IRISH OPEN 2015-2015




The typical seeds of the Irish summer blew in on an inclement breeze over the mountains of Tipperary and down to the lush fields of Rosegreen where the fastest oval in the Emerald Isle is found.

Six of the drivers competing in classic hot rods made their way to the heart of Ireland for a Saturday evening of racing hoping to keep a step ahead of the beckoning darker clouds that promised the treat of rain. Three competitors were unable make it to the third round of competition for 2015; Portavgie’s 777 Jackie Harris was unable to make the long drive down from Northern Ireland as his engine was being rebuilt and 228 Sammy McKendry was in a similar position with his Anglia. It had been hoped that 57 Mike Oliver was going to make his trip over the Irish Sea from Wales to compete but unfortunately plans fell through.

On the bright side however, the six competing drivers still made the best singularly Irish representation in the fledgling formula so far in the Republic. Regulars 25 Trevor Cusack, 100 Kevin Feeny, 156 Gerry Rothwell and 175 Andy O’Donnell were joined by 937 Kenny Wilson from Ballymena in Northern Ireland and 362 Austin Fitzgerald from Cork.

Every driver needs his commendation for the commitment he has shown to the formula. Feeny. Rothwell and O’Donnell had survived their baptism of racing of racing in England when they competed at Hednesford and a week later at the National Championship at Ipswich in June. Both the 175 and 100 pilots had both suffered significant damage and had worked extremely hard between meetings to have the cars ready. On the return to Ireland, both Escorts had to be prepped again. Rothwell had exercised a full bench test on his two litre race engine prior to his trip down the M7 from Co.Meath as well. Gerry helps Kevin maintain his Mk2 from his garage in Meath. Kevin shows his commitment by flying back to Ireland from his work base in the South east of England and has not missed an Irish CHR meeting yet!

As mentioned the two drivers joining the regulars were Fitzgerald and Wilson. The Ulsterman Eilson had attended the first meeting that was staged at Tullyroan in May but his engine had let him down. Kenny had taken his time to rebuild his own 1700 Crossflow Screamer and it was a delight to see Kenny in attendance down south. As for Fitzgerald, the 2015 debut of his brand new Classic Hot Rod had been eagerly anticipated with. Stage by stage build photos had been provided to the Classic Hot Rod Facebook page and although a livery and sign job was still outstanding, the completed race car looked every inch the pedigree it should be. It is a real credit to the Cork engineer – all is self built including the engine.

Heat one saw all six out on track ahead of the looming rain and after some installation laps it was a clutch start. Unfortunately, the field was soon down to four as Cusack retired with a broken differential and Feeny pulled off with s loose starter motor. However the quartet that remained put on a good run, particularly Wilson and O’Donnell. Blue grade starter O’Donnell started extremely quickly and within five laps had got the inside line on the Ulsterman. What was remarkable though was the way Wilson pulled the deficit back and in the latter half of the sixteen lap affair and really got into the groove screaming his Crossflow round the big Tarmac oval. 937 challenged 175 hard but the local man held on for his first win of the night. The reaction from the crowd clearly showed they appreciated a good close race.

Heat one: 175, 937, 156, 362. NOF.

Heat two was held,remarkably, still in dry conditions. Cusack was again an early retiree still with drive train issues but five racers still held sway for s closer race. Rothwell in 156 was clearly showing that his engine prep was showing dividends as his 100e Anglia, the oldest body currently racing, was going quicker than ever before. However, the fact that the car is way heavier the the opposition, and at the tail end of the car as well, resulted in his lead being eroded. Rothwell wisely gave way to the faster Escorts and Fenny in 100 took over. In the laps that followed O’Donnell found his rhythm and powered his way past Wilson then Fenny. With O’Donnell away and clear the battle for second was an exciting one between Wilson and Feeny. Kevin beat Kenny by s matter of yards. Fitzgerald retired with a misfiring engine.

Heat two: 175, 100, 937, 25, 156, NOF.

Austin gave some insight on his first night of racing for 2015. “The car went okay on its first night out. Had a few problems as it was miss firing but one will have that with a new build. It ran very well but as when the rain came down prior to the final all drivers was asked 2 go out for 3 laps and then state if we wanted to race as there was oil on track…” As a debutant, Fitz did not want to risk damage but the others joined IDIOTS (I Dared It Out There Society)!!

In a fine example of drivers helping each other out both Austin and Gerry helped Trevor in repairing the drive train on the 25 car. Gerry gave Trevor a replacement differential and in the teaming rain providence held sway for Cusack. Feathering the throttle all the way and controlling power slides Cusack hit the front and held it, using every once of control and technique he had learnt on the grass ovals and rallying. In contrast, the previously dominant O’Donnell did not come to grips with the difficult conditions and made no impact on this race and Cusack took a popular win.

FINAL : 25, 100, 937, 175, 156.

All in all a good night. The lads put on some good racing for an appreciative crowd and we hope for a good field of drivers again when the Classics go North once again on the 9th August to compete in Round Four of the Irish Series at Tullyroan.

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