMC in Italy. All in all we had a great year.
1964 was also another fantastic year with Reg and I gaining many Motoring News Championship wins. Gill and l were also blessed with twins, Richard Donald Barrow and Vivienne Jane Barrow.
In 1964 I became part of the BMC works team and was involved in quite a lot of recceing for the Alpine, Spa-Sofia-Liege and Tour de France rallies, where l co-drove for the Finnish rally legend, Timo Makinen, in a BMC works Austin Healey 3000.
This was a completely different experience, his skill in driving these 'Churchill Tanks' over both rough terrain in the forests and tarmac was exhilarating. With Timo l competed on the very last European road-race, called the Spa-Sofia-Liege Rally and came second overall on the RAC International Rally: great memories.
Having won the Motoring News Championship twice with Reg McBride I found out at the end of 1964 that Reg was being forced to retire through ill health. So for 1965 l teamed up with Phil Simister of Macclesfield in his MkI Cortina GT where we finished third in the Motoring News Championship.
I was also involved with the Rootes Group works team, making road books for International rallies and competing in Sunbeam Tigers and Hillman Imps with Andrew Cowan, and a very hard to please Peter Harper; in fact the latter was the worst ever company l ever had to endure in a rally car.
In the Motoring News Championship I was quickly running out of good drivers as both Reg and Phil retired from competition. So in 1966 l was on the lookout for yet another good driver; it was from competing on the Jeans Gold Cup rally with Ian Hall and meeting Jim Bullough at breakfast that l teamed up with Jim in his Westune prepared, MkI Lotus Cortina.
Not only was this a luxurious car to navigate in (by 1960s standards) with more elbow room, but we made a great team and accomplished many wins. In November we had a double header with the Night Hawk on the 4/5th and the Shenstone 5/6th.
Seeded at No.1 on the first event (the Night Hawk), we were leading the field by a big margin when we started a Selective section at 03:00am over a Yorkshire moorland; this was a fast dirt track going downhill onto a slight right-hand bend, travelling around 60-70mph.
Just before the bend we seemed to hit something very hard, which launched the Lotus Cortina airborne, eventually landing among the heather, the car shot to the right skidding across the track in a zig-zag fashion, finally stopping some 150 yards away. On examination the whole left-hand side front suspension was ripped out. Some ten minutes later car No.2 passed through the Selective.
I checked the map for a phone box which was two miles away, so l set off walking to telephone Peter West, to get him to come and retrieve the car ready for the Shenstone some fourteen hours later.
As l approached the point where we left the road l could see a red flashing light next to a marshals car. The marshal had arrived too late to guard this big crevasse in the track and was aghast that we had crashed heavily. However we made the Shenstone which started in Welshpool and managed to finish fifth overall
Rounding the year off we came second in the 1966 Motoring News Championship and followed this up in 1967 with the triple crown of first Motoring News Championship, first BTRDA Silver Star and first RAC Rally Championship.
It was around this time that l was also trying to make the moulds on my lathe to produce my famous Don Barrow Map Magnifier which took a long time to complete in what little spare time l had in view of my constant rallying. I eventually marketed it a few years later
In 1968, using Jim's MkI Escort Twin Cam, we finished third in the Motoring News Championship and third overall on the RAC International Rally, in the process clinching for the Ford Motor Company, the European Rally Championship.
1969 saw no let up in my rallying whereby l finished second in that year's Motoring News Championship: I finished second by ONE single point. Jim had several weddings to attend and l managed to navigate on odd occasions, variously for Ian Harwood, John Bloxham, Cec Offley, David Cowan and John Sprinzel in order to keep the points accumulating.
Seeded at No.3 on the Plains Rally, which was run in the usual thick Welsh fog, we were going great guns. What with my style of distance and bend calling and Jim's ability to read the road and deal with the acres of mud that every Plains Rally invariably threw up, we managed to pass both cars in front. On a particular downhill section Jim suddenly said: "The transmission's gone." We coasted to a halt in a lay-by.
As a navigator under intense competition pressure, you feel as though you have steam coming out of your ears when something happens like this, you need a quick cooling down period. So l needed to get out and walk around. On opening my door it seemed to hit something - it was a Welsh chap.
He said something like: "What's the problem boyo?" I was so startled that l replied in a rather hacked-off tone: "Sorry, got to go", He then walked round to Jim's side and said to Jim: "Oy boyo, your mate's not in a very good mood." Jim replied: "Well l am not so dead chuffed myself".
On the Icebreaker Rally in North Wales with Ian Harwood running as car No.1 we encountered at about 02:30 hrs a cattle truck on a narrow road, we had to reverse a fair distance to let it pass, needless to say we dropped two minutes. On the following Tuesday morning l read an article in the Daily Express which said that some cattle rustling had taken place on the Saturday night and the local police were seeking information. I telephoned Ian and he recalled the incident and remembered both the colour of the truck and its registration number. So l phoned the police with the information, low and behold they arrested the rustlers!
