Social media exploded last week with the news that the Phoenix Park Motor Races were making a return in 2016. I had a number of messages asking me if I had heard anything. My initial instinct was to think that it was just a rumour, or a fantasy. Further investigation happily revealed, however, that former Punto Abarth racer Trevor Kinsella has been labouring like a Trojan behind the scenes for the last number of months to make this happen and his mission has not been entirely fruitless. In fact, he has done enough to persuade Motorsport Ireland that it is going ahead and they have now granted a date for the event to return to the calendar next year.
For the anoraks amongst us, this is incredible news. I am, old enough to remember covering my ears as I sat with
Dad down at Ratra, with a grid of screaming Formula Atlantics charging towards us. I also remember Derek Daly, David Kennedy and Tom O’Leary demonstrating F1 cars (yes, really) around the Park. I also remember David Hall’s Imp, its Imp powerplant secretly having replaced with a Burton-Ford 1600 in the preceeding weeks, putting away John Keaney’s all conquering TMC Costin after a hectic battle. Years later, I was lucky enough to win in the ‘Park and am not ashamed to admit that I was more than a little emotional on my slow down lap. People used to say that one win in the ‘Park was worth ten in Mondello- I’m not sure if that’s true as a win is a win, but a Park win is certainly something special. The two “big ones” in any club racer’s season were the Leinster Trophy meeting and the Phoenix Park- hopefully this will be the same again going forward.
Details are skimpy, with the official Facebook page putting the news out there that the famous venue would once again play host to motor racing next year- but there has yet to be an official statement from the governing body nor the new organisers. However, as I mentioned above, Motorsport Ireland have granted a date- the August Bank Holiday weekend, and a little birdie tells me that plenty of work has been done behind the scenes and MI do want it to happen. Beyond this, we can just hope that all the necessary pieces fall into place and a new generation of racers get to experience the special feeling of racing on public roads- in the centre of Dublin. I for one, have everything crossed.
About the Phoenix Park Motor Races:
“Motor racing has taken place in the Phoenix Park since 1903, and during the period 1929 -1931 the Park was the venue for the first ever Irish Grand Prix which led to the annual motor racing event that continues to this day.
During the 1990’s, a number of sponsors used the Phoenix Park Motor Races to promote their involvement in Formula 1, bringing World Champion Jacques Villeneuve to the circuit in 1996, and Damon Hill in 1997. The rich history of the Park has seen memorable racing by John Watson, Derek Daly, Eddie Jordan, all of whom became international names.
Motorsport Ireland, the governing body for motor sport in Ireland is involved in the organisation of this event in conjunction with the Phoenix Park Motor Racing Committee. This committee is made up of selected personnel from various motor racing clubs, with combined experience of 70 years of organisation of this prestigious event. The event is FREE to spectators and the revenue required to run the Park is generated through Competitor Entry Fees, Sponsorship and Corporate Hospitality.
Motorsport Ireland is fully conscious that the circuit, which consists of three public roads in the Phoenix Park, is not primarily there for motor racing. However, at the same time over the past 100 years the Phoenix Park has become synonymous with motor racing worldwide. Obviously, a major part of the budget required to run this event is the circuit build to the high standards of safety that are required. The track is very suited to both historic racing cars and several of the modern racing classes.
An event of this nature incurs a substantial amount of organisation and financial backing. The fact that it is also a free event to spectators makes matters more difficult.” source- phoenixparkmotorraces.ie
Header Image: John Burns in the Alfasud Ti and Gordon Kellett embroiled in a typical Park Production Saloon battle. Image from Con Connolly- check out his Facebook Page for more.