I remember it well. Donal Loughrey had purchased a very second hand Zip 100cc kart- from Morgan Dempsey in Mullingar. We were both studying at Bolton Street at the time and were aware that there was open testing every Wednesday afternoon in Mondello Park. We decided that our Wednesday afternoon lectures were not overly important and jumped on an 11 bus. This brought us to UCD and we walked the rest of the way to Donal’s parents’ house in Clonskeagh. We then borrowed his mother’s Fiat Uno and somehow bundled the kart into the back and headed for Mondello.
Hard as it is to believe, you didn’t need leathers back then, in fact I am not even sure you needed a race suit at all. We shared an old AGV helmet and took turns out on track. I still remember driving out the pitlane, something I had dreamt of doing since I was a small child, tenderly tackling Shell (turn one) and listening to the little 100cc engine scream as I headed for Duckhams (turn three for you young folk). Towards the end of the day the rain came and of course we had no wets. No matter, we opined, the slicks would do the job. Out of the pitlane for the next session and when I braked, still way beyond the grandstand, the rears locked, the direct drive chain driven engine stopped and all was silent. When I released the brake the engine fired again and the massive initial understeer soon turned to glorious power oversteer. We did a few sessions each and after 5 o’clock, hard as this may be to believe, the officials disappeared- but you could keep going. In one of the subsequent sessions, I came through BOAC (turn two) at the end of the rack, thinking I was a complete hero but clipped the exit kerb with my right rear- and around she went. In time honoured 100cc karting tradition, I picked the kart up by the back bumper ran a few steps, dropped it and jumped in, planting my foot on the throttle at the same time. Unfortunately for me, It didn’t fire. Nor did it fire the second or third time of asking by which time I was completely and utterly bushed. I remember lying on my back on the grass with rain falling on my face trying to get my breath back. My teacher in first class, the wonderful Mrs Maguire used to always say to us “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again” so I said I would give it one more go. Fair play to Mrs Maguire, the yoke fired up and I was headed for Duckhams with the throttle wide open.
Now, to add some perspective to this story we need to clarify a few things. These open test days were for cars, karts and bikes and we had separate sessions all afternoon. Now the cars and the karts, obviously, lapped clockwise but back in the day, bikes raced anti clockwise- and so tested the same direction….
Back to Leo, who happy out, is emulating Matti Alamaki as he negotiates the second apex of Duckhams. While I was remembering the wise words of my teacher a few moments earlier though, six hardy bikers were at the end of the pitlane, heads cocked listening to see if there were any karts on track. In fairness to them, there weren’t! Off they went…… So, there I am, balancing the kart beautifully on the throttle (in my head), imagining Murray Walker describing this new up and coming driver- when I look up and see the aforementioned six bikers coming at me at a not inconsiderable pace….. By some stroke of luck we all missed each other and I arrived into the pitlane speechless- and unable to take my hands off the steering wheel. At the time, I was horrified, but in the intervening years, I have discovered that it makes quite an amusing story- one that I would probably not believe, were I not telling it in the first person!
Anyway, why am I telling you this story? Well I was delighted to hear about the return of kart racing to Mondello Park recently after an absence of many years. Not only will that allow me to attend kart meetings that don’t clash with car race meetings, but importantly it will introduce young karters to the circuit and hopefully encourage them to graduate to car racing at some stage too. Congratulations to Mondello, Motorsport Ireland and everyone else who made this happen. The fact that they will race on the International loop is not relevant- the good news here is that karting is back at Mondello, and that can only be a good thing for motorsport in general! The action kicks off this Sunday- and if you perch on the right spot- the entrance to the final corner for example, you should be able to watch car racing and kart racing at the same time. (on different tracks though and both going clockwise!!!)
Until the next time,