The red carpet treatment was truly rolled out for the Classic Hot Rods at Tipperary on the 24th for the opening round of the Irish Series for 2016. The division was left in no doubt as to what high esteem it was held in by Damien Brennan, the man at the helm of the new promoting organisation for the fastest oval raceway in the Isles – Oval Racing International.

Eleven Classics enrolled for the opening meeting which was held under favourable Irish Spring skies. The seven drivers from the Republic were joined by three from the Province and one from Scotland. Trevor Harris, the veteran racer who concerted from a long service career in BriSCA F2 who was famous for his travelling exploits, clearly intended to continue in the same vain upon joining the Classics. Truly enamoured by the speed of friendship he made with the visiting Irish contingent when they visited Lochgelly for the Scottish Open, #TrevTheRev made the arrangements to travel over to Ireland and meet up with Gerry Rothwell and crew for the journey down to Tipperary. He didn’t care that ‘it was a long way!’

One Irish driver very disappointed on the morning of race day was 671 Alan #Leopard Leonard. Alan has built the most gorgeous of race cars in the form of an Opel Kadett but the his two litre pinto cried foul at the last minute and reluctantly the driver whose car had caused a flurry of interest on the Classic Hot Rod Facebook Page had to pull out.

Alan was one of many new Irish faces joining CHR in 2016. Several, like Podge McQuaid and Damien Corrigan had already made their debuts in Scotland but delightfully there were still more breaking cover for the first time. Ulstermen 925 Gary O’Neill and 976 Clive Richardson arrived at Tipperary with stunning machinery. Richardson would be competing in the former Mike Oliver Mk2 Escort now sporting an RS2000 droop snoot and O’Neill was in the former Holden/Marriott Anglia which was now sporting Gary’s trade mark bright yellow livery. From Southern Ireland came 19 Anthony Morgan, with a Mk2 that looked like a beautiful Irish version of Andy Steward’s SHP car.

The atmosphere in the pits was almost converging on one of a party prior to racing as the OMI supremo Brennan made himself busy personally welcoming every driver and Gerry’s wife Ann was busy in the Rothwell truck ensuring that many drivers were enjoying the comprehensive picnic she had laid on!

The drivers were organised by former driver Paraic McCormack who laid on a clear prep talk prior to racing getting underway so everyone understood the respect that was to be expected out on the raceway. Following this was the grand parade with the drivers being introduced to the crowd, a crowd which appeared sizeably appreciable.

All eleven were out for the twenty lap opening heat and after the installation laps the drop of the green saw Scottish visitor 12 Trevor Harris scream his Crossflow pleasingly and set off in the lead several car lengths ahead of 156 #Rocker Rothwell, who was driving the Kevin Feeney Escort, and #TheWhiteKnight 362 Austin Wilkinson. #TrevTheRev may well have been singing sweet, but the loudest music was coming from the Anderson built #Spanker in the engine bay of Thomas Dilly’s all red racer. Dilly, a returnee to CHR after several years in Nationals, had made his return with no half measures thanks to the purchase of Tim Foxlow’s famous Mk2, and now, following a triumphant third place in the Scottish open, here he was on the big fast Tipperary oval, spanking hard! Flying the outside line with aplomb, #TheDungannonCannon shot past FItzgerald and Rothwell and ate into Harris’s lead. As Morgan, Richardson and McQuaid duelled cleanly in their own private battle in the pack, 175 Andy O’Donnell sought gamely to chase the flying Dilly as the Ulsterman overhauled the Scotsman. Next up, defending Irish Points Champion 25 Trevor Cusack was giving it his all in an experimentally geared car… In an experiment which was clearly feeling not satisfactory! With the retirement of O’Neill and Rothwell and the spinning of Corrigan all on his own, Dilly extended his lead as Harris and Fitzgerald slipped down the field. In spite of a split second distraction which caused Dilly to ride the Tipperary wall when adjusting the brake bias, he was lucky to get away with it and take a clear and confident victory.

HEAT ONE RESULT : 966, 175, 25, 10, 19, 976, 362, 12, 43

Heat two followed a similar speedy patten to heat one but for a remarkable performance by #GoDaddy 10 Podge McQuaid. McQuaid, in only his second meeting in Classic Hot Rods was racing like he had lived in his green and black Escort for years. Coming from the back, he scalped fellow ‘novices’ O’Neill and Morgan and then incredibly got the better of the Points Champion Cusack. Admittedly, Cusack was struggling with the wrong gears, but nevertheless Podge was driving like he stole it, taking his nearest challenger #TheDiggerMan 976 Clive Richardson with him. The challenge from the all orange machine was strong but not only did the 10 pilot fend it, he even drove away in the latter part of the race. Dilly won a quarter lap clear of O’Donnell but there was McQuaid enjoying the highs of racing with a superb third!

HEAT TWO RESULT : 966, 175, 10, 976, 25, 925, 19, 12, 362, 156, 43

Good fortune deserted Podge McQuaid in the Final as engine problems caused his retirement in the early laps. As per the heats, the Scotsman Harris set the early pace, but impressively, Gerry Rothwell came back at Trevor and by lap eight the 156 car swept up the inside of 12 and the backbone of the Irish scene was now at the head of affairs. Gerry’s lead however was momentary as on came Thomas Dilly in the screaming #Spanker. Again the Northern Irishman was dominating but the challenge this time was closer by the local hero #TheIrishWolfhound O’Donnell in 175. As Rothwell as Harris again began to give way to the chasing field, Morgan and O’Neill continued the battle they had had all meeting, but this time the big battle involved 25 Trevor Cusack and 976 Clive Richardson. Their battle was especially close, side by side. It came to a climax in the final laps as the passed Rothwell. Through turn three and out of four, #TheDiggerman went for the outside, #TheIrishThoroughbred the inside. Gerry was squoze and had no option but to take the centre line as all three made a ‘three wide’ onto the home straight. The blue and orange machines clashed arches and Clive backed off. Cusack was through but a blue and grey plume was ominously escaping the black 25 and with the engine failure, Trevor dived for the infield. The final laps were fortunately without further incident and a delighted Thomas Dilly celebrated his triple with donuts!

FINAL RESULT : 966, 175, 976, 925, 19, 362, 43, NOF

The opening meeting of the Irish Series was deemed by all to have been a tremendous success, not least by the promotion itself. The overall meeting had been slick, well organised and well presented and Classic Hot Rods are already looking forward to our return in July!

Rob Hughes

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