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LEINSTER TROPHY – 75TH ANNIVERSARY FACTS & FIGURES- By Brian Manning

  1. The Leinster Trophy has been the pinnacle of motor racing in Ireland since it was first run in 1934. In its early years it was one of the highlights of the racing calendar across Great Britain and Ireland mainly due to the restrictions placed on racing on public roads in Great Britain. The event has been held on 8 different tracks in 6 different locations. It’s been competed for across all types and formulae of racing cars, from pre-war monsters from Mercedes and Bugatti to the rear-engined formula cars of the 1960s, and from modern day single-seater junior classes to ex-F1 cars, saloons, pre-war coupes and open cockpit racecars.

 

  1. The Leinster Motor Club was founded in 1921 by Russian-Jewish immigrant Nathan Lepler and Sir Hugh Massey. Affectionately known as “The Lep” Lepler had experienced antisemitism in Ireland that prevented him from joining other motor clubs or even receiving prizes in competition. The Leinster Motor Club soon began organizing motorcycle races and quickly became a prominent club on the Irish racing scene. The first Leinster 200 motorcycle race was held in 1922 at the Skerries circuit, which was to play host to the first Leinster Trophy race for cars in 1934.

 

  1. The first running of the Leinster Trophy was in 1934, but due to years lost to World War II and other breaks, the 75th running of the event will take place in September 2018. 8 years were lost in total due to the “Emergency” between 1940 and 1945 and for 2 additional years due to petrol rationing after the war. Following a one-year resumption of the event at the Tallaght circuit in 1948, the event was again cancelled in 1949 due to the changing nature of the circuit location, before resuming at the Wicklow circuit in 1950. An additional year was lost in 1966 when a strike at B&I ferries prevented competitors from crossing the Irish Sea for what was to be the final Dunboyne event.

 

  1. In all, the Leinster Trophy has been held at 6 venues: Skerries (1934), Tallaght (1935-39, ’48), Wicklow (1950-57), Dunboyne (1958-65), Bishopscourt (1967) and Mondello Park (1968-present). Three different configurations of the Mondello circuit have been used: Club (1968), National (1969-1997, 2005) and International (1998-2004, 2006-present).

 

  1. In the early years of motor racing there were literally hundreds of individual manufacturers and no such thing as single-make formulae. This meant there were huge performance differences between the cars, so to even up the competition cars were “handicapped” by getting time or lap bonuses. Up to 1959 the Leinster Trophy was run as a Handicap race with each car receiving a pre-determined start advantage depending on the car’s horsepower and configuration. The first “scratch” race was held in 1960 and the event switched between handicap and scratch formats up to 1968 when the Leinster Trophy moved to its permanent home at Mondello Park. Every race since then has been a scratch race.

 

  1. The Leinster Trophy has been contested by some of the greatest names in motor sport history. Three former winners have gone on to win the Formula 1 World Drivers Championship. 1957 world champion Mike Hawthorn won in 1951 at Wicklow in a Riley sportscar. Three-time World Champion (1988, 1990, ’91) Ayrton Senna (or Ayrton da Silva as he was known at the time) won in 1982, while double World Champion Mika Häkkinen (1998, ’99) won in 1988, both at Mondello.

 

  1. In total, 26 Formula 1 drivers have placed on the podium since the beginning of the Leinster Trophy. These names include multiple Grand Prix winners Rubens Barricello and John Watson. In addition, three IndyCar drivers have competed in the Leinster Trophy including 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato. Leinster Trophy podium placed drivers have won a total of 79 Formula 1 Grands Prix (Hawthorn-5 (plus 7 non-championship F1 races), Watson-5, Senna-41 Hakkinen-19, Barrichello-11).
  2. Six podium placed Leinster Trophy drivers have gone on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race a total of 9 times, including three-time winner Alan McNish, two-time winner and 1988 Leinster Trophy winner JJ Lehto and 1951 winner Mike Hawthorn who won Le Mans in 1955. Stefan Johanssen, Mark Blundell and Bertrand Gachot have also won at La Sarthe.

