Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship 2007. Tipperary LC&MCC at Dungarvan, 7th and 8th July. By Senan O’Connor

The overall contest for the Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship has drawn incredibly close after rounds 11 and 12 in Dungarvan this weekend. Frank Byrnes has made up for an uncharacteristically quiet start to the first part of the season with a further two wins in Dungarvan this weekend. He is now just two points behind Paul O’Connell and Simon McKinley who are tied at the head of the standings on 88 points each. O’Connells early lead is slipping through his fingers like Clonea sand while he searches for an engine to replace the one he blew in Carlow.

A new organisational team from the Tipperary Motor Club overcame extremely adverse weather conditions to give drivers three runs on Saturday and four on Sunday. Most drivers scored their best times on the first runs as the later runs were spoiled by rain both days. Many of the top ten didn’t even attempt Runs 2 and 3 on Saturday. Frank Byrnes in the Autocolor Pilbeam did the job in just one run on Saturday and two on Sunday.

The top four positions were the same both days. Rory O’Brien in his recently new Reynard Opel Lotus scored two fine second places ahead of rain master Seamus Morris in third. Championship sponsor Peter Dwyer was fourth, scoring enough points to keep him in touch with the overall battle. He’s just 9 points off the O’Connell and McKinley duo with six rounds to go.

In the classes its much the same as with the overall contest with some very close results. Ian Quinn, in a BMC Mini is seven points ahead of Stefan Walsh’s Metro, who in turn is being chased very closely by championship new-comer Pete Ray, 2 points back in the Mini he bought off ebay. James Doherty is in his customary lead in class 2 but is only 4 points ahead of the Puma of Rory Stephens. There’s also quite a chase for third place with John Bradley just 4 points ahead of the Civic battle of Declan Gannon and Tommy Murphy who are tied.

Peter Bogan, Ford Escort and Paul McNally, Westfield SEI, are tied at the head of class 3A after Bogan failed to appear in Dungarvan. Championship chairman Stephen Gillis is third in a similar car to McNally’s. He won the class both days in Dungarvan and his scoring may look a lot stronger by the end of the season when drivers have to count only their best twelve results out of the potential eighteen in the championship. Simon McKinley is walking class 3B in the Warrior Escort but Seamus Morris’ winning appearance in the Darrian on the Tipperary rounds interrupted his perfect score sheet.

Frank Nuttall heads the Historic class despite bouncing a front tire off the inside of the upper hairpin on the Sweep. Maurice Cullens Davrian Imp was the fastest car in the class over the weekend. It’s quiet in the smaller single seater classes as many drivers have moved up into class 7 in the quest for overall results. Its been left to the stalwarts of these classes, Gerard O’Connor and Peter Dwyer in 5 A and B respectively to lead there and poor John Mahon is all on his own in class 6.

Frank Byrnes leads class 7 by 10 points from Paul O’Connell. Will there be a consolation prize for either driver here come seasons end? There’s another tight bunch in the hunt for the third trophy in this class. Rory O’Brien is on 62 ahead of Michael Melia 59 and Lee Stanworth 57.

It’s all to play for in the final quarter of the 2007 Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship with three very different weekends ahead. There’s the usually twisty narrow hills of Limerick on the August Bank holiday followed by the wide but steep Knockalla in Donegal at the beginning of September and a couple of sprints later that month hosted by MEC to finish the season. Just as in Dungarvan the weather too could mix things up even further. Lets hope O’Connell can get his car sorted to make it a three way battle with McKinley and Byrnes. The championship is rarely this close so late in the year.