The Hillclimb & Sprint Championship got off to a flying start with local man Sylvie Mullins having the best possible start claiming a full 20 Championship points for his weekend’s work. The weekend saw class 7 dominating the top ten, with 62 drivers competing on the Hill for their class.
On Saturday 23rd of April we saw all kinds of Hillclimb cars competing on the Corkscrew Hill. Round 1 of the Championship saw Sylvie Mullins & Michael Connolly in their Gould GR37s competing for 1st & 2nd all weekend, creating jaw dropping viewing for spectators. Sylvie Mullins took 1st place on the hill with a time of 47.29sec. He certainly didn’t have it all his own way though with Michael Connolly in an identical Gould GR37 pushed him hard on Sunday. This is the first time that 2 Goulds have competed head to head on Irish hills and what a spectacle it was. Mullins had a high speed ding on the second last corner on Sunday’s first timed run. Luckily he was able to patch his car back together in able to get a winning time on the board on the remaining run 2! Reigning Champion Joe Courtney was 3rd both days, driving his Reynard 913 in his precise, calculated style. With near 300bhp less than the pair of Goulds, he was using every bit of his own 300bhp.
Joe Courtney, Reynard 913
Lower down the pack but not far behind was Alex Wilsden Jnr in his baby blue baby Radical coming in 4th with a great time of 52.37sec after missing a run due to a pit stop on the hill which resulted in him coming up the hill with a small garden on his front lip. Rory Grandad Stephens in his Radical SR8 finished in 5th place with a time of 52.94 which a great time was considering run two he had a time of 125.68 due to a kiss with a lovely wall. John Donnelly 6th in his Reynard with a time of 55.73 was doing a good job with keeping up with Alex to be 2nd in his class.
Deirdre McKinley finished 7th overall and also the fastest lady in her Reynard Opel Lotus on the first day with her time of 56.44. She also sampled the experience of competing in 2 cars at the same event, finishing 1st in class 1A in her Vauxhall Nova on the Saturday. Peter McKinley in the white Ford Escort MK2 finished 8th overall. He was getting to grips with a few improvements he had made over the winter with putting a new gearbox. He got his fastest time of 57.53 on Run 1. On Run 2 he felt his clutch was slipping so he went about taking out his gear box which resulted in him missing his final run but still was able to keep the position of 1st in class and fastest saloon of the weekend. John Mahon, competing in his DJ ADSI, finished 3rd in his class and 9th overall with a fastest time of 57.72. Brendan Keane in his Westfield was 10th overall and 2nd in class 3b with a fastest time of 57.85 just behind Peter McKinley with only 0.3 of a second between them.
Peter McKinley, Ford Escort MKII, winner Fastest Saloon
The Competition was fierce between the fastest saloons as they battled over both days for the fastest overall saloon award. This award was thoughtfully created by Aiden Connolly in memory of Simon McKinley. Simon’s father, Peter McKinley, won this battle on Saturday but had to settle for second place on Sunday behind the hard charging Civic of Michael Fitzgibbon. Peter was pushing hard to win this particular award – if he had to get out and push the car, he would have. In the end, Peter McKinley won the war of Fastest Overall Saloon, which he said was a very special moment for him.
Drivers were in for another treat for Round 2 on Sunday, with the new 2.2km hill in Ballinalacken. Accessible viewing points allowed spectators to get right up close to the breath-taking speed. Drivers were elated with new challenge of the fast flowing hill, all agreeing it was a great adrenaline rush from what is probably the longest hill in the year’s Championship. The top 10 results were similar to Saturday with the exception of Rory Stephens showing Alex Wilsdon Jnr what he can do with his extra pistons. This put Rory ahead into 4th by just 0.4sec. Saturday’s fastest saloon, the White Escort driven by Peter McKinley, was pipped to 8th overall by Michael Fitzgibbon in his class 8 Honda Civic by 0.8sec. Rounding out the top 10 was another 3B car – the Westfield of Brendan Keane.
