Classic Hot Rod Race Report
Irish Series Round Six
The first full season of Classic Hot Rod racing in the whole of Ireland drew to a close in the far North of the Emmerald Isle at Aghadowey Raceway near Coleraine. As much as the Irish Grand Prix was eagerly anticipated at Tipperary in September, this final meeting of the year was of equal status. With a perfectly balanced season of six meetings, three in the north and three in the south, the points accumulated by very the committed Irish drivers had brought the prospect of a knife edge finish to the inaugural Irish Points Championship.
With the prize of the coveted Silver Stripes at stake, it was a delight but of no little surprise to see the miles put in by the Irish contenders to compete at this meeting. Gerry Rothwell was travelling up from co. Meath, his travelling college Kevin Feeney again taking the flight in from London. Up from co Cork came Austin Fitzgerald and Trevor Cusack and from co Tipperary came Andy O’Donnell. We were delighted to also have English visitors to support this meeting in the shape of Darren Owen and Hughie Weaver. The lone local entry was Kenny Wilson, but even this sole Ulster entry had to travel a wee way from his Ballymena base to go north to Aghadowey.
Statistically, four Irish drivers were in the hunt for the Silver stripes, Rothwell, Feeney, Cusack and O’Donnell, but it was only the latter two who were most likely to battle it out. After five meetings where O’Donnell had dominated in speed and had won a brace of victories on dry Tarmac, Cusack had shown tenacity and consistency throughout the season, and had come out trumps in the wet. Every meeting the Irish drivers had competed in only resulted in a quickening of the pace as they honed their skills and perfected their car set up, and now, at the on set of the final meeting of the year, it was to be decided! Just eight points separated points leader 175 Andy O’Donnell from his nearest challenger 25 Trevor Cusack: the Aghadowey crowd were in for a keenly fought night!
Drama ensued from the commencement of the evening as in practice 156 Gerry Rothwell broke a half shaft and was feverishly changing the shaft as the minutes wore down to the start of racing proper. Crowds a plenty milled round the classic hot rods in the pits as the Hot Rod crazy Irish fans sought for photos of the cars which for many brought back memories of the famous Irish racers of the past. The stunning back and white Mk2 of Austin Fitzgerald and the Ford Anglia 100E of Gerry Rothwell came in for particular attention.
With the slick organisation of the DMC promotion, the start of heat one got underway promptly with white graders Rothwell and Fitzgerald leading the field on a rolling lap. At the drop of the green Austin got the drop on Gerry as all cars dropped the hammer in a dull roar of pintos interrupted by the high pitched yowl of Kenny Wilson’s Crossflow. On the dry Tarmac, the pace set was a fast one, only accentuated by the atmospheric shadowing of the cars as they shot through the Aghadowey floodlights. 362 still headed 156 with 25 Trevor Cusack battling neck and neck with 937 Kenny Wilson behind, split by a smooth looking 100 Kevin Feeney. From the back, English visitors Owen and Weaver headed the Irish points leader O’Donnell. Although the pace set was quick on this shorter Ulster Oval, all drivers experienced the challenge of creating or finding the space. If the line was held, tight to the inside, there was little option but to follow suit. Brave moves were initially attempted by Cusack as he tried to out pace Wilson on the outside. Englishman Hughie Weaver tried the same a few laps later, literally powering right past Owen and Wilson, speeding on the outside line to attempt a very late braking manoeuvre, only to find a complete lack of grip! Hughie threw the tail out and in spinning, the back of his resplendent Mk1 Escort crunched into the turn one plating resulting in the yellow flags being thrown. The discipline under caution was not as good as it could have been and after the remaining laps had been run it was decided to remove Fitzgerald and Wilson from the results for maintaining what was considered racing speed under caution. The win was given to 100 Kevin Fenney who was delighted to take his first ever race win in CHR ahead of English visitor 8 Darren Owen.
