The 1987 Leinster Trophy was a memorable year in the long and storied history of the event. It would mark the last time that the European Formula Drivers Association, led by American Dan Partel, would compete for the Leinster Trophy in Formula Ford FF2000 cars. While the FF2000 class would continue racing in Ireland and elsewhere for a few more years, 1988 would see the birth of the Formula Opel/Vauxhall Lotus class that would dominate entry-level “wings & slicks” racing until the early 21st century. The 1987 race effectively became two races within a race. In fact, it produced two winners, Martin Boyle from the North of Ireland, who was racing in the Irish FF2000 series, and rising star JJ Lehto of Finland from the EFDA series.
However, due to a tyre imbroglio, it was to be Lehto who would be crowned Leinster Trophy champion and go on to further success in higher formulae including a six-year Formula One career and be a one-time teammate of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher. Lehto would also become a two-time Le Mans winner. Two other drivers in the 1987 Leinster Trophy would meet with untimely ends, and Lehto himself has been no stranger to controversy and indeed tragedy throughout his career. Martin Boyle would also come to the realisation that even though he had beaten Europe’s best in a career-highlight performance, highly praised by none other than three-time World Champion Jackie Stewart, his time, and his shot at the big time had perhaps come and gone.
When the EFDA competitors arrived in Ireland on September 10th, 1987 at Mondello Park it would be the penultimate round of the season and series. After the final race in Zolder (Belgium) two weeks later, the series would officially come to an end after nine remarkable years as the top feeder series into topflight motor racing. That season EFDA had already visited Zolder, Hockenheim (Germany, Formula One support race), Zandvoort twice (Holland), and Jyllandsringen (Denmark) before arriving at Mondello Park. JJ Lehto had a commanding lead in the championship with four wins to Paul Warwick’s one and could wrap up the coveted EFDA FF200 Euroseries championship with victory in Ireland.
In total there were 14 visiting EFDA drivers matched by only six home drivers (although 14 cars had been entered) who had been competing for three separate championships, the Northern Ireland crown based in Kirkistown, the Irish title based in Mondello and the Phoenix Park, and the All-Ireland title with selected rounds from both series. These three championships had already been decided by the Mondello Park EFDA round with Martin Boyle asserting his total dominance in 1987 with nine pole positions, nine wins and ten fastest laps out of a total of 14 races. Despite campaigning what was a year-old chassis (actually the car driven in the 1986 Euroseries by Bertrand Gachot), Boyle was confident in his abilities to put on a good show against the international competition and put on a great show he did. However, it was to be somewhat of a frustrating weekend for Martin Boyle as events unfolded.
Martin Boyle, Leinster Trophy 1987. Photo ©Ian Lynas
In addition to being the second last FF2000 Euroseries race ever, in fact 1987 was to be the last time that EFDA would visit Ireland for almost ten years. Although the Leinster Trophy meeting did play host to the visiting UK Vauxhall Lotus series for several years after FF2000. It is worth taking a moment to explore the roots of this decline of the FF2000 EFDA Euroseries, that paralleled the beginnings of Formula Opel/Vauxhall Lotus would begin in 1988.
For several years, the major race car constructors were struggling to find the demand to justify developing a new FF2000 chassis every year. Van Diemen had already pulled out after the 1985 season and series-leading manufacturer Reynard did not build a new chassis in 1985 (but did in 1986 and 1987). But an even bigger blow was to come in early 1987 when Dan Partel traveled to Ford Motorsports headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan outside Detroit to meet with Mike Kranefuss, Director of Special Vehicle Operations and Head of Ford Worldwide Motorsports. For years, Partel had met with Kranefuss to be greeted with a handshake and a commitment that Ford would continue to support EFDA for another year. However, this year Partel was to be informed by Kranefuss that FF2000 was off the list and would no longer receive corporate backing from Ford.
A reeling Dan Partel headed to Detroit airport to catch the redeye back to Europe thinking that EFDA was facing bankruptcy and wondering why Kranefuss had not just picked up the phone to deliver the bad news. Worse was to come in the coming days with the dreadful tragedy of the Ro-Ro ferry MS Herald of Free Enterprise which capsized leaving the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium when the bow doors had not been closed before leaving port. This was to be the largest maritime disaster in the United Kingdom since World War II with the loss of 193 souls. The owners of the ferry, Townsend Thoresen, were also a large sponsor and logistical partner of EFDA and they immediately announced a withdrawal from all sporting sponsorships.
JJ Lehto & Dan Partel, 1987 Leinster Trophy. Photo ©Con Connolly
Partel was now debating whether to cancel the 1987 EFDA FF2000 season but with support from his one remaining major sponsor, Bridgestone and some old-fashioned deal making, a shortened 1987 season was put together with only seven rounds. Seven two-car teams would take the grid led by Pacific Racing and their ambitious team manager Keith Wiggins who secured Marlboro backing for his team. His main driver would be JJ Lehto who was managed and mentored by 1982 Formula One World Champion Keke Rosberg.
