Clare Hillclimb Weekend 2008 Report

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    Review of the rounds 5 and 6 of the Magnus Technology Hillclimb & Sprint Championship 2008 for the Frank Keane Trophy at Corkscrew and Scalp, hosted by the Clare Motor Club. By Senan O’Connor

    As the Magnus Technology Hillclimb & Sprint Championship approaches its half way mark Paul O’Connells domination continues unabated. Six wins out of six rounds for the young driver from Crecora in Co. Limerick gives him a perfect score after a second great weekend of sport in Co Clare. The Clare Motor Club team really rallied together to run two superb hillclimbs and gave the drivers great value with three runs on Saturday and four on Sunday. Sunshine both days made it a true summer event.

    Championship sponsor Darryl Ramsay put up the most respectable challenge to O’Connells supremacy at Corkscrew on Saturday. He was runner up to Paul just under a second behind and won class 6. Third that day on The Corkscrew was Seamus Morris in his distinctive white Darrian sports car holding off some impressive single seaters including that of the fastest local driver, Sean Connole in the ex Syllvie Mullins Ralt RT33 which was 4th. Morris finally breaking the strangle hold which Simon McKinley had on class 3B. McKinley’s Escort was haunted with mechanical woes on Saturday and did not run on Sunday. 7th was the best he could muster up on the first day. He was headed by a very pleased Rory Stephens in a Radical collecting 1st in class 3A and 6th overall. Andrew Herman squeezed his Van Dieman into 6th while Adrian McCallion, Thomas Corey and Mark Cullen rounded off the top ten.

    In the well supported class 1 for the smaller saloons and hatchbacks there was some tight competition between two Galway men in their Mini’s. Pete Ray had snatched the lead in the Class after Ray Cunningham had to miss one of the previous rounds in Galway. Pete kept the pressure on his rival such that Cunningham’s winning margin was less than three tenths of a second each day. Second place both days however was enough for Pete Ray to maintain his lead in the class championship. Trish Daly’s perseverance with fuel pump problems was rewarded with points for third of the championship registered drivers on Sunday after both Ian Quinn –third in the class championship – and Stefan Walsh succumbed to their mechanical problems. She’s firmed up her position of fourth in the class championship and first of the non  Austin Rover drivers in her Ford Fiesta.

    Declan Cundelan made a welcome return in class 2, especially since he didn’t register for points. The Mk2 Escort driver was fastest in the class both days but maximum points went to the always hard-charging John Bradley in a Corsa. Fiona Cullen bagged some useful points for second both days in her Fiesta despite running a 1300cc engine in this 1600cc class. John Farrell must have cloned his mark 1 Escort before it crashed in Ballyalban, he collected 10 points in class 4 on Saturday after a remarkable return to form. Ed Cassidy took 9 in his Sunbeam Tiger and 8 went to Frank Nuttall in the Graham that day, in the class that is decided on a handicap system. On Sunday former Hillclimb & Sprint Committee Chairman Dermott Quigley took the maximum, 9 went to his double driver in the Anglia, Gerry Freeman and 8 more went to class leader John Farrell.

    We’ve seen already from the Class 1 and 2 results that the ladies are starting to make there presence felt, but none more so than Siobahn McCann driving a Formula Vee single seater in class 5A. In just her third weekend of Hillclimbing after a very aggressive charge up the Corkscrew on Saturday she edged out Gerard O’Connor on the final run to take her first class win. On Sunday she found herself in a battle with local youngster Cillian Cannole. He too had an excellent result on the Corkscrew, recording a fourth in class on his first ever hillclimb. The eighteen year old was even more impressive on The Scalp on Sunday. Siobhan was fastest on run 1 with 60.37 to Cillians 62.61. But then he struck back with a 59.20 to Siobhans 59.50 on run 2. Siobhan parried with a 57.53 on the third run and an even better 57.50 on the fourth. Cillian’s best response to that was a 58.13 on that final run to claim second. A truly excellent result when you consider class stalwart Gerard O’Connor took third with a 59.46.

    In the three rally car categories, class 8 went to Simon Evans in an Austin Cooper S on both hills. Class 9 went to Michael Rogers in a Vauxhall Nova on Saturday and to Keith Naughton in a Honda Civic on Sunday. David Cullen wrestled his Hillman Avenger to first in Class 10 both days and collected a mighty 10th overall on The Scalp on Sunday equalling his brothers’ achievement on Saturday.

    Adrian McCallion scored another top ten finish on the second day finishing ninth overall. Eighth was John Donnelly in the Coogar engined Ralt. 7th was Rory Stephens. Local driver Declan McNamara was sixth double driving the Ralt RT33 with Sean Connole who was fourth again. This time Darryll Ramsay in his OMS could only make third because – here’s where it gets interesting – Simon McKinley borrowed Rory Stephens’ Radical and looked very much like he was going to beat Paul O’Connell. McKinley was just 0.39 of a second of O’Connells initial pace on run 1. O’Connell responded to the pressure by goin 2.49 seconds quicker on the second run up the Scalp. Then on the next two runs he suffered mechanical problems of his own and couldn’t respond to McKinley taking chunks out of his time as he familiarised himself with the Radical. By run 3 Simon was just 1.1 seconds down. Paul held his breath, waiting for his opponents time on the fourth and final run and let go a sigh of relief to see that his Run 2 time held by just 0.9 of a second after run 4.

    McKinley is second in the championship, 12 points back and the only person realistically in a position to challenge O’Connell on current form. It seems unlikely that the Escort could be pushed to that pace. The current problems could be a sign of fatigue but there are other cars in the McKinley stable. The championship continues with round 7 and 8 in Dungarvan Co. Waterford on the 5th and 6th of July.

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