CLASSIC HOT ROD MEETING REPORT.
The Weston Electrical IRISH GRAND PRIX & Irish Series Round Five.
The luck of the Irish! The weather was almost a carbon copy of the conditions last year’s Grand Prix was staged in. It incredibly remained sunny and dry when the expectation of the weather forecast had been for anything but! Yet, somehow, the micro climate of the Tipperary mountains allowed for breezy conditions where the sudden shower or the threat of persistent rain was simply blown away. Clearly Mother Nature is a Classic Hot Rod fan!
And yet the lone traveller from England this year, The Grandaddy of CHR racing himself, Mr Hugh Weaver, was a little disappointed. He was hoping for the appearance of some fellow Englishmen at this event, in a similar manner as they had attended in 2014 and 2015, and also, Weaver was hoping for really heavy rain! “Still to try this car in really wet conditions,” the Hailsham man admitted, “would really like to see how she goes in the wet.” It wasn’t to be for #TheMusicMan, but as it happened, the 210 driver, would still have more than a handful of a car to deal with on the night.
In the absence of the Sassenachs, the Scots once again put in a good percentage of their drivers with 84 John McFarlane accompanying regular Irish visitor 12 #TravellingTrevTheRev Trevor Harris. Harris has really settled down into the friendly social aspect to racing on CHR scene becoming a close friend of Classic Hot Rod pioneer Gerry Rothwell. Aside from his regular trips to England, Trevor was making this his third visit to the Emerald Isle, and enjoys it all the more every time he visits. McFarlane in contrast, having recently purchased the Chevette racer from Graham McCabe and ruefully nicknamed #JockMcFastlane (or even #McBuslane depending on just how quick he goes!) was making not only his Irish debut but he competitive racing debut, thus repeating what 162 Keith Chesher did last year. Both McCabe and Chesher were present also but in a supporting and indeed what proved to be a crucial mechanising capacity throughout the evening.
Coming down from Northern Ireland came the strongest challenge of all from the raiding Ulstermen of 981 Jeff #JR Richardson, 925 #TheYellowPeril Gary O’Neill and #TheDungannonCannon 966 Thomas Dilly. Dilly, the season long leader of the 2016 Irish Points Series, was the clear pre-meeting favourite, especially with the surprise non appearance of National Champion 981 Clive Richardson. Jeff’s elder brother had booked in, but at the eleventh hour was called away on crucial business abroad. Jeff himself was coming on in performance after a number of outing in his former Dave Owen / Jackie Harris Mk2, but the Northern Irishman with the bright yellow Anglia, 925 Gary O’Neill had been very quick last time out at Aghadowey…
The regulars from the Republic were present headed by last year’s Points Champion #TheIrishThoroughBred 25 Trevor Cusack. #TheIrishWolfhound 175 Andy O’Donnell would always be a threat and 10 #GoDaddy Podge McQuaid had also been quick at his home track. It was good to see #TheShamrock 100 Kevin Feeney make his first appearance of the year, and with #TheOmen 43 Damien Corrigan in his Petty homage Mk1 and novice #MrMint 195 Adrian Boyle in his Kermit Green Anglia, the scene was set for an excellent twelve car championship meeting.
Despite the attendance being down on would could have been expected, the new for 2016 Promotion at Tipperary, Oval Motorsport International, headed by former racer Damien Brennan, was far from disappointed. Indeed, Brennan, an enthusiastic ‘people person’ at the best of times, was literally brimming with joy at this his first running of this now established popular championship meeting in Ireland. Personally taking time to meet and greet all drivers as they attended, Brennan could be seen literally everywhere throughout the course of the meeting, multi tasking and co-ordinating – the essence of hands on promoting. Tipperary Raceway looked spic and span ready for the CHR GP. The grass was cut, the race wall painted, and the staff, Trevor McNamara, Paraic McCormack and a whole host of others, were ready to put on a slickly run meeting.
Naturally all twelve racers were out of heat one in bright late afternoon sunshine. Damien Corrigan had only just got into his racing stride from his pole position start when the race was brought rapidly to a halt. At the tail of the field, 966 Thomas Dilly and 210 Hugh Weaver had made accidental contact in their eagerness to get an early break. Dilly made contact with Weaver’s rear quarter panel causing #TheMusicMan to vear fence ward on the back straight and ride the fence quite dramatically! Weaver spun to a sudden halt with clear suspension and steering damage and as his stricken Escort was removed to the infield a complete restart was declared.
Despite damage to his near side front wing, Dilly was ready for the re-start which Corrigan lead confidently away with Scotland’s Trevor Harris in close attendance. Corrigan held sway in the early laps ahead of Harris, Richardson, McQuaid and O’Neill, but #TheYellowPeril looked strong and with his Anglia having the speed and handling he swept down the outside of 981 and inside of 10. Still Corrigan led but was immediately under pressure from Jeff Richardson with Gary O’Neill now right behind them in third place. The driver of the Richard Petty homage racer in 43 had to give way to Jeff Richardson and two laps later it was all change again as the leaders came to lap the novice backmarkers 195 Adrian Boyle and 84 John McFarlane. O’Neill seized his opportunity as Richardson was momentarily bulked by the slower cars and shot by on the outside. Gary O’Neill now led ahead of Jeff Richardson and the fast closing star man Thomas Dilly. Drama ensued again as 966 battled with 981, and in what could be best described as a 50/50 incident, Dilly went for an inside gap which he thought was there and Richardson clearly thought wasn’t! The slightest contact at such speed resulted in Richardson spinning and taken around by Dilly. The race continued regardless with 925 now clear from a recovering 966 ahead of 25, 175, 10 and 43. In the remaining laps things changed again with Damien Corrigan cooking his engine and parking up in a cloud of steam on turn four. The race suspension allowed #TheOmen to be extracated but on the final re-start any thoughts Dilly may have had of stealing the win from O’Neill were soon quashed by the pace of #TheYellowPeril. O’Neill had done all the right things to take the first win of the night.
