**** Rounds 3&4 Wexford Hillclimb Report ****
The Sunny South East lived up to its name last weekend as the Wexford Motor Club hosted rounds 3&4 of the Alekto Irish Hillclimb and Sprint Championship. A new venue in Newbawn challenged drivers with some super high speed sections and heavy braking zones including the occasional bump to keep all tested. Under the watchful eye of COC Mark Cooper and his team Wexford Motor Club laid on a fantastic event with 5 runs on each day, classic car show and fantastic family atmosphere was evident from the crowds who came out to watch and support based around Foley’s pub.
Dublin native Billy White hit the pace straight away on Run 1 leading after some development of Roger, The Formula Renault since his success in Ballyvaughan. The class 6 driver committing to the swift turns early on, showing up the class 7 contenders in more powerful machinery. Run 2 however, normal service resumed 3 the class 7 drivers leapfrogging Billy in the form of John Donnelly taking the lead in a Pilbeam MP62 with fellow Pilbeam pilot Frank Byrnes in 2nd and Chris Houston 3rd driving an OMS CF08. All 3 began to lower their times throughout the remaining runs but it was round 1&2 winner Chris Houston pulled the rabbit out of the hat just dipping under the 60 second mark with a time of 59.71, with John and Frank both in the 61’s with just over a quarter of a second separating John and Frank in John’s favor. Billy White held Russell Stanworth’s charges back all day claiming an impressive 4th Overall with Russell filling the final spot in the top 5. The fight of fiber-glass continued on from Galway with Ned Doherty in his screaming Speedcar and local driver Pat Roche in his bright orange RSR Escort Mk1, Ned claiming honors in day 1 with Roche just over half a second behind. This riveting battle is very compelling as 2 similar cars in the form of space framed chassis and fiber glass body work can be so close to each other with a weight advantage in favor of the Speedcar and power advantage to the escort. Another local and popular matchup was formed between Brian Kirwan’s orange Peugeot 205 and James Bradley’s rally Mk2 Escort. Bradley fueled with early signs of coming out on top here with a lead of Kirwan on the early runs on day 1, while Brian, fueled by apple tart found his sweet spot on the course edging half a second ahead of Bradley and taking first blood on day 1. Dara Fay rounded out the top ten with a smooth showing of pace just pipping Chris snow for 10th overall.
Chris Houston opened day 2 where he left off on Day 1 in the lead of John Donnelly, however on Run 3 Donnelly decided he was behind for long enough dipping into the 59’s and taking the lead. Both drivers decided Run 4 was where they would end their day and both charged hard. Donnelly going a little slower but still in the lead, the crowd awaited watching the seconds go by as Chris Houston completed the climb. Chris just inched ahead of John gaining the win by just 3 hundredths making it 4 out of 4 in this years championship so far. Frank Byrnes had a troubled day after he tried to prune the ditches on Run 1 he found a rock hidden in the Wexford undergrowth damaging his tyre and rim in the process leaving him to spectate for the rest of the day. Frank will be on a mission to claw some points back in Carlow for sure. Russell Stanworth carried himself ahead of Billy White with White only setting 1 time on the day. The spectacular space-framed machines of Doherty and Roche pushed their Saturday pace on another bit but the order did not change with 15 hundredths between them on this occasion. Brian Kirwan and James Bradley both knocked a second off their previous day’s time with Kirwan maintaining the lead there too. Shane Bell in his first top 10 of the year took 9th Overall as he gains more experience and accustomed to his mighty Subaru but couldn’t take and time to relax with Rory Stephens pushing on only 5 hundredth aloft of the Subaru.
