The Tom Devaney Memorial Hillclimb took place on the exciting Dromahair course hosted by the Connacht Motor Club and proved to be as special a weekend as Tom worked so hard to make it. A fabulous battle for the lead on both events featured some of Tom’s close friends and for much of the weekend saw his old Jedi poignantly challenging for pole position. The lengthy Leitrim based hill had a few minor changes this year with the addition of a virtual chicane as seen in the previous few venues posed a new test as did the changeable weather conditions on both days.
Saturdays event very quickly became a full family affair as the popular Hawthorne clan from the Northern Irish paddock made the trip to compete in memory of their close friend. Brothers, David and Steven Hawthorne sharing their Suzuki powered Westfield sportscar set the pace with a 1-2 in Run 1 which was mega impressive among the single seaters and other high spec cars featuring in the entry list. As the day progressed their cousin, Scott McMullan driving his Jedi would separate the siblings and challenge for the lead in his first hillclimb event in the car. After an impressive 5 runs it would be David taking Fastest Time of the Day just 0.11 ahead of Scott with Steven taking the final podium position just under half a second behind. 2022 Champion, Chris Houston who clinched his title on this event last year took 4th in his OMS CF08 as his times were tumbling in his usual fashion with each run. Run 3 was to be his quickest for the day after suffering a minor excursion on run 4 saw him side lined for the remainder of the weekend. Galway driver and 2015 Overall Saloon Champion brought his trusty Turbo Civic out for a 3rd time this year to maintain his mantle at the head of the saloon field. Eanna quickly getting to grips on his first appearance to this venue he scored a remarkable 5th Overall under 1 tenth behind the single seater of Houston and just keeping the final Hawthorne out of the top 5. Andy Hawthorne consistently bettering his times in his Vauxhall powered Westfield just under a second behind his sons at the head of the field was biding his time for a serious run on Sunday. John Donnelly and Ben O’Brien were the next single seater pairing in 7th and 8th Overall as the Pilbeam and Gould went head to head with under 2 tenths between them at the end of the day. Championship leader Russell Stanworth made it back into the top 10 this weekend scoring more valuable championship points in 9th Overall with his closest contender Shane Bell pushing hard all day trying to catch the Civic of Carroll settled for the final position in the Top 10. The complete top 10 featuring within just over a second and a half of each other showed the pace and unique quality of this hill.
A showery Sunday saw a huge shake up in the order once again with a few more familiar faces featuring in the top 10. The 4wd Subaru of Shane Bell suited the wet conditions the best out of the slower speed corners, finding traction and time ahead of his rivals after a committed drive. Shane decided he would reverse the top 10 order, from his view the end of Saturday taking FTD on Sunday with a thrilling final run. Andy Hawthorne who shines in the wet got the better of his 2 sons on this account challenging Shane in the slippery conditions enthusiastically throwing his Westfield at the scenery trying to make time. He found himself in 2nd at the end of the day 1.5 seconds behind the Subaru and narrowly ahead of what has to be a career best finish for Damien Walsh in the SHP Wildcat. Damien demonstrating his driving skill in the wet as he clinched 3rd Overall just 8 hundredths behind Andy. Another driver well able to upset the order in the wet or dry was Dara Fay in the class 1A Suzuki Swift. A sterling drive on the last run of the weekend saw him leap frog ahead of his rival Brain Kirwan for 4th and the more powerful Peugeot settling for 5th, 5 hundredths behind. It isn’t often we see a rally car featuring in the top 10 but if it was going to be anyone in the rally class with weekend it was going to be the Civic of Chris Snow hurtling the car around using every inch of tarmac and sometimes more than tarmac to post his fastest times in 6th Overall. Ollie Cormican back from his Sunday performance in Donegal said he would continue with his lively Sunday runs in the Mitsubishi taking 7th Overall with the wet conditions favouring another 4wd car. John Donnelly was the first single seater home losing a position to his Saturday run in 8th Overall with his Pilbeam struggling for grip on slick tyres, but the lack of grip did not deter local driver Ferlin Taylor throwing his T16 Peugeot about 9 hundredths behind Donnelly. John McGettrick filled in the final top 10 spot in his Escort Mk2 rally car.
The red Suzuki Swift is looking to take another clean sweep of class victories this year with Dara Fay behind the wheel, taking another double win and as high as 4th Overall on Sunday he has to be commended for getting a class 1A car so far up. Ray Cunningham took another pair of seconds also and looked further than his class for some Mini competition with Karl Johnson from class 2. The Mini men were inseparable on Saturday setting the exact same times on Saturday but on Sunday in the damper conditions the experienced Galway driver got the upperhand. A running theme in this class is looking for competition from others was Elaine Kirwan in her Toyota Starlet pushing on against the Punto of Leo Cunniffe in 3A. Elaine took 3rd in class on both days ahead of Jack Mannion debuting a Suzuki Ignis to the class in its early days of motorsport.
With just 3 entrants on this account the man at the top remained the same. Billy White kept over a second ahead of Caoimhe and Johnny Murray on Saturday and stretched his legs on Sunday to put over 3 ahead of the battling pair. It was Jonny who would lead this close battle ahead of Caoimhe for 2nd in class with things still all to play for at the final weekend in Limerick.
