Galway Hillclimbs 2007
Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship Rounds 3 & 4. 21st & 22ndÂ April 200. Galway Motor Club, at Ballyryan & Ballyallaban.
By Senan Oâ€™Connor
The third and fourth rounds of the 2007 Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship were held near Ballyvaughan in Co Clare this weekend. The two day event, run by Galway Motor Club, included a return to Ballyryan on Saturday and the infamous Ballyallaban on Sunday. Limericks Paul Oâ€™Connell headed north from his home place full of confidence after a strong performance on the opening rounds just three weeks ago in Wexford. He won there on the Saturday and finished second on Sunday hampered by an assembly problem on an engine heâ€™d had built in England. The tuners replaced the faulty parts but it still meant that the engine had to be refitted in the car at the last minute before the event. Simon McKinley with help from Des Fitzgerald worked round the clock with Paul to bolt it together on time. Their efforts would prove worthwhile.
Clareâ€™s own Sylvie Mullins set the pace on the first run at Ballyryan stopping the clock at 49.75 seconds. Oâ€™Connell managed second fastest at 50.33 with Galway man Frank Byrnes just off the pace in third with 52.44 in his new, Nexa Autocolour, Pilbeam. Oâ€™Connell improved his time on the second run with 48.66 only for Mullins to go faster again on a 48.09. It was a scintillating battle with Sylvie in particular pushing his car to the very limit. Paul went into the lead on run three with the first sub 48 second run at 47.61 while Mullins failed to improve on his previous time. It all came down to the fourth run. A great effort from Sylvie produced a 47.16 but Oâ€™Connell trumped him by just 15 hundredths of a second at 47.01 to take the win with fastest time of the day.
Frank Byrnes improved to a 49.95 to claim third ahead of a mighty battle of the saloons between David James in a Ford Focus WRC and Simon McKinley in his Mk2 Escort. McKinley held off James to the final run on which he was beaten by just 0.09 of a second. It was a rare privilege for spectators to see such world class machinery driven so hard as David was pushing. With a new set of tyres fitted for Sunday, McKinley went 3.56 seconds faster than James re-establishing the Escort, which won day two in Wexford outright, as fastest saloon on the hills.Â Championship sponsor Peter Dwyer was sixth in the Premier Machine Tools Delta T85 Single Seater on Saturday. He won class 5b both days and climbed to fifth on Sunday splitting McKinley and James that day.
The overall battle between Sylvie Mullins and Paul Oâ€™Connell resumed on Sunday. This time Oâ€™Connell was fastest out of the box at 101.91 to Mullinsâ€™ 102.05. The Clare man responded with 101.45 while the Limerick driver went slower than his first run. There would be just three runs on Sunday and once again Paul Oâ€™Connell did it on the last run with a mighty 101.16 just fractions of a second off the all time hill record. Sylvie couldnâ€™t improve on his second run time.
Itâ€™s too early yet to say what way the championship is going. But its been a very strong start to the year from Oâ€™Connell. Reigning Champion Byrnes was third again on Sunday. He wonâ€™t be satisfied until heâ€™s swapping fastest times with Oâ€™Connell and Mullins again. The championship heads to Carrick on Suir next and then to Carlow but will be back in Clare for two more rounds hosted by Clare Motor Club on June 9th and 10th.