Last weekend the 5/6th August saw the annual Limerick Speed weekend take place in Glenroe, Kilfinnane in Limerick.
This new venue to Speed competitors may evoke images of Biddy and Miley in the sleepy village from the old TV show but it was a far from sleepy village over the weekend. High spirits and high speed were the theme for the weekend.
Competitors began arriving for optional pre-event scrutiny in the paddock on Friday night. There was a great buzz in the paddock as tea and coffee were available in the Limerick Motor Club Marquee and food was available in the Food marquee on both days.
All the talk was about the new venue and the high speed nature of the course. Following consultation with the drivers a second chicane was added to the course to lower the speed on one of the faster sections.
Saturday practice started off wet and greasy and it proved to be a tricky challenge for most with numerous chicane strikes meaning a slow running through the practice run. The day began to brighten up and only the occasional shower dampened the enthusiasm as the day went on.
Rob Dwane came out of the traps with a 75.45 second run just over 0.5 second faster than reigning champion Joe Courtney. The theory was that the 2 chicanes would suit the slightly more nimble OMS and the young Clare charger put it to good effect on his second run by improving by 2 seconds to a 73.42. The experienced Joe Courtney took a big chunk out of his time to bring his Reynard back into the battle but a 74.85 was the best he could manage on his second and final run.
Rory Stephens in the SR8 Radical had a very steady first run but took a whopping 6 seconds off it to finish 3rd overall on 80.51. Rory is usually a slow burner and would be expected to improve on the second day.
Billy White got the better of Gary Egan in their shared Formula Renault to finish 4th and 5th respectively. This dynamic duo have been scrapping tooth and nail together for years in Fiat centos and seem to have brought the same banzai approach to single seaters. 0.16 separated the two friends on Saturday but their real fun was to wait for Sunday..
Paul O’Connell hit a chicane on run 1 and put in a steady time of 83.40 to finish 6th overall in his Norma sportscar just ahead of fellow sportscar class 3C rival Gar Cunningham in 7th. These two drivers enjoy a great battle and indeed Cunningham has been pushing the little GT pocket rocket as hard as it can go and was unlucky to have missed out on a 2nd run due to a small wiring problem.
Russell Stanworth or JR as he is known managed to clip a cone on the chicane in run 1 and again put in a semi cautious time to finish 8th on Saturday in his Formula Vauxhall.
Seamus Morris made the long trip down from across the border to showcase his Darrian T90 and got it well into the top 10, finishing 9th overall.
Local rally ace Ed Synan continued his by now customary giant killing antics and beat all comers to finish as fastest Saloon in his rapid Escort Mk2. A true display of the merits of hillclimbing to the rally fraternity. If you learn to be quick on a hill you will be quick on a stage from the word go.
Dara Fay won Class 1A in his little Suzuki Swift finishing a creditable 19th overall.
Damian Walsh kept up the pressure and won the Cento class 1B just ahead of Danny Herlihy and Alan Tully who is really starting to get his car running like clockwork..
Tommy Gardiner won Class 2 in his lovely 1.6 Honda Civic ahead of the very local Willie Barret in a similar Rice rocket.
Danny Calnan in his Opel won Class 3a ahead of a Limerick local man John Kennedy in his motorcycle engine Dax.
Special mention to one of the most popular classes, Class 3B. It seems to have returned to the nuclear Armageddon option with a titanic tussle between winner Denis Hogan in his recently re-acquired supercharged BMW M3, 2nd place Peter McKinley in the 2.4 litre warrior Escort and closely followed by Mark Carroll in the Turbo Toyota Starlet for 3rd. Mick Walsh was 4th in an RT2000. Class points leader Ben O’Brien’s new V8 powered BMW touring car is just not quite ready so he double drove with returning Adam Craughen in a normally aspirated BMW M3. Brendan Stone brought out the Drift Taxi Lexus for another experience at hillclimbing but unfortunately went off on the 2nd timed run. The Stone motorsport team were seriously worried about repairing the damage as the car is needed for a charity event in a week but at the time of writing the car is fully repaired resprayed and ready to compete again. Paul O’Connell made the long awaited debut of the V10 powered BMW e30 which provided yet another different type of powerplant for the class on what was a shakedown weekend. Unusually for Dermot Nolan and his RT2000 could not match the pace of Mick Walsh in his similar machine on Saturday.
Class 4 Historic was keenly fought over and by the time the handicap results were awarded Jack Kingston in his Lotus Elan emerged the victor ahead of the Evergreen Mick O’Shea MGB and PJ Gannon in a Mini.
Enda byrne was the class of the field in Class 5 and won ahead of Michael Nicholson and Siobhan McCann who were all driving Formula Vee racing cars.
Class 6 honours went to Rob Dwane OMS ahead of Billy White and Garry Egan both driving the Formula Renault.
