Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb & Sprint Championship Rounds 13 & 14 Limerick Hillclimbs at Old Mill and Broadford 4th and 5th of August 2007 by Senan O’Connor.

Simon McKinley and Paul O’Connell arrived at the first of two Limerick Hillclimbs with equal points in the Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship. After fourteen rounds held over seven weekends in such different machinery, not even a point could separate them. Local driver O’Connell was back in his racetrack derived Delta T79 single-seater with a borrowed engine. McKinley is still piloting his fathers rally evolved MK2 Escort snubbing the Lant single-seater he used for the Carrick on Suir Hillclimbs.  It was McKinley who reconditioned and fitted the borrowed engine after Paul’s own one blew up at the Carlow Sprints. Has it ever happened before that a competitor has put so much into helping his principle opposition when a National Championship has been at stake? I think not.

Simon was the first to shoot across Paul’s bow, driving broadside to set fastest time on the first run. 40.40 against 40.67. Russell Stanworth parried his Opel Lotus into the thick of the battle on that run too with a 40.64. He harks from Cornwall where piracy is in the blood and he too was out for O’Connell’s treasure. Paul has dreamed of winning his home event for many years now. 39.29 on the second run was enough to claim his bounty and 38.17 on the final run burried it. Planky had walked it. Russell Stanworth climbed to second after the fourth run but there was mutiny in the breeze. Not only did Simon top his time to lodge himself in second but his own son, Lee, clocked a 39.91 to claim third from his father who was demoted to fourth.

As if Saturday wasn’t exciting enough, Frank Byrnes returned from his successful raid in the North to compete in Limerick on Sunday. He was back in an attempt to add the southern title to the Northern one he’d claimed on Saturday. He’d been lying third overall in the championship prior to Limerick and still has a mathematical chance of doing the double. But it was neither the reigning champion nor the current leader at the head of the times after two runs on Sunday. Simon McKinley in the Mk2 Escort was out in front. O’Connell was second at this stage and Byrnes was third. After the third run O’Connell had dashed into first with McKinley behind him and Byrnes still at the wrong end of the podium.

They came out all guns blazing on the fourth and final run on which the top three drivers would all set their best times. When the smoke had settled Frank Byrnes was first with 38.59 to Paul O’Connell on 38.84 and Simon McKinley third on 39.94. Frank has put himself right back in the championship chase. O’Connell still leads on 107 points. Byrnes has 96 points and McKinley has 95. Drivers can only count their best twelve points out of the 18 rounds. McKinley and O’Connell have both scored on at least 12 rounds already. With four rounds to go they can only improve by scoring higher than the four worst scores they have counted. McKinley can potentially only improve his tally by a further 14 to points to 109. O’Connell could improve to 119 and Byrnes could make 114.

Paul O’Connell is definitely in the strongest position to win this years Premier Machine Tools Hillclimb and Sprint Championship. One win or two second places out of the next four events and its his. Simon McKinley only has an outside chance of first overall but his fight for second place could have a significant effect on the overall battle. Especially if he brings out the Lant for Donegal. Frank Byrnes needs to do what he does best, and that’s win. The action continues in Donegal on the 1st an 2nd of September and continues to its finale in Wicklow with the MEC Sprints on the 15th and 16th.