Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb & Sprint Championship 2007 Rounds 9 and 10. Clare Motor Club at Corkscrew and Scalp by Senan O’Connor

The Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship reached its mid point this weekend with two rounds hosted by Clare Motor Club near Ballyvaughan this weekend. Sundays Scalp Hillclimb brought to an end a tough week for competitors who contested the Carlow Sprints just a week ago completing four days motorsport in just eight days. Such a grueling timetable was always going to push drivers and their cars to the maximum and was sure to rattle out some problems.

It was tough at the top for championship leader Paul O’Connell who blew his engine holding off multiple champion Byrnes last week. Class 6 competitor Darryl Ramsay lent O’Connell his OMS single seater for the Clare weekend and the young Limerick man scored some useful points on Saturdays Corkscrew Hillclimb with 3rd place overall. On Sunday however the massive grip on the warm tarmac and the trigger sensitive clutch proved to be a nasty combination and a driveshaft broke on the start line of the first run, ending Paul’s points gathering mission.

With Paul O’Connell out of contention the big battle of the weekend was between Galway’s Frank Byrnes and local Clare driver Sylvie Mullins. Frank, enjoying a power surge in his Pilbeam, he dumped the 4.5 litre TVR V8 in favor of a 5 litre Rover V8 recently, tamed the beast on the torturous Corkscrew hill. He set his fastest time on run 2 with a best of 57.81. Sylvie chased him all the way recording his best time on the final third run a 58.99.

The sun was literally splitting the stones on Sunday. New sections of tar along the Scalp began to melt at midday and the slick tyres of the racing cars were pulling the stones out of it. For the leaders the best times were actually set on the first run. Neither Frank Byrnes nor Sylvie Mullins could improve on Run 2 or 3. Sylvie dashed the first run to win by a full 1.34 seconds from Byrnes. That margin was enough to make him fastest man of the weekend on aggregate. The Ballyvaughan driver was delighted with his home victory.

A driver who did get quicker as the day went on was Simon McKinley in the Warrior Escort. Less grip doesn’t bother Simon and he drifted the white Mk2 home a remarkable 3rd overall. With O’Connell out of the running on Sunday the Dubliner is reeling in his buddy in the championship. The gap between them fell from 14 to 8 points over the weekend. This could turn into the battle of the season. Byrnes closed his deficit of 31 points from O’Connell to 20. With drop scores to be applied at the end of the year he could still make the running come seasons end.

Rounds 11 and 12 are based in the beautiful seaside town of Dungarvan in four weeks time. O’Connell assures us he’ll have his car back together in time. The presence in Clare of “Dr. Phil”, as the boys have christened the head of Connaught Racing, shows the UK companies commitment to the campaigns of O’Connell and McKinley. One thing’s for sure the Clare based rounds have certainly played their part in the story of the Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship 2007.