Gary Egan, Seicento
Gary Egan took an early lead in the Cento Challenge at the Corkscrew on Saturday. Neil Bradbury and Billy White were chasing hard but couldn’t quite close the gap. Sunday saw Gary storming ahead of the field, with Danny ‘No Chicane’ Herlihy next, over 3 seconds behind, a margin unheard of in the Cento Challenge. Gary the anchor Egan in the P&G Cars Seicento was extremely happy to take maximum points in the class over the weekend much to the dismay of Neil, Billy and Danny who were left to fight over the next steps on the podium all weekend. This one make class continues to grow, with 3 brand new Cento competitors. One of the new up and coming stars of the Cento Challenge Rob Fenlon joined the cento roll over club on the final run on Sunday. He will have a busy few weeks ahead to get ready of the next round. Rob will be one to watch out for this year going by the time he was setting this weekend.
Class 1a was defended by Deirdre McKinley with her consistently fast times from run 1. Patrick McEntee was close behind with consistent runs but could not close the 2 second gap. Taking the third step on the class podium was Ray O’Neil in a Fiat Uno who had his hands full being surrounded by 1B Fiats all weekend. Deirdre and Ray were battling again on Sunday but they were blown away by a scorching run by William Power in his tyre melting Mini.
Derek McGuinness was out on a solo run in Class 2 on the technical Corkscrew hill. He managed to improve his personal best of the day by 3 seconds. Sadly Sunday was not his day as he was forced to retired to after the practise run.
John Kennedy, Dax Rush
Class 3A John ‘fresh beer’ Kennedy took honours on the Corkscrew with his Dax Rush. He fended off the extremely quick Rob Dwane who was having carburettor issues all day. Thomas O’Rourke, who was having engine power issues all day, was caught out on the last run when VTec kicked in Yo. John Lafferty was consistently chipping 0.5second off his time each run in his Vauxhall Chevette, leaving him in 4th. Bringing up the rear in this class was Gary Cunningham in the GC MkI Kinder Surprise (anything but light) Light. Gary was a huge entertainer with loud car, loud livery, loud driver and a Sat Nav fail. He was a favourite amongst spectators.
Sunday saw Gary Cunningham’s GC MKI Light take class honours with a blistering time knocking on the doors of single seaters. John Kennedy had to settle for 2nd place after this pair had a nearly identical time on Run 1. The fast flowing Ballinalacken Hill suited the sportscars and left John Laffey with no answer.
Class 3B: The Battle of the Big Saloons (and one Sportscar…)
On run 1 Peter McKinley set a blistering pace in the White Escort, with 3 others hot on his tails. Having clutch issues, Peter was unable to better his first time, which left Brendan Keane in 2nd place in his Westfield. Spectators were left shocked by the sideways 3rd place man Neil Duggan in his RWD Peugeot 205. The fire breathing Turbo Redtop RWD Starlett of Mark Carroll followed just 7/100ths of a second later on 2 wheels.
These top 4 were under 0.5 second apart all day. To solve his clutch issues, Peter took the Escort’s gearbox out and made the necessary adjustments during run 2, with the help of Richard Bell, Neil Bradbury, Billy ‘Crew Chief’ White and, for the first time, his grandson Rory who was handing him tools.
On Sunday, Peter was extremely excited about the “Hooligan’s Hill” as he named it. After having all his fun on Run1, he was left with the challenge of taking on Brendan Keane in his Westfield and the boosted Starlett of Mark Carroll, who initially led the class. This lead was short lived as both Peter and Brendan took chunks off their times on the final run. Unfortunately Mark was unable to improve on Run 1.
