The picturesque village of The Naul in North County Dublin came to a halt yesterday. Aptly, the sun shone on the lines of Race, Rally, Kart and Hillclimb drivers, all wearing their racesuits and carrying their helmets.
The mood, predictably, was sombre. The man who could arguably described as the King of Irish Hillclimbing, Simon McKinley, was about to be laid to rest. Suddenly, a noise broke the air. A distinctive and familiar noise. Drivers looked at each other…. The sound was unmistakable- it was Simon’s famous “White Escort” approaching at full chat. Sure enough, the “‘Scort” , as Simon called it, charged down the short straight into the village. A poignant moment, dry eyes were few and far between…
I don’t intend to write a full report on the proceedings, but I think you’ll get the idea. Simon’s wonderful wife, family and friends did him proud yesterday…
I am not going to talk about the Escort whipping single seaters, or the Lant on slicks thrilling crowds on a greasy surface- this has been well documented elsewhere. (In the extremely unlikely event you aren’t one of the 1.3 million who has as yet viewed his youtube exploits, I suggest you type his name and sit back…) What is equally, if not more important, is Simon the man. The man who helped anyone who needed help. The man who got so many people into hillclimbing. The man who was enthralled with anything that was powered by an engine. For some reason I looked through my text messages from him the other night and amongst those from Simon were two that stood out. One from Top Gear Live at Citywest, an event I was commentating on. “I hear you are reading out texts- it looks pretty slippy out there- can I go out on slicks, it looks like great craic!” and one in the days leading up to the Knockalla hillclimb. “Minimoto race on the beach on the Saturday evening- you in? Can get you a bike!” In short, Simon loved the craic. As much as he hated the media thing, he was hugely popular worldwide. This site averages 1,000 to 2,000 hits a day. Over last weekend it got over 30,000 hits- almost all on the piece I wrote on Simon. (Hits I would rather not have, I hasten to add here.) What I found interesting was that while quite a few were from Ireland and the UK, and plenty from France- there were a substantial number from the rest of the globe too. The US, Australia, Brazil, Mexico and even Chile all showed impressive numbers. Would Simon have been impressed? Unlikely. His main concern, apart from his family and friends, was getting cars to go quicker!
Irish Motorsport, as a community, should be proud of yesterday. There were people from every discipline, the governing body, officials, scrutineers, spectators- all keen to show their respects to a wonderful man. I spoke to people who had never met Simon, but were huge fans of his. In an incredible show of solidarity and respect, hundreds of fans and friends changed their Facebook profile pictures to an image of Simon yesterday- I felt proud to be part of such a community. It was mentioned at the service but in this time of great sadness, we all need to remember that we were lucky to have known, no actually, we were lucky to have experienced Simon McKinley.
Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann – There will never be another Simon McKinley.
Image from pmcgphotos.com