CLASSIC HOT ROD MEETING REPORT
TIPPERARY 28th and 29th October 2017
THE IRISH GRAND PRIX
It was the meeting that was never expected to take place. After the sudden and unexpected withdrawal of OMI from promoting at Tipperary raceway in the summer, the super fast oval was left in apparent limbo with inactivity threatening its very existence. However, the original club that ran things very successfully for several seasons prior to OMI stepping in, the Southern Oval Racing Association (SORA), quickly reorganised themselves and stepped back into the breach. Re-constituted as SOHRA (Southern Oval Hot Rod Association) with Tom Casey at the head, it was with surprise and delight that Tipperary Raceway was re-opening for business in October.
However, with the great news that the originally scheduled CHR GP weekend back on, the organisers and drivers were faced with a problem. Cowdenbeath had been sanctioned for an additional meeting on the 29th when it was expected that the Irish track was not to complete its 2017 season, and although the Classic Hot Rod formula had been steadily growing over recent years, the prospect of a meeting clashing with a Championship on the International rosta was something of a headache! It was decided that the Grand Prix must still be staged, however, as the major championships are supposed to be solus, the International status could no longer apply, which consequently allowed drivers to race locally if they wished with points being now eligible at both meetings. This would allow the two protagonists in the chase for the All Silver Roof, 966 Thomas Dilly and 17 Kenny Purdie to race where they so chose and support their respective tracks…
However, with the International a Series Points Championship so closely contested, and due to his unquenchable desire to win the inaugural staging of this prestigious title in the memory of his father James, Kenny Purdie and team decided to race both in Ireland AND Scotland this weekend! The dedication from #TheKingOfCarluke was proving to be of an incredible stature this season, and he he was again – going one better – announcing that he would compete at the Irish Grand Prix at Tipperary on the Saturday night before racing back up the centre of Ireland and get the return ferry to his homeland first thing on Sunday morning!
And so Kenny Purdie proved to be the unexpected but delightfully surprising eleventh addition to the all Irish field to contest the fourth annual running of the CHR Irish Grand Prix. All the top Irish drivers were present, with the south’s #IrishThoroughBred 25 Trevor Cusack, #IrishWolfHound 175 Andy O’Donnell and #GoDaddy 10 Podge McQuaid ready to meet the challenge of the super fast men from Ulster #TheDungannonCannon 966 Thomas Dilly, #TheDiggerMan 976 Clive Richardson and #YellowPeril 925 Gary O’Neill, the GP defending champion.
With the reverse grids drawn, Richardson and Purdie found themselves on row one for the first heat on the evening with McQuaid on row two and Dilly on row three. A delay set on prior to the rolling lap and Richardson was allowed a last moment decision to change the inside front tyre. Once complete the race was soon underway in the rapid onset of dusk on the last time of British and Irish Summer Time. With the drop of the green Kenny raced hard to keep with Richardson however after two laps of side by side action, the Ulsterman put a degree of dusk light between himself and the Scotsman as once again the former National Champion displayed his phenomenal pace. Behind Dilly, after finding his rhythm, was able to pass 10 Podge McQuaid and move into third and begin to loom large in Kenny’s mirrors. The CHR Big Three were the race’s expected top three and the race soon began to be about the chase for the minor places. Cusack had retired in the early laps due to gearbox problems, and with McQuaid executing a surprise spin into turn three when looking comfortable in fourth, the focus moving to O’Donnell and O’Neill’s battle with 464 #TheHammer Mike Meade waiting to pounce if either of the afore mentioned were to make a mistake. There were one or two moments of side by side action, but that’s the way heat one went to the flag with Richardson the comfortable winner.
HEAT ONE RESULT
976, 17, 966, 175, 925, 464, 195, 10, 43
With the reserve grid switching starting positions round, heat two proved to be a far more exciting race. Headed away by pole starter 175 Andy O’Donnell with 464 Mike Meade alongside, the whole race illustrated some of the best that clean fast Hot Rod racing can provide. O’Donnell on the inside line was able to maintain his advantage over Meade, however the prime mover behind was Dilly, making quick work of passing Mallow’s Trevor Cusack on the inside and moving into s threatening third position. Cusack was doing well to be on the track at all: hasty work in the pits following the conclusion of heat one had seen Trevor wedge the gearbox into drive and maintain it in the only drivable gear he had – second. Third gear round the big Tipperary oval is preferable and Cusack was therefore racing his Pinto on its screaming limit and running out of revs on the straights. He wasn’t going to give up and he fought throughout the race for every position. 99 Liam Bushe spun and his return to racing saw the leaders coming down on him like a ton of bricks and as they gathered the low grader up in the high speed momentum Dilly launched his challenge for the lead moving to the outside of O’Donnell. The sight of the stars of Classic Hot Rod racing dicing at top speed side by side is a central attraction of the formula to the fans and 175 and 966 spun on a clean fast show in spades! They carried on for three and a half laps in this fashion until Thomas was able to keep on the gas right through turns one and two, maintain the momentum out the bend and sweep into the lead down the back straight. Such a move, at speed, with limited space and on the limit of adhesion always takes guts no matter who experienced a driver is and is always a sight to behold. As Dilly moved into the prime slot, his main rivals on the night, Richardson and Purdie, continued a race long duel from the back of the grid. In their dice with one another they merged with an on going battle for third between 464 Mike Meade and 925 Gary O’Neill. Both racing on the limit, both tried the outside sweep on #TheHammer and #YellowPeril. Clive executed his favourite ‘switch back’ manouve, out foxed Purdie to move inside him on turn three and proceeded to get up the inside of 464 and 925 in the dying laps, once again displaying some phenomenal driving. With Cusack driving on his limit to hold up Podge McQuaid in a desperately close track battle that reflected the desperately close position in the Irish Points Series, up ahead, Dilly was home and dry, thus following his heat one third with a win. Arch rival Richardson had followed his heat one with with…a third! The top two were thus tied on points for the big race!