HEAT ONE RESULT
100, 8, 156, 25, 175.
Heat Two was all in all a far smoother affair and with the lack of interruption, white graders Rothwell and Fitzgerald repeated their early laps heat one pace, but only this time the maintained it all race long. Gerry Rothwell was this time the recipient of his career first CHR heat win and indeed the hard working man from Meath made history in Classic Hot Rods his victory was the first one ever done at the wheel of a 100E Ford. “The car has been going better and better.” Gerry reported afterwards. “Meeting on meeting I have improving the wee car’s set up and although I personally have a preference for my big home track of Rosegreen, Tipperary, my car seems to love this track at Aghadowey! She seemed to be geared right for this track, feeling tight in the bends and giving me plenty of pull out the corners. She was spot on, so she was!”
HEAT TWO RESULTS
156, 362, 25, 8, 210, 175
The final was fraught and exciting as the points accumulated up to this point still meant that either 175 Andy O’Donnell or 25 Trevor Cusack could be crowned Irish CHR Points Champion of 2015. It was all down to this race, it was going down the wire! Six car were on the starting grid for the clutch start, the absentees being 937 Kenny Wilson and 100 Kevin Feeney. A clean start was brought to bear at the drop of the green and once again Rothwell led Fitzgerald away. Points challenger Cusack was enjoying the space afforded him from his solitary blue grade starting position and he wasted no time in seeking to eat into the distance between him and the white graders. From the back Andy O’Donnell to the break ahead of Owen with Weaver bringing up the rear. One had to be quick with mid race calculations but as the laps dropped away both the pilots of 25 and 175 seemingly knew what they had to do. Rothwell still led but his pace dropped off significantly causing the pack to close in. Suddenly is was a six car train with a sudden anticipation of a jostling for position. Cusack cleanly got the gap on the inside of Fitzgerald and closed in on Rothwell. Gerry knew he must have had a problem as only two laps later he went wide allowing Trevor to take the lead and the train followed him through. It was the three way fight behind which really got the crowd going though as 8 Darren Owen looked for every conceivable gap to find a way past 175 Andy O’Donnell. Immediately out the bends the opportunity seemed to present itself, only for the door to be firmly slammed shut. In exasperation. Owen tried the outside line, only to find the critical grip disappear and in an instant Weaver was up his inside and immediately challenged the defending O’Donnell. With Irish points at stake, Andy did not want to afford to slip down the positions and was driving like a man possessed. Equally though was Weaver. Ever the man to follow through on any gaps presented, 210 got a nose up the inside of 175. Into turn one and O’Donnell sought to shut the door as the final laps disappeared but to no avail! Weaver ‘made sure’ the door stayed open and the Englishman was through, hotly followed by his fellow countryman! Almost instantaneously following this momentous move, the flag dropped on a Cusack Final victory!
25 Trevor Cusack, 210 Hughie Weaver, 8 Daz Owen, 175, 362, 156.
Feverishly, the charts were checked and the result was in. Not only had 25 Trevor Cusack won his second final of the season, but he had won the CHR Irish Series Points too – by a mere two points!
To say Trevor was delighted was an understatement and he was at pains afterwards to thank all his fans, family and sponsors for backing him all the way in this spectacularly successful inaugural all Ireland Classic Hot Rod season.
Indeed the season has been a total success. The sensible and balanced fixture list allowed for a core 100% commitment and although still a fledgling formula, the racing brought to bear this season in both the north and the south of Ireland has been excellent, reaping the appreciation of the fans who equally marvel at the high standard of presentation in this stunningly cool class. Interest a plenty was apparent at Aghadowey and a number of enquiries were made by potential new Ulster based CHR drivers to join the fray in 2016.
With the addition of new faces and names, some notable ones amongst them, next season promises even more for the Irish CHR scene. In the meantime, congratulations to 25 Trevor Cusack; the winner of the very first all Ireland points championship for the Classic Hot Rods.