 

  1. Remarkably, after 74 Leinster Trophy events, only one win separates Ireland (Irish drivers) on 30 wins to Great Britain’s 29 victories in the event. Brazil and South Africa come next on three wins each followed by two for Denmark, Finland and Italy and one each for Belgium, The Netherlands and Canada. Exactly half of Irish victories have come in the past 18 years of the event, a testament to the decreasing international stature of the event in recent years.

 

  1. The first winner of the Leinster Trophy in 1934 and still the only woman to win the event was Frances “Fay” Taylour from Dublin. Fay Taylour had already established quite a reputation as a dare-devil motorcycle speedway rider and race driver in Australia and the UK. She won the 1934 event in a German-built Adler Trumpf owned by the Irish politician Robert Briscoe who was a veteran of the Irish War of Independence. Taylour was known for her care-free and cavalier attitude on and off the track. She raced in a twinset and skirt, knitted in assembly while waiting to go on track, and had a permanent cigarette out of the side of her mouth!

 

  1. “Flying” Fay Taylour drove a masterful tactical race in 1934 to win the first ever Leinster Trophy at the 13-mile circuit that ran through Skerries, Rush and Lusk. Driving an underpowered car, she knew she had no chance of being competitive against the more powerful competition from England. However, the race was held on the motorcycle circuit at Skerries north of Dublin where, in places, the track was so narrow it was restricted by the officials to single-car only. While Taylour passed several cars to successfully take over the lead, she purposely slowed down during these “no-passing” sections so back up traffic behind her thus leaving less time for the more handicapped cars to make up places and laps. She eventually won the race in an average time of 61.20 mph more than 10 mph slower than the 2nd place Alfa Romeo driven by Austin Dobson. This was the only time the event was held at Skerries with the event moving to wider Tallaght circuit the following year.

 

  1. Taylour lived a rather colourful life and in the 1930’s fell in with the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley (father of former FIA chief Max Mosley). During World War II she was held at the pleasure of the Crown from 1940-43 as a danger to the state. She moved to the United States after the war where she continued to compete in dirt-track midget racing, and also drove in the famous Mille Miglia. She never married and stayed very active in racing circles before eventually retiring to Dorset in England where she passed away in 1983 at the age of 80.

 

  1. Tallaght hosted the Leinster Trophy on six occasions straddling World War II. Much of the approximately 6-mile circuit had been redeveloped since the last running in 1948, but the basic outline from Tallaght Village to Templeogue Bridge (along the old Dublin-Blessington road) to Old Bawn crossroads via Firhouse, can still be followed on current roads. The Tallaght Leinster Trophy events were notable for the some of the amazing pre-WWII machinery that competed including Aston Martins, Mercedes’, Bugattis and the Alvis Special of Ernie Robb who won in 1939. Several notables of the era also entered including Denis and Adrian Conan Doyle, sons of Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle. The massive post-war urban development of Tallaght meant that the circuit was no longer suitable for racing and a new home had to be found.

 

  1. After a gap of one year, the Leinster Motor Club settled on the Wicklow circuit in 1950. This 8.4-mile route between Wicklow Town, Coolbeg and Rathnew would host the event for 8 years before rapidly increasing speeds and resistance from local farmers made the event unsustainable. These years were dominated by English entrants including future World Champion Mike Hawthorn and renowned sportscar driver David Piper, along with F1 Connaught driver Desmond Titterington and Maserati driver Brian Naylor, who had won the last Wicklow event in 1957. Increasing speeds and the wide disparity of pace between the various types of car led to the race being run as a 2-heat handicap (faster and slower cars) in the later years of the Wicklow event.

 

  1. Dunboyne, Co. Meath was the next home for the Leinster Trophy, hosting the event for 8 years from 1958-1965. The 4-mile circuit ran eastward out of Dunboyne and south to Clonee along the track of what is now the M3 motorway. This era was marked by the new rear-engined single seaters that had come to dominate in Formula 1 and 2, including cars from Lotus, Cooper-Climax, Brabham and Lola. Average lap speeds soon exceeded 100 mph and after a string of fatal accidents the circuit was deemed unsuitable and a more permanent home was needed. Notable winners were Sidney Taylor in 1963 and South African Bob Olthoff in 1962, who went on to have a successful career racing in the USA and internationally. Ulsterman, Paddy Hopkirk, who achieved international fame as winner of the Monte Carlo rally in a Mini Cooper in 1964, placed third in the 1959 Leinster Trophy behind the wheel of an Austin Healey Sprite.

