Galway Hillclimbs 2006
Rounds 3 and 4 hosted by Galway Motor Club at Woodford and Ballyallaban 22nd and 23rd April.
Another weekend and another driver claimed his debut win. Three weeks ago on his home event in the South East it was championship sponsor Peter Dwyer taking his first win on round 1 of the Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship. Round 3 in the West fell to local Sylvie Mullins who upped his game appearing in an Opel engined Ralt. But as in Wexford the Sunday Round went to previous Hillclimb and Sprint Champion Frank Byrnes in a Reynard showing his intent to hold that title again.
Mullins blasted away over a second and a half quicker than Byrnes on the first run of the Woodford Hillclimb near Portumna which hasnâ€™t been used since the sixties. A driver who remembers competing on the hill during that era was Frank Nuttall in his Graham. Inspired no doubt by memory he won the Historic class this year on handicap and repeated the feat at Ballyallaban on Sunday. Meanwhile Mullins improved further on Saturdays second run while Padraig Forde Snr closed in on Byrnes just 6 hundredths of a second behind.
On the third run Sylvies pace appeared to have peaked setting a near identical time to run 2. Behind him Padraig Forde Senior had used the monster power of his Scott Climber to edge ahead of Byrnes by just 3 hundredths. A shower of rain then made a fourth run irrelevant and those positions held.
Sylvieâ€™s clutch had started to slip on Saturday afternoon and gave up the ghost on Sunday morning so he was unfortunately not able to challenge for the double. Another driver struggling to get a run was Paul Oâ€™Connell. His engine had been delayed in England after a rebuild. He put it in the car overnight on Saturday but a new clutch and flywheel wouldnâ€™t meet up with the old linkage and the gearbox had to come off again in the paddock on Sunday morning. Tired and frustrated but with the help of fellow competitors including Sylvie Mullins the task was completed and Paul set a practice time that would have been good enough for second overall if it had counted.
The event was running late and it looked like there would be a limited amount of runs. So Paul went for glory on the first run. His commitment was amazing braking after the first corner for the left hairpin which immediately followed. But it was an attack that wouldnâ€™t last, he spun out opposite the car park at midpoint and connected with one of the Burrens unyielding walls. After his marathon preparation I expected him to be very disappointed when I met him later. But his eyes were still wild with the excitement of having attacked half of Ballyallaban absolutely flat out. Heâ€™d given it his best shot.
With Mullins and Oâ€™Connell sidelined on Sunday the top places in the event went to three very different single-seaters. First went to Frank Byrnes in the 2 litre Opel “red top” engined Reynard. Padraig Forde was second again on Sunday in his V8 Scott Climber and Andrew Herman was third in his motorcycle engined Van Diemen. Its this diversity of competitive machinery and the spectacular roads that they use which makes hillclimbing such a fascinating branch of motorsport to watch. After four days of hillclimbs so far in this years championship the next rounds are on the flat as the Carlow Car Club will host two sprints on the 4th and 5th of June. Who knows the next winner could be a saloon!
By Senan O’Connor