Hillclimbing, the least exclusive members club in Ireland!
Its not long now till the Irish Hillclimb championship gets underway again on some of the most spectacular and most challenging venues in Irish Motorsport.
If you are interested in being involved in Hillclimbing in 2015 then you are very welcome to the least exclusive members club in Ireland!
We love to see new people getting interested in our sport, from drivers and mechanics to marshalls and officials. If you would like a guide in how to get started in Hillclimbing then check out the getting started pages on www.irishhillclimb.com here you will find information on the venues, directions, gps co-ordinates and lots of news updates and pictures as the championship progress.
If you need any other information on a hillclimb weekend just come along to an event and ask any regular in the paddock!
So what is in store for Hillclimb drivers in 2015?
Well we have classic Venues like the Corkscrew and Ballyalaban in Ballyvaughen and Knockala in Co Donegal, in Dublin we have the technically challenging Naul venue and for the second year running, we have Limericks latest venue, the fast and flowing Effin sprint located near to Killmallock.
The thrill of going over the crest with nothing to see but skyline in Ballyalaban and keeping the throttle open, the challenge of Wilhares corner in Knockalla and the technical ability needed to get the best time from the Corkscrew are always memorable every year.
The chat and banter and friendships made, both old and new with fellow competitors and officials from all over the country and in such a diverse range of machinery is a huge factor in why I keep coming back to hillclimbing after trying Rallying, Racing, Autotesting and Navigation events.
Where else can you be competing with Formula type single seaters, a Honda Civic turbo, a V8 engined Radical sportscar, some unbelievable Historic racing cars, a Diesel Bmw, a range of crazy Fiat Cinqucentos driven by even crazier drivers, Bmw M3’s, Ford Escorts, Subaru Impreza’s, Evo’s , Minis, Peugeots 205’s, and of course normally aspirated Honda Civics.
Our competitors come from every walk of life possible, Mechanics, Engineers, Band-Aid salesmen and Ocean going digger operators, there are Teachers and Computer specialists, Entrapreneurs and Truck drivers. There is even a Farmer or two! The one thing we have in common is the ability to drive competitively and have some fun while doing it.
The standard of competition promises to be as high as ever in 2015. Simon McKinley the reigning multiple champion will be out to defend his run of victories in his 2.4 litre Warrior engined Lant single seater. This car has been at the forefront of Irish Hillclimbing for 15 years now and due to constant development it continues there today. It even has an F1 style Drag Reduction System to allow the alloy blocked 2.4 Warrior engine perform to its best.
What price the odds on seeing the legendary White Warrior MK2 Escort again this season I wonder? As ever he is playing his cards close to his chest.
Rory (Grandad) Stephens continues to impress in his SR8 Radical sportscar. Rory is usually a slow learner but he has really upped his pace on recent years and is starting to look really comfortable in the new Radical. The National First Aid Supplies car looks increasingly at home on the more bumpy venues and Rory proved at the Luxembourg Hillclimb Masters event that he can mix with the best in Europe with some very impressive driving. If he keeps getting quicker with age I’d hate to see him in ten years when he is 78 !
Robert Bell had a successful year in 2014 finishing 3rd overall in his motorcycle engined Crossle. Can he go one better in 2015 to worry Rory Stephens? Robert or Rupert as he is affectionately known is a keen horticulturalist and likes to show off his knowledge of floura and fauna every weekend. A timeless romantic he usually tries to collect some piece of greenery for his fiancée on each run.
Dermot Nolan is another candidate for overall success if his run of bad luck with mechanical issues ends. His beautiful F3 based Reynard mi16 engined car will suit some of the upcoming smoother surfaced venues. His minions are working hard to have everything ready for 2015. A dark horse for more overall success perhaps?
Speaking of Dark horses, Deirdre McKinley wife of Simon who managed to do the superwoman impression last year by finishing second in her class in 2014 along with giving birth to a baby boy, little Rory. She has shown consistent improvements in her Opel lotus over the last few years and the recent great showing at the Hillclimb Masters event in Luxembourg should do wonders to her confidence for 2015. Looking after both Simon and Rory will prove a handful but thankfully Rory has agreed to keep an eye on Simon in 2015.
Galway’s Eanna Carrol in his front wheel drive Honda Civic turbo had a monumental 2014 season. Slaying all other saloon contenders to become the first ever front wheel drive winner of the fastest overall saloon award. This fire breathing little pocket rocket has shown great pace and a level of preparation that all others can only aspire to. The car is fairly tidy and fast too.