 

  1. In 1966 the Dunboyne races took place for the final time, but the Leinster Trophy feature event was cancelled due to a strike by B&I ferry workers that prevented the UK contingent from getting across the Irish Sea. Although the strike was over before the event commenced, it was too late for the British entrants to get their cars to Ireland in time. The following year in 1967 the race was held outside of the Republic of Ireland for the only time when it ran at the Royal Airforce aerodrome at Bishopscourt. The 3-mile circuit has recently been revived as one of only three permanent racing facilities on the island. The 1967 Leinster Trophy was won by Dubliner David Furlong in a Lotus-7 and in doing so, became the last non-single seater driver to win the event.

 

  1. The modern era of the Leinster Trophy coincided in 1968 with the opening of the first permanent racing facility in the Republic at Mondello Park near Naas in Co. Kildare. Originally only 0.72 miles in length, the “Club Circuit” track was extended in 1969 to the “National Circuit” of 1.24 miles, and again in 1999 to the “International Circuit” of 2.2 miles. The first event, run as a Formula Libre scratch race, was won by Ulsterman John Pollock in a Crosslé He won again in 1969 in a Formula 2 Lotus. John Watson, the most successful Formula 1 driver to come from the island of Ireland with 5 Grands Prix to his credit, won in 1971 driving a Brabham BT30.

 

  1. By the mid-1970s the Leinster Trophy had become an established round of the All-Ireland Formula Atlantic Championship and was dominated by Belfast native Patsy McGarrity driving Chevron-Fords who knocked up 3 wins, a second and a third place to make him the most successful Leinster Trophy competitor of all time. Another notable winner in 1978, when the Leinster Trophy was part of the British Formula 3 Championship, was Eddie Jordan who went on to even greater success as a team manager and founder of the Jordan F1 team that won 4 Grands Prix and finished third in the 1999 World Championship with driver Heinz Harald Frentzen.

 

  1. The early 1980s saw several drivers from Ireland, north and south, get all the way to Formula 1 but, somewhat surprisingly, not many competed in or were successful in the Leinster Trophy for a variety of reasons. By 1982, there were three drivers from Ireland and Northern Ireland competing in Formula 1; John Watson, Derek Daly and Tommy Byrne. Kenny Acheson from Northern Ireland also competed in 1983 and David Kennedy also attempted to qualify for several races in 1980. Of these drivers, only John Watson is recorded as having competed in the Leinster Trophy, having done so on many occasions in the late 1960s and early 1970s, winning once in 1971 and finishing 3rd in 1969. As the Leinster Trophy was for Formula Atlantics for most of the 1970s, many up and coming drivers moved to England to compete in Formula Ford and British Formula 3 rather than stay in Ireland to race Formula Atlantic. Future Lotus F1 driver, Martin Donnelly competed several times in the Leinster Trophy and succeeded in finishing in 3rd place on three consecutive years (1983-‘85), while ex-Jordan, Jaguar and Ferrari F1 driver Eddie Irvine never competed in the Leinster Trophy.

 

  1. The greatest sustained period of success for the Leinster Trophy was between 1982 and 1999 when the event was (for the most part) a round of the European Formula Drivers Association Championship. Founded by American Dan Partel EFDA, by the early 1980s, was established as a foundation for “wings and slicks” single-seater driver development, prior to entry into Formula 3. EFDA first came to Mondello in 1981 as a Formula Ford 2000 event where Tommy Byrne from Dundalk won. But that race was not actually for the Leinster Trophy, which was won that year by Ray Mallock in a Ralt-Ford. EFDA ran a total of 15 times at Mondello, between 1981 and 1999, and these races produced more future F1 drivers than any other period in Leinster Trophy history. At least 12 drivers that finished on the podium during this time went on the Formula 1 including two World Champions.

