Some of my earliest Mondello Park memories are of Larry Mooney. He raced an ungainly Audi 80 GT in Production Saloons before moving to a very early VW Golf GTi 1.6. The silver “Grange Motors” liveried Golf was an absolute giant killer. The 1600cc class win was a given but sometimes, when the planets aligned and especially when the heavens opened, Larry chased far bigger scalps. Even the 3.0 Capris and Commodore GS/Es weren’t safe when Larry was on a charge. This was often a subject of discussion between Dad and I, on our way to race meetings at Mondello.
Back then, the grandstand was packed, as was the paddock and the drivers, certainly to a young kid like me, were gladiators. I remember Dad bringing me and a friend down to Mondello for what I think was a marshals day, where we could be brought around the track by various race drivers- in their race cars. We queued up in the pitlane and eventually Larry stopped, let somebody else out of the car and beckoned to us to jump in. Imagine our excitement as we climbed into the back seats of the Golf- Production Saloons back then retained their interior and all seats. With an adult in the front alongside Larry, Charlie and I craned our necks forward to watch the speedo….. Fair play to Larry, he didn’t hold back, and it was easily the quickest car we had ever been in. He sliced by various 128 Coupes and 3Ps and squealed the tyres into Dunlop corner. He came out onto the main straight and as he grabbed third, chatting to us all, he reached down into the passenger footwell where he had a box of Lemon’s sweets. “Here you go lads” he said, handing them to us over his shoulder as we shot over the start finish line. All to soon it was over and we were back in the pitlane, but to a couple of small boys, it was a memory that would never leave us.
In later years of course, I came to know Larry quite well and we had some great chats over lunches at the Golden Ball in Kilternan. He laughed when I recalled the above story to him. Larry raced at the first ever race meeting at Mondello Park back in May 1968- in a Beetle of course. He told me it rained that morning and he had qualified near the front. Had the rain stayed, he said, he might have got the win, but in the event, it dried up and even Larry in the Beetle was no match for the Mini Coopers! I hadn’t seen Larry for a while and was delighted that he was at the popular Dalkey Classic Car Show this year, in his usual role of judge. As ever, he took the job very seriously and explained why each car won its particular award.
He was a gentleman and will be sorely missed by all who know him. My condolences to his family and many friends.
Header Image: Con Connolly captures Larry attacking Dunlop Corner in his iconic Golf GTi