A bumper entry in class 1A saw 9 drivers in total competing in the 1400cc saloon class. Dara Fay picked up from where he left off on Ballyallaban with a pair of class wins with Ray Cunningham in his rally mini following suit with a pair of 2nd’s throughout the weekend. Local driver and often seen on the Wexford hills in his Vauxhall Nova narrowly missed out on 2nd just under 1 tenth of a second behind Cunningham on both occasions. Patrick Spain made the trip down from Galway with his Honda Civic improving his times on each run of the weekend become more and more accustomed to the hills. Liam Fitzgibbon took 4th on Saturday and slipped back as far as 7th on Sunday with others in the class making a decent improvement on their Saturday pace. Eoin Aspel in a Mk2 escort claimed a very respectable 5th on Saturday, which Elaine Kirwan in another orange car from the Kirwan stable took 5th on Sunday after developing her Saturday times. Jack Handrick took the penultimate position on Saturday and jumped ahead Fitzgibbon’s micra on Sunday, while Barry Smith made his return to the Irish hills in a smart looking Fiat Uno for the final position on both days.
The infamous Cento Challenge did not disappoint the weekend with these cars reaching their top speed early on with some slight down hill elements to the course. The Whitty brothers who gave us a brief glimpse of their pace in Kirkistown in 2020 showed their pace had not slowed since then with Dylan Whitty setting the pace from the start. Current Cento champion, Mark Halligan split the Whitty pair on Saturday and claimed a comfortable class win on Sunday after the Whitty Cinquecento was left sidelined for the Sunday run. Jonny Murray made it a Wexford top 4 claiming 4th on Saturday and earning the 3rd place pot on Sunday. Francis Dempsey back in his own car this weekend had to settle for a 5th and 4th in class behind the local knowledge. Caoimhe White had a mixed weekend with an impressive 2nd in class on Sunday beating the resident drivers before a misadventure on Run 2 ended her day abruptly. We look forward to seeing Caoimhe’s return to the hills in due course. Cathal Murphy made his Hillclimb debut at the weekend gaining valuable experience on the course and lowering his times with great effect from beginning to end of the event.
Galway man Aidan Courtney who refuses to acknowledge his power deficit compared to the Class 3 cars continues to muscle his way up into the middle of their battles in his light weight Peugeot 106. Unfortunately Aidan too had an mishap leaving his 106 looking worse for wear on Saturday which looked like a promising weekend for him with an impressive time on Run 1 Saturday. Limerick pairing Joe Clifford and Thomas Sheedy took 2nd and 3rd in class in their Honda Civics while Barry Dagge took 3rd in a Ford Sierra on Sunday.
Wexford Natives Brian Kirwan and Peter Bogan headed the class 3A brigade in their Vauxhall powered machines, with a pleasing reinstatement of Peter Bogan to the class after some time away. Brian Kirwan who put mammoth work into the preparation and running of this event from its preconception also found the time to compete too with great effect with 2 class wins comfortably ahead of Bogan, 2nd both days. John Kennedy and Eyre Massey completed the class on both days in their sportscars.
Former Hillclimb Champion Pat Roche dominated class 3A on both days over 3 seconds clear of second in class both days. Willie Barrett made the switch to the bigger class since round 1 with the addition of a supercharger to his Honda Civic and wasted no time in getting used to the extra power with a 2nd and 4th in class on this occasion. Shane Bell in his brightly colored Subaru Impreza, boasting over 500 bhp overcame his issues from Galway taking 2nd and 3rd in class as he gets used to his recent build, with more to come. Peter McKinley held of Damien Walsh on Saturday with only 2 tenths separating the infamous White Escort and Damien’s RT supercar. Damien climbed one position on Sunday in the absence of McKinley. Paul Hammill in the Tiger Avon sportscar and Mark Carroll’s Toyota Starlet showed again the versatility of 3B and how 2 completely different designs can compete so closely together. Paul took first blood on Saturday less than 2 tenths ahead of Mark, who was experimenting with some unique aero setups, but Paul really got the bit between his teeth on Sunday screaming his Suzuki up the hill taking 3rd in class. Gary Cunningham’s pace wasn’t on fire this weekend suffering with a slipping clutch, ending his Wexford weekend on Saturday evening. Eamon Murphy joined the class for the weekend taking the final position on both days in his Mitsubishi Evo 5. One of the stars of the Ballyvaughan weekend, Eddie Doherty was very much welcomed to Wexford driving the well renowned V6 powered Ford Escort Mk6 built by the legendary Mattie McNamara.