HEAT ONE RESULT
925, 966, 25, 175, 10, 12, 981, 195, 84, NOF
The time gap between the heats allowed all hands on deck to repair the Escort of 210 Hugh Weaver. Mechanics and fellow drivers came to Weavers aid in a spirit of camaraderie, to repair the steering and suspension. Volumes of duck tape was required in emergency repair for the offside front wing, and in the nick of time, the sole English traveller to this year’s event was ready for heat two. With Corrigan the one absentee from this race, is was #TrevTheRev’s sole responsibility to lead the field away, and this the Scotsman did with aplomb, but Weaver’s efforts came to naught on the opening lap and the emergency repaired wing literally fell off and was dragged around by the speeding 210 car before Hughie realised what was amiss and retired to the infield! Harris continued to lead but Gary O’Neill from his ‘B’ grade start was soon eating away into the Scotsman’s advantage. It was 12 from 925, 981, 10, then 100 Kevin Feeney putting in a good account of himself after retiring from heat one with a snapped throttle cable. Following #TheShamrock came 25 Trevor Cusack then 175 #TheIrishWolfHound and 966 #TheDungannonCannon having a really good battle where they were neck and neck lap after lap. The tail end star grade battle denied their futher progress up the field and O’Neill enjoyed a free run passing Harris with an outside/inside switch as both came to lap #McBuslane in 84. Richardson and McQuaid soon followed in passing Harris and the Scotsman began to slip down the places after a good drive in the early laps. He was still ahead of the the battling star men however as Dilly went all out to try and pass O’Donnell on the outside of turns one and two. At the limit of grip 966 went light as he looked to get out of turn two ahead of 175. Turning in a fraction too soon was all it look for the Southern Irishman to accidentally spin out his Northern counterpart! Up ahead, O’Neill raced on confidently untroubled clear of a good battle for second place between Richardson and McQuaid. O’Donnell went to the infield and suddenly Richardson’s challenge ended similarly as the engine went sick allowing McQuaid to earn a valuable second place which would place him well on the Grand Prix Final grid.
HEAT TWO RESULTS
925, 10, 25, 100, 12, 195, 966, 84, NOF
Adhering to the sense of occasion, the OMI promotion, taking advantage of their slick running of the evening’s twenty race programme, instructed the CHR Irish Grand Prix finalists to undertake a parade lap prior to the start of the race. Smiling and waving to the sizeable Tipperary crowd, the driving sat proudly on the bonnets of their cars as they were driven round by a mechanic.
With the points calculated from the heats, the grid for the GP Final looked like this:
INSIDE. 925. 10. 12. 175. 210. 84
OUTSIDE. 25. 966. 100. 981. 195.
It was a clean fast exciting final with speed looking exaggerated under the atmospheric Tipperary floodlights. The confident and in form #YellowPeril 925 Gary O’Neill broke clear from the off with 25 Trevor Cusack doing his utmost to snap at his heals. One of the most improved Irish drivers of the year, 10 Podge #GoDaddy McQuaid, was right there in third place with the expectant Dilly breathing down his exhaust pipe. All four pace men immediately broke clear from the remainder: 100, 175, 210, 981 and 12 with novices 195 and 84 once again enjoying their own private battle. O’Neill was soon lapping McFarlane with Cusack soon following suit round the outside. Dilly was coming on like a train, and having passed McQuaid was soon tackling Cusack. He was going to have to make a move fast if he was going to have any sort of chance of reeling in O’Neill. Putting in a spirited drive, Dilly cleanly swept passed Cusack on the outside and beyond half way in this 25 lap race it was now 925 from 966, 25, 10, with a gap to 210, 981, 175 and 100. In the dying laps O’Donnell retired as Dilly seeing his chances begin to diminish, really began to accelerate into overdrive in a desperate bid to catch #TheYellowPeril. With the blue flash of unburnt fuel emitting from the exhaust of Dilly’s screaming Spanker, 966 began to do what just a few laps earlier seemed inconceivable and ate away the gap between himself and 925. Two laps to go, and it was all or nothing for Dilly, but O’Neill played it remarkably cool, and though he could see Dilly looming large in his mirrors, he held on in his Anglia to take the flag and win his first Championship in his so far short Classic Hot Rod career.
IRISH GRAND PRIX FINAL RESULT
925, 966, 25, 10, 210, 100, 12, 195, 84, NOF
Gary O’Neill was clearly a delighted man to receive his sizeable trophy from Brian Weston of Championship sponsor Weston Electrical of Clonmel who have supported the event since its inception in 2014. All top four drivers received their trophies, and for the first time since the Classics started at Tipperary, it was an all Irish affair in the trophy places.
With smiles on their faces the drivers left the track and many went on to continue socialising throughout the remainder of the evening as it is remembered that for all the effort that goes into racing a Classic Hot Rod, only around forty minutes of your racing day takes place on track. The rest of it, you are in the company of fellow drivers, mechanics, officials, sponsors, promoters and fans… In other words like minded people. It’s best to enjoy as much of your time off the track as you do on it…..and the Irish, and indeed the Scottish, certainly know how to do that!