 

  1. Without much doubt in the minds of anyone who was there and saw it, the 1982 Leinster Trophy is the greatest single moment in the long and storied history of the event. Brazilian Ayrton Senna (da Silva) arrived with a burgeoning reputation as a superstar in the making. In qualifying, Senna made short work of placing his “works” Rushen Green Van Diemen FF2000 on pole position. Surprisingly, at the start of the feature race, broadcast live on Irish TV, Senna was beaten off the line by wily veteran Joey Greenan, also in a Van Diemen. He led Senna for the next lap and a half, before being passed by Senna heading into the Duckhams double apex corner. What followed was a veritable master class with Senna pulling away by over a second per lap to win convincingly by almost 20 seconds. Everyone who was at Mondello that day felt touched by his greatness. Less than 18 months later, after winning the British Formula 3 title, Senna made his debut in Formula 1. He went on to record 41 Grands Prix wins, 65 pole positions, and three World Championships in 1988, ’90 and ’91 before his tragic and untimely death on May 1st, 1994 at Imola in the San Marino Grand Prix.

 

  1. Over the following years several future F1 stars scored podium finishes at the Leinster Trophy and the event enjoyed corporate sponsorships and unprecedented exposure with national TV coverage and large crowds. During this time, there were often “races within races” as the local Irish FF2000 competitors were at odds with the EFDA visitors in terms of tyre provider that caused an imbalance in competitiveness between the two series. Local driver Martin Boyle famously headed future Finnish star JJ Lehto in 1987, but the Finn was awarded the Leinster Trophy. Other winners included future two-time World Champion Mika Häkkinen and Brazilian Mauricio Gugelmin.

 

  1. A significant change occurred in 1988 with the introduction of the EFDA one-make Formula Opel Lotus series. Prior to this, racing car manufacturers were turning out new versions of their cars on an almost annual basis, a situation that was economically unsustainable. Not even the works teams could afford to bring out a new car every 12 months, given a finite customer demand. The solution was the Reynard-based Opel-Lotus powered single seater that promised stability of the formula for a specified number of years. In fact, for 14 years between 1988 and 2001 the Leinster Trophy was competed for by some variant of Opel (or Vauxhall) Lotus-powered Reynard cars. EFDA involvement ended in 1999 and the event went into somewhat of a decline in the intervening years. But the final 1999 race did produce an interesting podium, including winner South African Tomas Scheckter (son of 1979 F1 World Champion Jody Scheckter) who went on to compete in IndyCar, and third placed Takuma Sato from Japan who would go on to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2017.

 

  1. Canadian driver Bertrand Fabi was in some ways considered the second coming of Senna when he won the Leinster Trophy in September 1985, but he was tragically killed in a testing accident at Goodwood less than 6 months later. Born in Sherbrook, Quebec province, Fabi had excelled across all junior formula and was set for a fast elevation into Formula One. Quebec and Canada eagerly awaited a successor to their hero Gilles Villeneuve who had been killed in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982. Fabi had moved to England at the start of 1985 and by the end of the season he had won several races and claimed the ’85 British, European and Benelux FF2000 Championships. He had secured a coveted seat with Dick Bennetts Racing for the 1986 British Formula 3 season. Prior to the start of the season, on an icy cold February morning at Goodwood circuit, Fabi’s Ralt left the track at high speed and slammed into a frozen earthen bank. He later succumbed to his serious injuries and is still remembered in the sport as a huge lost talent.