With only 2 contenders this weekend Ned Doherty engaged in battle with another RSR Escort Mk1 took top spot here against Rory Stephens in his RSR only completing 2 timed runs on both days.
Mick O’Shea in the MG BGT, Ed Cassidy in his Iona Special, Ken McEvoy driving a Riley 12/4, Nick Bennet in an Alvis and Sean Murray with his trusty Lotus Elan formed the historic class competing on the hill this weekend with after handicap times calculated Nick Bennet taking victory on Saturday and Ken McEvoy Sunday.
The growing Formula Ford/ Formula Vee class saw the usual battle continue among Enda Byrne and Siobhan McCann sharing their Formula Vee. On home soil the pair controlled the class from the start and only half a second splitting the pair on both days. Enda now with 4 class wins cant afford to rest as his partner Siobhan is consistently only a breathe behind him on any run. Sean McNamara in another Vee and Niall Kennedy in a Leastone for the first time this year took to the hills both chipped away and lowered their times, we hope to see them out for the next few rounds.
Billy White and John Mahon made up the Super Single seater class with Whitey taking the class and 5th overall both days. John Mahon after some dyno work had his Hayabusa humming again in the DJ ASDI on his home hill.
As mentioned above Chris Houston, John Donnelly and Frank Byrnes all pushing hard in their high powered single seaters took top 3 in the class respectively with Russell Stanworth in the Opel Lotus chasing Billy White for the weekend made it up to 3rd in class on Sunday.
The 1650cc 8 valve rally class entertained Seamus Anderson and Andy Purser once again with the Buckstown Anglia of Seamus Anderson reigning supreme on both occasions. A pair of Peugeot’s in the form of class regular Andy Purser and newcomers to the class Helen and Darragh Byrne shared their Peugeot 106 across the 2 days, both Byrnes behind the experienced Hillclimber Purser.
The competitive 1600 16 valve rally class had a top 3 grouped within a quarter of a second on Sunday. Greg O Brien debuted his Civic EG6 this weekend with great luck taking 2 class wins kicking off his championship campaign. Graham Bradley took 2nd on Saturday, and while he maintained his pace until Sunday evening with Dean Summers and Andy Farmer in his Toyota Corolla, showing consistent speed in the first 4 rounds so far. Kyle Foley and John Bagge had a tidy front wheel drive battle with Kyle getting the upper hand by just 1 tenth at the end of the weekend. David Bradley campaigned his BMW Mini Cooper throughout the weekend is a car we are seeing growing in popularity this year.
Liam O’Neill was the sole entrant on Saturday and had only 1 of the dynamic duo with Jack Deegan taking part on Sunday but only completing 1 timed run.
Chris Snow and his son Chris Jnr shared their Honda Civic, with Jnr narrowly missing out on a top 10 overall on Saturday and claiming a pair of class wins comfortably. Alan Kane split the pair on Saturday in his G4 Escort and was pipped at the post on Sunday with Chris Snr getting just over 1 tenth ahead.
Always impressive on his home events and making no exceptions this weekend was the hard charging James Bradley in his beautifully prepared Mk2 Escort. James managed some thrilling times in his rally car amongst the more suitably setup hillclimb saloons as well as the class win. Hillclimb Stallworth Seamus Morris returned to the championship in a fresh looking Darrian T90 GTR. Seamus took 2nd both days while Tony Ferris reappeared too in his BMW M3 Compact taking 3rd both days.
Rounds 5&6 of the Alekto National Hillclimb Championship are going to be held by the Carlow Car Club on June 25th/26th with entries due out shortly. We look forward to see how they can continue this exciting series in the Summer Sun.
Thanks to Rob Dwane.