Report from the Wexford Hillclimbs, Rounds 1 and 2 of the Connaught Competition Engines Hillclimb and Sprint Championship 2011. By Senan O’Connor.

The Wexford Motorclub hosted the first two rounds of Cannaught Competition Engines National Hillclimb and Sprint Championship 2011 near the seaside towns of Fethard and Duncannon in the Sunny South-east. The club had pared down their expenses to the bone in order to provide a reduced entry fee of just  €200 for the two days of competition and were rewarded  by a strong entry for both Saturday and Sunday.

Paul O’Connell set the pace on the first run driving his older car the Delta T79, his Pilbeam is still being repaired since it’s Donegal crash. Simon Mckinley was unfortunate to catch a loose stone in the timing belt of the Lant RT2 during the Practice Run, putting the car out of action, so he double drove Dermot Nolans Reynard for the rest of the weekend. It only took him until Run 2 to set the fastest time of the Day in that car. O’Connell was also overtaken with the Return of the Jedi of John Byrne on Run 2. Paul went quicker than that time on the final run, but John was quicker again on three. David James leap-frogged both of them into second overall for the day in a very modified Mitsubishi Evo. Brendan Keane was fifth in his graceful Swallow and the generous Dermot Nolan must have winced when Simon broke a wish bone in his car on Run 3. McKinley would spend the evening repairing it, fit for the next day.

Aishling Power was out for a spin on Saturday in the family’s red mini and scored fourth in class 1.Trish Daly showed true grit just being in Wexford after the sad loss of her husband, Terence, at Christmas That she scored a third and a second place in the class over the weekend was truly remarkable. Kenny O’Brien was second on Saturday behind Ray Cunninghams Mini which scored an awesome 10th overall on Day 1. Ray had to attend a funeral on Sunday so Kenny claimed the class win that day.

James Doherty made a welcome return to Class 2 competition after a foray into single-seater hillclimbing. He held off strong competition from Declan Cundelan at Fethard and local Tommy Murphy at Duncannon. Behind the top three were a triplet of Nova drivers, lead by John Bradley’s blue one, ahead of Owen Cardiff, double driving, with  Shay Delaney in the white one . Bradley dropped behind that duo on Sunday and was replaced in fourth by Stephen Morrins Peugeot 205.

Seamus Ryan debuted his Stryker in the 3A championship class with two wins at the weekend. Ian Quinn collected two second places in the Mini-busa. Paul Patrick screamed his Davrian to third on Saturday ahead of Peter Bogan back out in the Zakspeed Escort, followed by Cyril McCabe in the blood red Alpha Romeo and John Whitley’s Golf Gti. The later three all moved up a place when Paul Patrick dropped out with a broken crown wheel on Sunday with Kieran Kurran in place of Cyril McCabe.

Rory Stephens was dominant both days in 3B with his Radical, despite the dramatic efforts of Trevor Cullen in his Escort G3 and Eanna Carroll in the Turbo Civic. Pat Caulfield was fourth in his Subaru Impreza on Saturday chased home by Paddy Murphy, also in a Subaru, Dirmuid O’Toole in a Stryker and Jim Butler in the Renault 5 Turbo. Caulfield wasn’t competing on Sunday so Paddy Murphy moved up a place and Patrick Carbery filled the gap. Gary Bradley gave us a brief but exciting demonstration of what a drift car can do and Douglas Richardson proved it wasn’t the Japanese that invented that game.

It mightn’t be blue blood but there’s certainly blue paint flowing through Historic Class 4 which is decided on handicap. Matt Dunnes MG Midget headed a trio of cars that hue and was the winner on Saturday with John Farrell in the Mk1 Escort second and Mick O Sheas MGB third. They were in front Dermott Quigley and  Gerry Freeman sharing an Anglia and Alan Kessie in his Gryphon on Saturday and Porsche on Sunday. They were all moved down a place by Barry Smith on Sunday and chased home by Vincent O’Reilly then. Vinny was behind Wolfgang Schnittgers Midget and and Ed Cassidy’s Sunbeam on the first day and ahead of Frank Nuttalls Graham which will hopefully be on song for his invitation to the Prescott Hillclimb later this year.

Colm Dunphy enjoyed his home event with a win at Fethard and a second place at Duncannon. Hillclimb Committee Chairman Eugene French was second at the first hill and Brid Harper got third place on her debut that day. Enda Byrne charged to a victory on Sunday and Siobhan McCann followed Dunphy, third on Sunday ahead of Eugene and Brid.

John Byrne won class 6 both days while battling for overall position but there was a mighty battle behind him over the weekend. It went John Mahon, Deirdre Delaney and Joe Courtney on Saturday and Joe Courtney, John Mahon and Deirdre Delaney on Sunday. Deirdre was the fastest lady over the weekend.

The top three in class seven were embroiled in the overall battle, but Brendan Keane was fourth on Saturday with Dermot Nolan fifth then, and fourth on Sunday.

The rally classes were greatly swelled by local entrants, first in class 8 both days was Enda Kennedy in his Escort, followed on Saturday by Edward Lyons Honda Integra and Leon Galvin Honda Civic on Sunday. Third on the two days was Patrick Haughey who travelled all the way from Donegal with an Escort. Also in class 8 over the weekend were, Bill Carroll Honda Civic, Larry Murphy Escort, Alex Wilson Toyota Starlet, Niall Synott Opel Corsa, Ray Benson Opel Kadett, Martin Hendrick Vauxhall Nova and Marc Cavanagh Opel Astra. They were joined on Sunday by Tommy Kelly Honda Civic, Andrew Nash Honda Civic, Alex Wilson Junior Starlet, Noel Kendrick Honda Civic, Richard Stafford Opel Kadett, Sean Furlong Opel Kadett, Tom Wollard Peugeot 106 and Novice award winner Tonya Fortune in an Opel Corsa.

Graham Scallon, Alan Doherty and Liam Howlett had great sport over the weekend, it went, Escort, Astra, Corsa on Saturday and Corsa, Escort, Astra on Sunday. Also in class 9 on Saturday were Seamus O’Grady Escort, John Price in another Renault 5 Turbo, Mick Dowling Escort, Alex Wilson Jnr Starlet, Richard Cleary Honda Civic and Noel Kendrick Honda Civic. Some of them hopped class for Sunday but they were replaced by Kevin O’Dowd in a Honda Type R.

The broken wishbone must have been lucky for Simon McKinley, with it repaired for Sunday he lead from Run 1. John Byrne was second on that run with Paul O’Connell third. But the empire would strike back when O’Connell focused hard to return to form on Run 3, beating McKinleys first time and going ahead of the Jedi .Simon shook an even quicker time out of the Reynard on his third go to continue his reign in the championship. Rounds three and four will be held in Co. Clare in just three weeks.