Shane Murphy from Ovens, Co Cork has made history by becoming the 1st driver from Southern Ireland to win the National Hotrod Championship of the World held at Foxhall Stadium in Ipswich, National Hot Rods are a scaled down version of NASCAR and are the fastest class to race on quarter mile (400m) ovals, the sleek bodywork covers highly tuned engines, usually developing around 250bhp and high levels of aerodynamics and braking allowing for speeds approaching 100mph (160km/h) on the short straights and 60mph (100km/h) around the corners. The Formula has been described as ‘Jet Fighters in a Gymnasium’.
Qualifying for the World Championship is an almost yearlong affair and qualifying for Sundays race started last August as part of the World Series IRL, all Southern Irish Rounds being held at Tipperary Raceway, Rosegreen, Co Tipperary. There are other qualifying series for Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Continental drivers also and only the very best drivers qualify for the big race. A random draw then gives each driver 3 solo laps to set their fastest time to determine the starting grid and Shane set a quick time of 14.65 seconds which was enough for Pole Position out of the 34 car field – which takes up almost half of the track. Lapping traffic is an integral part of the race and there are a lot of cars to pass – all while involved in their own race too. Onto the big race itself over 75 laps and #970 Murphy led the pack away and slowly eased ahead with former World Champion #9 Glenn Bell of Northern Ireland in close proximity, along with #997 Andrew Murray, also from Northern Ireland. A number of caution periods during the race for accidents and oil spills allowed the pack to close up, but Bell in particular stayed very close and made his move around the half way mark and took the lead and began to pull away. Nothing is predictable in Motorsport and another caution saw the pack bunch up and Murphy retook the lead with around 20 laps to go and held on to win, improving on his best previous result of 2nd place – 3 times over A determined Murphy lead the pack home for an Irish 1-2-3-4 – #970 Shane Murphy (Cork) 1st, #997 Andrew Murray (Randalstown) 2nd, #9 Glenn Bell (Portadown) 3rd and #76 Adam Maxwell (Nutts Corner) 4th.
The ever modest and likeable Murphy was delighted after the race and was still trying to take it all in: “It’s absolutely unreal. I wasn’t prepared to be second again this year though!” he smiled.
A great moment for Irish Oval Racing and Irish Motorsport and one to be remembered.