HEAT TWO RESULT
966, 175, 976, 464, 925, 17, 25, 10, 195, 99
And so the stage was set for the 2017 running of the Irish Grand Prix to determine who win earn the right to display the green and white chequered stripes on the roof of their car. Richardson won the toss and was awarded pole position on a grid that looked like this:
43 Damien Corrigan did not grid due to head gasket failure, but after the drivers has undertaken their parade lap to acknowledge the fans, the business end of proceedings got underway. It was a clean rolling start that allowed the Big Three to establish their dominance right from the off. Purdie slashed by O’Donnell and Dilly to steal second on the opening bend and keeping the throttle wide open on the Anderson Crossflow raced the outside line for a moment to challenge Richardson. #TheDiggerMan was the man in the hot seat however and was determined to stamp his dominance on the race race from the beginning in a calm efficient manner. It was 976 from 17 and 976 as expected but 175 Andy O’Donnell looked impressive and was pulling out all the stops to keep with the Big Three. Clive began to open a gap…not huge but significant and as the race progressed at lightning quick pace with cars flashing in and out of the Tipperary floodlights, began to look in control. Behind, Purdie and Dilly battled hard with Dilly constantly looking for a gap anywhere he could and Purdie equally determined to make his car as wide as possible. Behind O’Donnell and interesting scrap was taking place between the equally matched Meade, O’Neill and McQuaid but suddenly the whole race was brought to a sudden halt when back marker 99 Liam Bushe, who had been enjoying his own private battle with 195 Adrian Boyle, had tried just a margin too hard and clipped the wall going up the home straight. With the cambered nature of the Tipperary wall, the back end of the red and white Mk2 rode up and the tail flicked skyward dislocating the rear axle and ripping off the outside rear wheel! Crashing down, Bushe’s stricken race car was lucky not to be struck by the pack – the first whom to narrowly avoid him was Clive Richardson himself! With the race rapidly brought under caution, time was taken to remove car 99, however more casualties were to follow with Podge McQuaid withdrawing from the re-start and clouds of black and blue smoke rose to the night air from the exhaust of the #GoDaddy machine. The re-start had seen the field naturally close up, but any hope Kenny Purdie mace have had to steal the start on Richardson disappeared as rapidly as Dilly chose to attack! Within a lap and a half of Dilly’s robust challenge, Thomas had successfully elbowed his way through to second. Immediately behind, Andy O’Donnell missed his gear and found O’Neill and Meade sweeping past and although Andy fought hard to repast Mike, he had to give best to the Limavady based Anglia racer who was on his way to forth. Up ahead it was all over bar the shouting and in the last few laps Richardson increased his lead with Dilly satisfied to have beaten Purdie into second.
IRISH GRAND PRIX CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL RESULT
976, 966, 17, 925, 464, 175, 25, 195
With the presentations concluded drivers either made their way hastily home, as in the case ok Kenny Purdie to chase the ferry, or in the case of Clive Richardson and Gary O’Neill for work commitments. However a good social was had – as is usual for the GP weekend – at the conclusion of the nights racing with several enjoying a good gossip over a pint or two before a few hours sleep.
An early start to Sunday morning saw the remaining drivers make fit their old race cars for racing. Some, like Mike Meade and Damien Corrigan were there on a wing and a prayer with sick engines bandaged up, however 966 Thomas Dilly was back and hoping to go the whole way and achieve a critical maximum if he was going to stand a chance of remaining in the hunt for the a Silver Roof.
Just seven took to the track for the first race of the afternoon and Thomas took the expected win with ease clear of McQuaid (who was racing with the engine transplanted from Liam Bushe’s car) and O’Donnell. However even Thomas’s engine sounded a death rattle as he executed his victory donuts and it was of little surprise to see #TheCharger soon on the trailer. Dilly to his credit remained to continue to chat and socialise with the southern drivers for the remainder of the day, and following two unfortunately processional four car sprints to make up heat two and the final, Dilly was there to hand out the trophies to the winner Podge McQuaid.
A quieter end to an important weekend and drivers were left to tote up their points and wait confirmation from the grader – yours truly – as I headed back to Cork City Airport, thanks to host Austin Fitzgerald, and a late evening flight back to Liverpool.