 

  1. While the F1 stars of the future took centre stage during the EFDA years, many home-grown drivers also made a name for themselves in the years to follow. None more so than veteran Vivion Daly, the younger brother of Irish Formula One driver Derek Daly. During his career Vivion recorded a sweep of podium positions winning in 1994, a second place in 2001 and third in 1993. Vivion sadly passed away in 2002 at the age of 48 but his daughter Nicci, a recent silver medalist in the World Hockey Championships, now drives for the Formula Female team. Other Irish drivers that have gone on to make a name for themselves internationally include 2007 Leinster Trophy winner Peter Dempsey who famously won the Indy Lights race at Indianapolis in a near 4-way tie in 2013 and Patrick McKenna who finished 3rd place also in 2007. Paul Dagg and John O’Hara have also completed a clean sweep of 1-2-3 podium places in recent years competing in a variety of classes from Reynard Opel-Lotus to Formula 1600 to VW and Boss Ireland.
  2. 1934 Skerries Handicap Libre Frances “Fay” Taylour Adler Trumpf 1645
    1935 Tallaght Handicap Libre Jack Toohey Ford 8 HP Special 933
    1936 Tallaght Handicap Libre Jack Toohey Ford 8 HP Special 933
    1937 Tallaght Handicap Libre Desmond C. McCracken Morgan 1122
    1938 Tallaght Handicap Libre “Jock” St.John R.S. Horsfall Speed Six Aston Martin 1950
    1939 Tallaght Handicap Libre C. Ernie Robb Alvis Special-Himmelwagen 1496
    1940-’47 No Event-WWII
    1948 Tallaght Handicap Libre Billy Leeper Singer 972
    1949 Cancelled
    1950 Wicklow Handicap Libre M. Pearse Cahill Iona Special 1287
    1951 Wicklow Handicap Libre Mike Hawthorn 1½-L T.T. Riley BWK324 1496
    1952 Wicklow Handicap Libre J. Desmond Titterington Allard J2
    1953 Wicklow Handicap Libre Freddie Smith Ford Special 1172
    1954 Wicklow Handicap Libre Bill Lacey MG TD 1250
    1955 Wicklow Handicap Libre David Piper Empire Lotus IV 746
    1956 Wicklow Handicap Libre J. Brian Naylor Lotus Eleven Maserati 1484
    1957 Wicklow Handicap Libre J. Brian Emerson Buckler 948
    1958 Dunboyne Handicap Libre John W. Anstice-Brown Austin Healey Sprite 948
    1959 Dunboyne Handicap Libre R. Alec Jameson Berkeley 692
    1960 Dunboyne Scratch Libre Gerry Ashmore Cooper Climax F2 1475
    1961 Dunboyne Handicap Libre Tommy Hayden Lola Climax 1098
    1962 Dunboyne Handicap Libre Bob Olthoff Austin Healey 3000
    1963 Dunboyne Handicap Libre Sidney J. Taylor Lotus Elite 1216
    1964 Dunboyne Scratch Libre Jack Pearce Lotus Kincraft Ford 4.7 1594
    1965 Dunboyne Scratch Libre Chris Summers Lotus 24 Chevrolet V8 5308
    1966 Cancelled – Ferry Strike
    1967 Bishops Court Handicap Libre Dave Furlong Lotus 7 Ford 1498
    1968 Mondello Park Club Circuit Formuala Libre John Pollock Crosslé 12F Ford 1.6L
    1969 Mondello Park National Circuit Formuala Libre John Pollock F2 Lotus 48 Ford 1.6L
    1970 Mondello Park National Circuit Formuala Libre Brian Nelson Crosslé 18F Ford 1.6L
    1971 Mondello Park National Circuit Formuala Libre John Watson Brabham BT30 Ford 1.6L
    1972 Mondello Park National Circuit Formuala Libre Ken Fildes Crosslé 22F 1.8L
    1973 Mondello Park National Circuit Formula Atlantic Tommy Reid Brabham BT38/40 Chevrolet
    1974 Mondello Park National Circuit Formula Atlantic Patsy McGarrity Chevron B25 Ford BDA
    1975 Mondello Park National Circuit Formula Atlantic Jay Pollock Crosslé 28F Ford DBA
    1976 Mondello Park National Circuit Formula Atlantic Patsy McGarrity Chevron B29 Ford DBA
    1977 Mondello Park National Circuit Formula Atlantic Patsy McGarrity Chevron B29 Ford DBA
    1978 Mondello Park National Circuit British Formula 3 Eddie Jordan Chevron B29 Ford DBA
    1979 Mondello Park National Circuit British Formula 3 Trevor Templeton Ralt RT1/78 Toyota
    1980 Mondello Park National Circuit British Formula 3 Trevor Templeton Ralt RT1/78 Toyota