Christopher Snow was the clear winner in class 2 on Saturday in 14th Overall behind the wheel of his Honda Civic before moving to the rally car class for Sunday’s run. Northern driver Karl Johnson is making a habit of driving in this Connacht event and his familiarity gained him a second in class twice throughout the weekend. Chris Snow was to be 3rd on Saturday but the trickier conditions on Sunday suited him better with another class win. The Limerick pairing of Joe Cliffford and Thomas Sheedy double drove Joe’s car this weekend with just under half a second separating them in Thomas’ favour. As in Donegal Michael Tumulty was out for the Saturday run in his Peugeot 106 for a 6th in class.
The visitors to class 3 this weekend made their trip count with Andy Hawthorne in the Vauxhall powered Westfield taking the class win on both days over a second clear of Brian Kirwan’s Peugeot 205. Brian made a hard charge on run 4 on Sunday to sneak ahead but the final run of the weekend saw Andy seal the deal for his second class win. Tommy Gardiner settled for 3rd in class on both days in his Honda Civic ahead of John Kennedy in the Dax Rush. Leo Cunniffe held 5th in class throughout the weekend but we are sure to see his pace improve as he is getting more and more familiar with the hills.
Class 3B was the class to be in this weekend in Dromahair with FTD coming from this group on both days. The Westfield in the hands of David Hawthorne took his maiden Irish championship round victory ahead of Eanna Carroll in the Turbo Civic for 2nd in class. Eanna really showed the tin tops a clean pair of heels on Saturday nearly a second ahead of Shane Bell’s Impreza. However Shane had all the glory on Sunday with the absence of Carroll from the class Shane taking the class win and his first FTD. Willie Barrett usually challenging for the class lead in his Supercharged Civic, was fighting a losing battle to a coolant leak for the weekend but had enough to make it up to 14th Overall on Saturday. Damien Walsh followed Barrett on Saturday with 9 hundredths between them but Damien had a fantastic drive on Sunday to 2nd in class and 3rd Overall.
The sole entrant of Stevie Hawthorne took the class win for the 2 days as well as a 3rd overall finish on Saturday in the Westfield.
The eternal battle between friends John Farrell and Mick O’Shea continues for class 4 with John taking the spoils for both days in his Ford Escort Mk1 ahead of the spotless MG BGT of O’Shea.
After all class 5 cars chose to skip the Donegal weekend , luckily they all made the return with Sean Mcnamara maintaining his healthy class lead nearly 2 seconds ahead of Enda Byrne in the Formula Vee. However
Enda’s pace was strong this weekend as he was over 2 seconds ahead of his double drive Siobhan McCann which is not usually the case for Siobhan. The Limerick bvsed venue should suit her better as we often see her performing better in the higher speed venues.
Scott McMullan took his first class 6 victory on Saturday in the Jedi Mk4 and very nearly an FTD. He backed this up with another class win on Sunday. Johnny Mahon, still suffering with drivetrain issues, took 2nd in class on Saturday and decided to spectate on Sunday with the change in conditions.
Class winner in Donegal Chris Houston was back in the OMS CF08 for another class win ahead of the Pilbeam of John Donnelly just quarter of a second behind on Saturday but it would be John’s win on Sunday after a tricky drive on slicks. Ben O’Brien in the Gould GR37 kept ahead of Championship leader Russell Stanworth in the Opel Lotus scoring a 4th in class on Saturday and a second on Sunday. Russell playing the points game all season has one hand on the championship trophy already heading into the final round.
Barry Mahon piloted his Peugeot 205 to the class win on both days as the sole entrant to 8A but had plenty of rally cars surrounding him for competition in other classes.
Patrick Bradley was the Saturday winner in his Honda Civic while that title went to David Hunt in an immaculate Peugeot 208 on Sunday. 2nd in class too would see a change across the double header with Colm Connor taking that position for day 1 and Keith Ewing on day 2 both driving Honda Civics. Local driver Ultan McGowan who we usually see driving a 205 took a Honda Civic this time to 3rd in class both days. Brian McGarraghy in a Ford Escort found 4th on Saturday ahead of Ger Daly in the recently acquired Peugeot 106. Ger’s times progressed quickly during the event as he is learning the car making the jump from karting this year. Local driver Padraig Crawley took 5th and 6th in class for his efforts ahead of a returning Dessie Martin now in a BMW Mini Cooper. Dessie using this relatively standard spec car while his Civic is on the mend. Simon Love took the final class position only completing 1 timed run on Sunday in his Honda Civic.
One of the fan favourite cars this weekend was the Opel Manta of Gary Quinn showing he wasn’t afraid to fire it around the Leitrim lanes. Gary took a class win on Saturday and had to settle for a second on Sunday as Chris Snow joined the class to take a win there. Derek Robinson made the trip from Enniskillen with his Talbot Sunbeam bringing a 2nd in class prize back to the lakelands with him. Alan Kane began his birthday celebrations early with a 3rd in class on Saturday just half a second behind Robinson. Sunday saw more local rally cars out with Felin Taylor and JohnMcGettrick reaching into the top 10 Overall with only 2 tenths splitting them for 2nd and 3rd in class.
David Quinn was the sole entrant for class 10 in a Subaru Impreza setting very consistent times in both wet and dry conditions.
As the series heads for the rescheduled Limerick event next weekend lets hope the weather is a bit more kind on this account as a number of class and both the Overall and Overall saloon titles are yet to be decided.