Class 7 was won by Joe Courtney in his Reynard ahead of Rory Stephens and Russell Stanworth.
Class 8 for up to 1.6 rally cars was won by Ger Lyons ahead of Sean McGrath and Denis O’Connell all driving Honda Civics.
The Class 9 honours for 2.0 litre rally cars went to Peter Cummins in his Darrian followed by Sean Moran in his Ford Escort and Jack Deegan in his Peugot 205.
The final Class 10 for over 2.0 litre rallycars was won by Seamus Morris in his Darrian, followed by the rapid Escort of Ed Synan and hot on their heels the BMW M3 of Declan Gannon.
Sunday brought a big change in weather. The club made the decision to widen the chicanes slightly to try to minimise the delays in resetting them which was a big help but the weather was wet all day. Despite that, the event got underway promptly and it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a day for survival as drivers balanced the need for speed with the need to finish. Ironically the course despite the rain had very little standing water so at least it was pretty consistent from run to run.
Rob Dwane showed maturity beyond his years to put in a decent but steady first run time of 95.02 but the times to watch were the terrible twosome of Gary Egan and Billy White in the Formula Renault. They both put incredible times on the sheet despite the conditions of 86.86 for Egan and 87.69 for White. To highlight the tricky conditions reigning multiple champion Joe Courtney made a rare error on his first run and damaged the Reynard beyond finishing the event. Rob Dwane made an early run at the start of run 2 hoping for more favorable conditions but could not improve.
Meanwhile Egan and White continued to scrap with Egan putting in a time of 84.80 on his second run that no one could better. Billy White finished close behind on a 85.97. Rob Dwane improved on his 3rd run to a 87.27 for the final podium position.
Paul O’Connell who was double driving the Norma sports car with the BMW V10 E30 put in his first run of 88.26 but clutch troubles grounded his assault after run 2.
Peter Cummins excelled in the tricky conditions in his Darrian and brought the car home 5th overall on a 89.95. Gar Cunningham in the Global GT finished 6th overall on a 91.90 ahead of Padraig Egan in a Subaru on a 92.09. Seamus Morris in his Darrian saved his best for his last run to finish 8th overall on a 92.27. Russell Stanworth and Rory Stephens rounded out the top ten in 9th and 10th respectively perhaps proving that the bigger powered cars were possibly too potent for the conditions.
Class 1A was won by Martin Dunbar in an Escort and Class 1B was again won by Damian Walsh but with Alan Tully chasing close by followed by Danny Herlihy in another Cento.
Class 2 victor Tommy Gardiner in his Civic finished 12th overall in a giant killing display having put in a great time of 93.86. Second in class was Derek Butler followed by Willie Barret.
Class 3A was won again by Danny Calnan in the Opel followed by John Kennedy in the Dax.
Class 3B was missing a few competitors from Saturday but Denis Hogan showed no signs of his long lay off and won the class comfortably, followed by the double drive duo of Ben O’Brien and Adam Craughen who had some repairs to make overnight after Adam obliterated a big straw bale at the final corner on Saturday. Paul O’Connell was still shaking down the E30 V10 which ran faultlessly except for rear suspension that was ridiculously stiff for the dry course on Saturday and treacherous for the wet conditions on Sunday. Mark Carroll had a nightmare day as he had turbo problems in the Starlet and only recorded one timed run. A day to forget for the Dublin native.
Mick O’Shea was again fastest on scratch times in Class 4 Historics but after the handicap system came into play it ended up that Eoin Gannon in a Mini took the top spot followed by his father PJ Gannon and Mick O’Shea in 3rd.
Class 5 again went to the Formula Vee of Enda Byrne with his double driver Siobhan McCann in second and Michael Nicholson in third.
Class 6 honors went to the overall winner Gary Egan followed by Billy White and Rob Dwane.
Class 7 for Unlimited cars was won by Russel Stanworth in his Formula Vauxhall ahead of Rory Stephens in the Radical SR8.
The 1.6 rally car Class 8 was won by Ger Lyons in a Civic while Tadgh O’Connell in an escort finished in second. David Byrne in a Vauxhall Nova finished 3rd.
The 2 litre rallycar class 9 was won by Limerick’s Peter Cummins in his Darrian and followed in second by Jack Deegan in his Peugot.
Class 10 for over 2 litre rallycars was won by Padraig Egan in the Subaru with Declan Gannon close behind in the 3.0 litre BMW M3.
The battle for the championship gets very interesting from here on in as the events come fast and furious for the next few weeks. A good run of results during the next 8 weeks could change a mediocre season into a great one! The next event is the MEC sprint weekend held in Mondello park race track on August 19th and 20th. Will we see another new winner in Mondello? What way will Rob Dwane and Joe Courtney fare out on track? Can Ben O’Brien be caught in the overall saloon championship? The good thing is we wont have long to wait to find out the answers to those questions. See you in Mondello!
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