Donegal Hillclimbs 3rd 4th September 2005 Rounds 13 and 14 of the Dunlop Hillclimb Championship

It was a long trek to Donegal for many of the Hillclimb Championship competitors for the final two rounds of the Dunlop series. More than half a dozen teams had round trips of over seven hundred miles. Their willingness to travel is testament to their faith that the Donegal Motor Club would run a good event. That they did. The team headed by Danny Gormley delivered what was in the words of Pat Roche, who won both days “the best hillclimb weekend ever”. A fitting end to a great season. Even the weather gods smiled on the event and the golden beaches which stretch between Knockalla and Port Salon provided a picture postcard backdrop to the weekends motorsport.

Michael Roche who won the first 10 rounds in a row had the championship wrapped up three weekends ago and decided to sit this one out. But his car was present and would contribute to the campaigns of the second and third placed drivers in this years championship. First overall may have been settled a long time ago but second place was available right down to the wire. After Carrick on Suir just two weeks ago Simon McKinley was holding on to second in his Warrior engined Mk2. John McNamara was third  with Paul O’Connell in hot pursuit.

McNamara brought Michael Roches GM Turbo Delta T81 to Donegal having crashed his own Coogar Ralt in Limerick. By Saturday evening these three Musketeers were still holding the positions in which they’d started. McKinley was further out in front after finishing third overall behind Pat Roche and Seamus Morris. O’Connell however, was breathing down McNamaras neck. Superb perfomances from John Mahon, 6th, and Peter Dwyer, 8th, were also adding to the pressure. Mahon and McNamara recorded equal times down to one hundreth of a second. But Mahon got his on an earlier run taking a potentially crucial extra point from McNamara.

O’Connell has driven the life out of his Pinto Delta T79 in recent events and it finally gave up the ghost by Saturdays final run. McNamara had found the OMS he’d borrowed in Limerick more to his liking than the Delta so there was a shuffle of these Hot Shoes overnight. Paul arrived on Sunday morning with the Turbo Delta T81 as John “Mack” was preparing to squeeze into Pat Roches OMS. “Mack” was more than a second and a half quicker in the bike engined car on Sunday, but would it be enough?

To drive a Delta with such power was a dream come true for O’Connell and he blasted it into second place overall and fastest of the registered drivers. McNamara mightn’t have been quick enough to catch O’Connell but was quick enough to hold off Dwyer and Mahon and so he claimed second in the championship by half a point. These single seater drivers had upped their pace to such a degree that Simon McKinley who remained faithful to his Mk2 Saloon could only manage seventh overall and dropped to fourth in the championship three points behind O’Connell in third.

At the other end of the scale yet finishing halfway up the time sheets were the contenders for the class 1 championship. The intrepid Ian Quinn form Inistoige who made full use of the extra points available in Wales earlier in the year made the long trip to Donegal to hold off a late challenge from Ray Cunningham. Too bad Stefan Walsh didn’t make it as these three mini drivers have been pushing the diminutive cars to their limits this year. Ray won the class both days in Donegal but it wasn’t enough to make up for scoring on only 9 rounds.

James Doherty claimed the class 2 championship with two more wins in that class. Declan Cundelan is beginning to challenge the dominance of the Doherty Starlet with his Escort. Declan was just 0.25 of a second behind on Sunday. This could be a sizzling battle next year. Second in the points behind Peter Bogan both days was enough for Des Fitzgerald to leapfrog John Laffey to win Class 3a. They’ve had a season long battle. McKinley remained unbeaten in 3b this year and takes that class in the championship. Orla Cassidy won the historic class on Saturday on handicap in her MG Midget. The same class was won by Jim O’Reilly in a Porche 911 on Sunday but the championship went to Matt Clarke in a Mini Marcos. Stephen Doyle was the fastest Historic driver on Scratch over the weekend.

Two class wins for Cormac O’Brien were not enough to take the championship from Ed Rynhart in 5a. Class 5b was fairly quiet this year for winner Peter Dwyer but no doubt the quest for overall points kept him occupied. Despite class hopping on Sunday Paul O’Connell claimed the class 6 championship just ahead of John Mahon who won the class on Sunday. Andrew Stewart won class 7 on Saturday and Paul O’Connell won it on Sunday but this class like the overall championship was always going to go to Michael B Roche.

Local interest in the rally classes in Donegal was such that four extra classes had to be added. Class 8 went to Patrick Shield in a Starlet. Class 9 fell to Aiden Friel driving a Civic both days. 10a was won by Damien Tourish in a Corolla on day 1 and Angus Hunter in an Escort on day 2. Class 10 belonged to Mervyn Johnstons Mini on Sunday. Daniel Conaghan in a Ford Escort took two victories in Class 11 over the weekend. Damien Gallagher and Paul Reid had a right tussle in 11a Damien came out on top on Saturday in his Escort but Paul took it on Sunday. Dean Laffey won the rally class 9 in the Dunlop Hillclimb Championship.

Senan O’Connor