    1981 Mondello Park National Circuit Formula Atlantic Ray Mallock Ralt RT4-218 Ford
    1982 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA FF2000 Ayrton Senna Van Diemen RF82 Ford
    1983 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA FF2000 Cor Euser Van Diemen RF83 Ford
    1984 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA FF2000 Maurício Gugelmin Reynard SF84 Ford
    1985 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA FF2000 Bertrand Fabi Reynard SF84 Ford
    1986 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA FF2000 Henrik Larsen Reynard SF86 Ford
    1987 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA FF2000 J.J. Lehto Reynard SF87 Ford
    1988 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA GM Opel Lotus Euroseries Mika Häkkinen Reynard FVL Mk.1 Opel 2.0L
    1989 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA GM Opel Lotus Euroseries Paolo de Cristofaro Reynard FVL Mk.1 Opel 2.0L
    1990 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA GM Opel Lotus Euroseries Vincenzo Sospiri Reynard FVL Mk.1 Opel 2.0L
    1991 Mondello Park National Circuit UK Vauxhall Lotus Jason Elliot Reynard FVL Mk.1 Opel 2.0L
    1992 Mondello Park National Circuit Formula Opel Lotus Ireland Wym Eckmans Reynard FVL Mk.2 Opel 2.0L
    1993 Mondello Park National Circuit Formula Opel Lotus Ireland David. L. Wright Reynard FVL Mk.2 Opel 2.0L
    1994 Mondello Park National Circuit Formula Opel Lotus Ireland Vivion Daly Reynard FVL Mk.2 Opel 2.0L
    1995 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA GM Opel Lotus Euroseries Jason Watt Reynard FVL Mk.2 Opel 2.0L
    1996 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA GM Opel Lotus Euroseries Derek Cunneely Reynard FVL Mk.2 Opel 2.0L
    1997 Mondello Park National Circuit EFDA GM Opel Lotus Euroseries Marcelo Battistuzzi Reynard FVL Mk.2 Opel 2.0L
    1998 Mondello Park International Circuit EFDA GM Opel Lotus Euroseries Etienne van der Linde Reynard FVL Mk.2 Opel 2.0L
    1999 Mondello Park International Circuit EFDA GM Opel Lotus Euroseries Tomas Scheckter Reynard FVL Mk.2 Opel 2.0L
    2000 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Europa Cup Ireland Paul Dagg Reynard FVL Mk.2 Opel 2.0L
    2001 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Europa Cup Ireland John O’Hara Reynard FVL Mk.2 Opel 2.0L
    2002 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Ireland Robby Coleman Van Diemen FR02 Ford 2.0L
    2003 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Ireland Emmett Queenan Van Diemen FR02 Ford 2.0L
    2004 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula BMW UK James Sutton Mygale Formula BMW FB02 1.2L
    2005 Mondello Park National Circuit Formula Ford 1600 Neville Smyth Ray GRS05 Ford
    2006 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Ford 1600 Kris Loane Van Diemen RF92 Ford
    2007 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Ford 1600 Peter Dempsey Ray GRS07 Ford
    2008 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Ford 1600 Robert Barrable Swift Ford
    2009 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Vee Garry Newsome Sheane VW
    2010 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Vee Daniel Polley Sheane VW
    2011 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Vee Ray Moore Leastone 004 VW
    2012 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Sheane Kevin Sheane Sheane VW
    2013 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Sheane Barry Rabbitt Sheane VW
    2014 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Ford 1600 Stephen Daly Ray GR11 Ford
    2015 Mondello Park International Circuit Formula Ford 1600 Stephen Daly Ray GR11 Ford
    2016 Mondello Park International Circuit Boss Ireland Hywel Lloyd Dallara F3/08 Mercedes
    2017 Mondello Park International Circuit Boss Ireland Cian Carey Dallara F3/11 VW
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