There was a strong turnout of beautifully present Historic machinery in Class 4. The class winner was Kieran White in his Riley, followed by Sean Murray on both days. Ex-Frank Nutall
Class 5. Returning to Hillclimbing, Cormac O’Brien took a strong win on Saturday in his Ray Formula Ford with over a 3 second lead. Gerard O’Connor in his Sheane FV had the best-laid plans over the winter but, like most of us, time was not on his side. With only a small bit of pre-event prep done, he still managed second in class. Gerard reported that after rolling the formula vee off the trailer for the first time since last season, he was happy to beat the formula ford of 3rd place man John Whitley. This was John’s first event with his recently purchased Swift Formula Ford. On Sunday John had quickly got to grips with his new Swift. And swift he was, bringing the fight to the Saturday winner Cormac and taking the win by 0.2sec. The two battling Fomula Fords left the underpowered Vee of Gerard O’Connor with no reply to their pace.
Class 6 was dominated all weekend by the impressively quick Radical of Alex Wilsden Jnr. On Saturday he was picking off some of the bigger cars from class 7 which left him asking what does Rory (Grandad) Stephens do with all those extra pistons. The next step on the podium went to John Donnelly in the Reynard with a 2 second lead over 3rd place John Mahon in the bright red DJ ADSI machine. Mahon did not set a time on his third run but managed to take the place from Brian McMahon in the Renault Mygal on his second run. On the fast Ballinalacken Hill the results were similar with Alex Wilsden taking pole position again in class and John Donnelly in second. There was a change with 3rd place honours going to Thomas Corey in the Delta T91 after slashing his run 1 time by nearly 3 second and again demoting the now 4th place man Brian McMahon.
The V8 roar of Class 7 could be heard for miles across the Burren from the Judd powered Gould GR37 of Sylvie Mullins and Michael Connolly. It was adrenaline pumping to witness the two Goulds go head to head for the first time in Irish Hillclimb history. No one could match local man Sylvie Mullins with a time of 47.29 second taking the overall win by 2.71 seconds. Did we mention his high speed oopsie on Sunday?? Rory Stephens (4th in Class) was a busy man in his Radical SR8, trying to tame a whole herd more horse power. This left him facing the wrong way on one of the tight hair pins of the corkscrew. Spectators reported that the mass of down force on the wingy type cars made for great viewing with these cars pulling the dust from the road as they roared on the fast Ballynalacken Hill. Fifth in class was Deirdre McKinley, setting her fastest time on Run 1 in her Reynard, commenting that she loved the pace and flow of the new hill. It was great to see another Formula Ireland out on the hills with Derek Daly at the wheel, achieving 6th in Class. Emmet Dunne had a challenging debut in his ex-Mick Roche Dallara, having electrical problems on Saturday. He was delighted to get a good shakedown on the hills on Sunday, leaving him 7th in Class.
There was a good fight for class 8 honours, with the top 4 times within 2.1 seconds. Tommy Gardiner took the win in his Civic. Jarlath Conneely following closely in his screaming Citroen C2, having come from 4th. Third place Patrick Curly was just another 2/10ths behind.
Michael Fitzgibbon was flying in his Civic on Sunday, rocketing to 8th Overall and finishing an outstanding 7 seconds ahead of his nearest class rival. This pushed Saturday’s winner into 2nd. Patrick Curley took 3rd again with Jarlath Conneely out of the running with an unlucky day.
Nial O’Sullivan was under pressure in class 9 all day at the Corkscrew from John Farrell, who is enjoying a straight class battle this year without his usual Class 4’s handicap system. John was closing the gap all day but still remained 0.4 seconds adrift on the final timesheet. 3rd went to Jack Deegan aka Rodge just over another second behind.
Nial O’Sullivan’s impressively loud and quick C2 lead from the start on Sunday’s fast paced hill. This day it was double driven by John O’Sullivan who followed 2.2 seconds behind. But the pair were split by John Farrell in his Ford Escort RS, driving on the limit, sideways everywhere. The beautifully prepared BMW E30 of Declan Gannon was 0.6 sec behind.
What a success this weekend was, with all of the hard work put in by Aiden Connolly and team, Galway and Clare Motor Clubs paying off. With 2 superb venues and the reunion of the Hillclimb gang after the long off-season, this was an excellent start the Championship. Next up is Wexford Hillclimb who will host Rounds 3 & 4 of the Championship on 21st & 22nd May.
Images with thanks to Caoradubha.com