During 1969 l noted on a couple of occasions the driver of an Opel Kadett who seemed to be always motoring very rapidly with great car control, the entry simply listed A. Pond, this of course was Tony Pond in his early days who became one of the best International drivers around.
To cap it all Jim and l won the 1970 Motoring News Championship giving Jim his second championship win and making me a superb four-times winner - this being my fourth Motoring News Championship in nine years: something that was never to be repeated . During that year Jim and l won both the BTRDA Gold Star and the Motoring News Championships.
Naturally, you cannot keep up such demanding performances week in and week out. It was becoming so hard to win events and Championships. But it was even harder trying to keep up the same level of commitment, of which we were expected to attain, time and time again.
1971 was a poor year; Jim was using a very experimental engine being developed by British Vita Racing for Ford, it was the beginning of the BDA engine, which gave us no end of trouble with a few non-starts and retirements. This had a devastating effect on both Jim and myself - it simply became a wasted year. Jim lost heart at the end of the year and sold the car.
So for 1972, l was tempted by another of my previous drivers Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams to join him at DTV (Dealer Team Vauxhall) to pioneer the Vauxhall Firenza. We did a few events, but reliability let us down and another wasted year, although when we went out in Whizzo's own road going Opel Manta we got an emphatic win on a round of the Mexico Championship by winning the Mini Miglia rally, this being my fifth win on the Mini Miglia.
The year finished with a big bang with Whizzo in a DTV Firenza on the RAC Rally in the Bradford Sewage Works stage; we hit a solid tree head-on and that was the end of that.
I was beginning to get very tired of navigating because l was not achieving the same results that l was used to and was seriously thinking of packing in, but because rallying had taken up so much of my life, l had no other interests to turn to.
This picture shows Peter Procter & Mike Kempley who had just skidded on some black ice at a T junction on the Whittaker Trophy rally in the early 1960s, just a quarter of a mile from the finish at the Hotel XL, Garstang. The front end of the Rapier was submerged in the river Lune, Mike however ran to the finish and clocked in and were declared the winners, until somebody pointed through the window at their car being recovered from the water.
In 1973 l navigated for Eric Jackson of 'Round the World' fame in his Works replica BDA MkI Escort on a few Motoring News Championship and Gold Star stage rallies; I was never really at home on stage events because there was not a lot of information you could give to the driver. We won the Dukeries Gold Star Rally and faired reasonably on Motoring News Championship events.
However, our next event was the Chieftan Rally, another daylight stage event which, if I am honest, l was not looking forward to. In preparing for the event, l noticed that l had written on my old 1967 `Motoring News' map for the Salisbury Plain Army Ranges: 'Caution mud on Road', at a point aptly called 'Bulbarrow'. I thought this surely must be clear by now? Therefore l ignored my markings!
We were running as car 1 on the road on this rain soaked stage, a long straight of two miles long into a long slight right (reading off the map) and over a long slight crest. As the crest came rapidly into sight, l was gripped with fear. The road was covered with about nine inches of mud from a tank manoeuvre the night before and there were two, what looked like bicycle tyre tracks, which the Clerk of the Course's car had made.
We had been totally flat up to this point in a nicely set up drift; if Eric had lifted it would have increased the drift, if he had braked it would have been far worse. I knew this was going to be a big accident. God knows what he did; l am sure it would have been the right decision.
The car launched itself airborne and started to cartwheel end-over-end, everything flew off and out of the car, and l remember saying to myself in order to keep my limbs inside the cockpit: 'Push like hell with both my hands and my feet onto the dash and bulkhead.'
It eventually landed the correct way up. Eric was in a bad way and, fortunately, a doctor who saw the accident quickly arrived; he reckoned the car had somersaulted backwards some six to seven times.
He assessed the situation as we carefully lifted Eric into the doc's car, the doc then took him to the stage finish to await an ambulance. It turned out that he had two broken ribs and two crushed vertebrae. As for the poor motor: "Nice one Eric, one of your best"
Thank God for roll cages!
I never did another rally until 1986. It has got to be said that rally-navigating has been the highlight of my life, that is, perhaps, with the exception of the business l forged around my rallying: Don Barrow Rally Navigation Equipment.
This story is just part of my rallying history; l competed in many National and International rallies and with many more drivers.
I later became involved in Classic Rallying, both competing and organising, but that's another story.
Don Barrow the 'King of the Navigators' [Eric Bailey - Motoring Correspondent - The Daily Telegraph 16/12/95] © 1999 - Copyright Don Barrow
© 1999 - Copyright Don Barrow
All Don Barrow photographic images or any re-worked images are the © Copyright - Don Barrow - 2001 - 2002 - 2003.
However, other Copyrighted images used, are the sole Copyright of their rightful owners and are used as 'Free use' images.