County Clare’s young Rob Dwane was a surprise contender in 2014. Indeed many peoples Rookie of the year proved that raw speed does not always have to come with years of experience. Rob used drive a bicycle to school in 2014 as he was still too young to drive a road car. Despite this driving his fathers spaceframed Falken Mini he is one to watch if he gets the opportunity to compete with his school exams. We wont tell the teacher Rob…….
The notorious Con “Chainsaw” Byrne may again prove quite a handful if he decides to venture out on the hills in 2015. Con is spectacular to watch in his little Jedi single seater and has humbled much more expensive machinery on many occasions. A proven overall winner who delights in slippery and wet conditions he is always worth keeping an eye on. Most members of the paddock are quite hopeful that this year he might have a reverse fitted to his car. It is a lot less expensive method of turning the car in terms of drive chains and cv joints.
The Daddy of all motorcycle cars John Mahon is thankfully another stalwart Hillclimb character and competitor. The great little DJ bus has proven to be quite an effective car in the hands of John Mahon. He absolutly loves this car, so much so he has not rolled it half as much as his previous cars. Take my advice and don’t keep him awake at night in the paddock or you may find your steering wheel in a tree or your plug leads mixed up!
There are rumours of a few more exciting competitors coming out in 2015. The Connolly father and son duo’s Beautiful and ferociously fast Gould Judd v8 single seater could yet make its debut on Irish Championship Hills in 2015. The Connolys are both quick pilots but unproven yet at this level. Although if anyone can make it work this pair should. the form book would say it should be a learning year but in Hillclimbing who can predict the outcome!
The father and son duo of Alex Wilsdon and their Blue Radical has proven to have rapid pace with either Alex Senior or Junior at the wheel. They are another pair that have the ability to shake things up in 2015. Indeed many people are trying to work out how to catch and then beat this pair.
Former champion Sylvie Mullins from Clare in his Judd v8 engined Gould is another candidate that could spell trouble for McKinley in 2015. The pair had a royal battle all year when Mullins won his only Hillclimb championship to date. If Mullins can spare the time to do a full championship he would definitely be one to watch.
For me as part of the old guard now I am working on having my BMW e30 v10 finished for this year. Its doubtful it will be finished and ready for the start of this years championship but I am hoping to have it out for the later half of the championship. With 500bhp as standard in a nearly 30 year old car this should prove to be entertaining to drive if nothing else. For the moment I will be wheeling out the trusty Delta Warrior single seater come April. This old car won three championships in 2007, 08 and 09. Any hope of turning the clock back? – I’ll certainly do my best anyway!
There are another bunch of notable entries and characters to keep an eye out for in 2015. The cento cars have proven to be a great success to date with a fiercely fought battle on the timesheets every weekend. The very ” Holy” Joe Courtney will be looking to hold off all comers to his crown as Cento king in 2015. Best of luck Joe as there are some serious contenders aiming for number 1 spot on the Cento alter.
Brian Ledwith and James Doherty should renew their battle for class 2 and overall honours in their 1600cc Toyotas. Two very quick drivers in two very quick cars makes this a great battle and who knows who else will join them in class 2 in 2015?
Class 3b should be a hotbed of smoke and tyres in 2015. This class is for big engined noisy saloons with noisy drivers. Any class with Eanna Carroll’s turbo Honda, Eddie Lyons, Martin Flanagan, Jim Butler and Michael Melia in their beautifully prepared saloon cars and the spaceframe brigade of Michael Walsh, Brendan Keane and Alex Wilsdon makes for a volatile and exciting class. Throw in a few more promised Blitzkrieg contenders such as Denis Hogan in his BMW M3, Ben O’Brien in his BMW 330Diesel and Paul O’Connell in his BMW V10 engined e30 and it will be even more fun to watch! Ben O’Brien has a lot of work done to his car after a first full season with the car in 2014. With a new hybrid turbo, bigger injectors, bigger intercooler, Limited slip diff, Avon tyres and new suspension components it will be fascinating to see how fast a diesel can go in this class.
The Historics are always great to see at every event. There seems to be a larger Historic contingent at every hillclimb these days. From classics such as the ever sideways and spectacular Mk1 Ford Escort’s to the equally spectacular and priceless cars such as Ed Cassidys Iona Special these cars are an inspiration in why racing cars need to race regardless of age.
We had 2 well supported rallycar classes last year with a range of 1600 and 2000cc machinery. Will David Byrne and Niall Fortune be able to repeat their feat of winning the class in the national championship? Rallycars in these classes must run with rally tyres, two seats and be rally ready. Its a great and cheap way for people to bring out a rallycar without having to buy Hillclimb specific tyres etc, – we would love to see more of you!
We will see you in the paddock in Ballyvaughen in April. Keep an eye on www.irishhillclimb.com and like our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/6966973622/
Article by: Paul O’Connell