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Rounds 5 & 6 of the 2017 Naylor Irish Hillclimb & Sprint Championship brought competitors to Dungarvan, Co. Waterford for two days competition on one of the oldest hills in the Irish series. The event, organised by Imokilly Motorclub, used a famous piece of road called “The Sweep” once again after a two day Championship event last year. The event ran into trouble before it had even got started, with the club battling against Mother Nature. Stormy conditions Friday night left the road in an unusable state. A road sweeper, power washers and many brushes were put to work frantically to bring the tarmac back into a usable condition to get proceedings underway for Saturday’s competition. A walk through the paddock was all that was needed to sense the bad form of competitors, who had been waiting hours to get out on their practice run. The heavens opened as the first cars were being let away from the start line. After pulling three or four gears down the flat out stretch to the first hairpin right, most drivers had cleared the morning’s frustrations from their mind.
Two time defending champion Joe Courtney took the win on Saturday. Joe had raised his Reynard’s ride height to deal with road conditions, which he described as “very bumpy”. With only one run, Joe was on form straight away with a calculated drive up the Sweep. Breaking the beam at 66:09 and setting fastest time of the day, with a gap of 0.97 to the next car. In second place was a hard charging Rob Dwane in the OMS 25 with a time of 67.06, just shy of a second off Courtney. It was Rob’s first time to drive the hill in anger, though this wasn’t evident in his driving! The screaming sound of the 1400 Hyabussa on wide open throttle between each braking point was only interrupted by floor of the carbon mono-cock touching the ground over the bumps. In third was Rory Stephens in the exotic looking ex-works Radical SR8 (carbon is so 90’s Rory) with a time of 69:14. Rory is “still” getting to grips with his cars handling after his switch from cross plys over to radial tyres and a geometry rework.
Sunday’s racing allowed for practice and 3 timed runs. Joe Courtney bettered his times each go up the hill, dropping to an impressive 63.98 in the MI16 powered Reynard with 1.55 gap to the next car. That next car, again driven by Rob Dwane. He set consistent times on Sunday, possibly because he was topping out in 6th gear on the long straights and only dropping 0.63 on his 3 runs to a 65.53. Rory Stephens was thrown off the 3rd step of the podium on Sunday by long time hill-climber and multiple Hillclimb Champion Frank Byrnes, piloting the 1980’s Pilbeam MP45. Frank had the cobwebs from his break away well blown off by run 3, setting a run of 66.65 improving by 3.56 throughout the day.