Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship 2007 Rounds 7 and 8 Carlow Motor Club
By Senan Oâ€™Connor.
Paul Oâ€™Connellâ€™s winning streak in the Premier Machine Tools Hillcimb and Sprint Championship, which began at the Galway Hillcimbs and continued with wins on two events near Carrick on Suir in his Warrior Delta T79 was interrupted on Sunday by Lee Stanworth, in an Opel Lotus. Stanworth cut through torrential rain showers to score his maiden win at Bagenalstown. Paul gave way to the Co. Wicklow based driver as he was embroiled in an intense battle with multiple championship winner Frank Byrnes from Galway. The wily Byrnes is coming to grips with the massive power of his V8 Pilbeam MP45. He was ahead of Oâ€™Connell after the third run and in second place. Oâ€™Connell responded on the fourth going three tenths quicker than his championship rival to claim second for the day.
Drier conditions on Monday near Athy saw the big power cars of Oâ€™Connell and Byrnes back at the top while Lee Stanworth went about collecting a respectable sixth overall. Lee will be doing a rain dance on Friday as wet conditions suit his car. Frank Byrnes was fastest after the first run with a 37.45 seconds run. Then Oâ€™Connell went quicker on run 2 with 36.92. On run 3 Byrnes stopped the clocks at 36.34 neatly guiding the massive Pilbeam between the hedges. Spectators held their breath with Byrnes, as they waited for him to gun the throttle after each corner. Then came Oâ€™Connell in the more nimble Warrior Delta. Paulâ€™s less powerful but lighter car can carry its speed through the corners and he made the chassis squirm on that third run using every ounce of downforce provided by a Formula 1 rear wing. He crossed the line at 36.32, just two hundredths of a second ahead of Frank.
For the fourth run Oâ€™Connell knew he wasnâ€™t safe and Byrnes could smell victory. The Limerick driver charged it, pushing his engine to the maximum it blew up as he crossed the finish line at 36.91. Frank couldnâ€™t better his third run either not even after a fifth run while Oâ€™Connell pushed the remains of his car onto the trailer. Victory went to the Limerick driver but at a very high cost. With only four days to prepare for two more rounds in Clare it remains to be seen how Paul can continue his championship campaign. His 31 point lead over 4th placed Byrnes in the championship could be dramatically reduced after the Clare weekend if he does not attend.
Simon McKinley is breathing down Paul Oâ€™Connells neck in second place in the championship using the unusual combination of a Warrior Escort for some rounds and a Lant RT4 single seater on others. Could this be a Championship winning approach? Championship sponsor and stalwart of class 5B, Peter Dwyer is in an excellent 3rd overall 26 points back from the leader. Local drivers Syllvie Mullins in a Ralt and Donal Griffin, debuting a 400BHP Reynard, could also come in to play as this is a long championship of 18 rounds with just 8 completed. The action at this weekendâ€™s Clare Hillclimb is guaranteed to be intense.