Limerick Hillclimbs, Barna 1 & 2 30th & 31st of July 2005

The Limerick motor club returned to the same hills as they used in 2004 to run rounds nine and ten of this years Dunlop Hillclimb & Sprint Championship. Clerk of the course Eoin Noonan pushed his team to run a superb event over the bank holiday weekend. As Michael Roche, the winner on both days pointed out at prize giving, the drivers got excellent value for money with five runs on Saturday and four on Sunday.
The weekend saw the return of reigning Hillclimb Champion Pat Roche in his Hayabusa engined OMS Single Seater. He had some teething problems with his car that meant he didn’t get the full compliment of runs. But second overall and a win in class 6 on Saturday was a strong return for the winner of last years events. Michael Roche however was proving that the Pace of this years championship is seriously hot finishing over a second and a half ahead of Pat on Saturday.

On Sunday it was up to rising star and local man Paul O’Connell to push the pace behind Michael. Paul had a rotten day on Saturday with the return of a niggling electrical problem which has haunted him all season. The loan of a distributor from fellow local competitor Mike Meade sorted the problem overnight. Sundays runs saw the young Crecora driver rejoicing in his new found reliability as he drove fast and loose drifting his Delta Single Seater into second overall and first in class 6.

Pauls’ sparring partner Simon Mckinley in the Warrior Mk2 Escort tidied his usually flamboyant driving style and found an extra two seconds on Sundays hill but he would have needed an extra half second to depose his buddy from second place. This battle is a classic example of what makes hillclimbing so unique. Where else could a Mk2 Escort and a single seater racing car trade fractions of seconds as these two have done for a couple of seasons now. Simon was third both days and winner of class 3b.

The pressure was on for many drivers over the weekend. With the championship now in full stride and four rounds still to go after Limerick, competitors have had time to analyze their points in both class and overall championships and no doubt targets and goals have been set for the end of the year. Michael Melia in the Opel Lotus pushed a bit too hard on Saturdays practice run. He got out of shape on a tight right hander near the start of the hill and hit a bank on the inside of the corner wrecking his front suspension and putting the car out of action for the remainder of the weekend. He went back to his hot hatch routes and shared his wifes Fiat 127 for the remainder of the day. Marie has decided she’s had enough sitting around in the paddock and has been competing since Dungarvan.

John McNamara was another driver who went home early on Saturday. He went head on into a bank near the top of the hill on the first run. He’s done significant damage to the beautiful Coogar engined Ralt that was second overall on both days in Dungarvan. Fortunately he emerged unscathed and “borrowed” an OMS single seater overnight to compete again on Sunday and win class 7.

The August Bank holiday is a busy weekend in Ireland and a number of drivers had other commitments for Sunday. One such driver was Francis (Pants) Creaven who finished an excellent fourth overall on Saturday in his Pilbeam. Starlet driver James Doherty winner of class 2 on Saturday had to leave it to Escorteer Declan Cundelan on Sunday. Mark Dempsey in the Spartan had a tractor to display on Sunday but headed home with the Trophy for class 5b.

For those that stayed the weather improved and they were rewarded with some very high places. Dubliner Brendan Keane in his Crossle 25F won class 5a both days and finished an excellent eighth overall on Sunday. Ray Cunningham did the double too and claimed a top ten result in his class 1 Mini. Frank Nuttall won the historic class on handicap in his Graham. But there was a great battle between Jim O’Reilly’s Porche and Stephen Doyle’s Lotus Elan for the scratch result. Jim came out on top on Saturday in ninth overall but Stephen drove a stormer on Sundays twisty hill and finished 1.35 seconds up on the 911.

Another driver on a charge all weekend was Des Fitzgerald in the Fiesta he built with his brother. The Patrickswell driver won class 3a both days and finished as high as thirteenth overall on Saturday ahead of former class rival Ger Dwane in the Falcon Mini who now competes in 3b. Two rally drivers joined the action over the weekend and scored great results. Padraig Egan was 6th overall both days and won class 9 in his two litre Escort. Jason Ryan was 16th on Saturday but charged to a remarkable seventh overall in his 1600 Civic just 9 hundredths of a second off being the fastest rally car.

The Carrick on Suir Motor make a welcome return to the Dunlop Hillclimb Championship with a further two round in just three weeks time on the 30th and 31st of August. There is little doubt that the action will continue there.

Senan O’Connor