One of the side-effects of EFDA’s FF2000 series imminent demise was that the teams and the organizers were beginning to draw down resources and set their sights on 1988 and beyond. Wiggins had already announced that Pacific Racing would be moving up to British Formula 3 with Lehto and, by way of International Formula 3000, would in 1994 change their name to Pacific Grand Prix to enter Formula One. Other EFDA teams would also make the switch to the emerging Formula Opel/Vauxhall Lotus.
In truth, Partel had been working behind the scenes with GM Europe since the middle of 1986. He would guide GM toward backing the new single-seater formula that would showcase GM’s new 2.0L C20XE 16-valve DOHC engine for the Vectra and other models. Partel convinced the GM brass that a single seater racing car series would fit their marketing needs better than the FIA World Rally Championship which was also under consideration. Partel argued:
“Rallying would necessitate constant mobility to follow the stages, while circuit racing was a captive audience.”
GM Europe agreed and got the buy-in from the corporate overlords in Detroit. Reynard would be brought in to modify the SF87 chassis, essentially turning it into a monocoque from the existing spaceframe with new bodywork. Formula Opel Lotus (as it was to be known in Europe) and Formula Vauxhall Lotus (UK) was announced by Dan Partel on the pit-lane at Mondello Park to an assembled press corps immediately after the Leinster Trophy race on Sunday, September 13th, 1987.
1987 Leinster Trophy Programme Cover
A more pressing issue was to have an immediate and resounding impact that weekend of the Leinster Trophy. Bridgestone, who had been the EFDA sole tyre supplier since the inception of the Euroseries, were to supply both the EFDA drivers but also the home-based contingent, so that all teams and drivers could compete on equal rubber. This was critical as the Irish-based drivers all used Yokohama tyres as did several other domestic championships for FF2000 across Europe, but EFDA mandated use of Bridgestones. In 1986 at Mondello Park for the Euroseries race the Bridgestone tyres had been supplied and paid for by the local drivers, and the expectation was that this arrangement would continue in 1987. But when the home teams arrived for testing on the Friday before the Leinster Trophy weekend, they were informed, to their collective surprise, that only sufficient sets of Bridgestones to supply the EFDA teams had been brought to Mondello Park.
This created several issues for the Irish-based FF2000 competitors. Most importantly they would not follow EFDA regulations and would be prohibited to compete for the Leinster Trophy and the prestige that went along with it. There was also the matter of the All-Ireland Championship race due to take place on the Saturday afternoon. While the home drivers all had their Yokohamas with them, the two compounds were of different construction and dimensions necessitating a change of ride-height, and suspension geometry to switch between Bridgestones and Yokohamas.
Dan Partel takes up the story:
“We had been using the same Bridgestone tyre since 1981 and in fact it was an old, discontinued Formula 3 spec. tyre. It was a cross-ply compound which made for spectacular racing as it had a great tendency to slide in the corners, and with wear the thread of the tyre would crown on the rim, adding to the show. But Bridgestone were the sponsor and by 1987 were the only sponsor we had left, so we were contracted to continue with their rubber. By the time we arrived at Mondello the supply of Bridgestones was approaching exhaustion and no-one thought of the need to supply the teams in Ireland. It was simply an unfortunate oversight. We worked with all the competitors and the Leinster Motor Club officials and RIAC race stewards to come up with a compromise, which was to evoke ‘force majeure’ (unforeseen circumstances) and let the Irish drivers compete. However, the home-based drivers would not be eligible for EFDA Euroseries points nor be able to win the Leinster Trophy, despite where they might finish on the road.”
For most of the home-based FF2000 drivers this did not present too significant of a setback as they probably had modest expectations of competing toe-to-toe with the well-funded overseas teams with their six-figure budgets. But Martin Boyle had very different expectations and he and his support team, led by his brother John, were dismayed by the turn of events. Boyle was having a career-best season in FF2000. He fully expected to be able to compete with Lehto, Warwick, Alcorn and the other visiting drivers who all shared a common goal that Boyle himself once had, to get all the way to the top in motor racing. Martin Boyle’s head was a turmoil of emotions and conflicting thoughts. Were EFDA trying to prevent him from competing 1:1 with the other drivers as he was out there, highly competitive in a year-old Reynard SF86 chassis? Boyle already had a highly impressive outing in the 1986 Leinster Trophy running as high as fourth place behind eventual winner Henrik Larsen and two future Formula One drivers in Bertrand Gachot and Mark Blundell, both driving for Pacific Racing. Boyle, driving the works Crosslé 63F, was all over the exhaust of Blundell for much of the race before a loose plug lead necessitated an unscheduled pitstop plummeting him down the order. For Martin, the Leinster Trophy represented opportunity and unfinished business.
1987 Leinster Trophy Entry List.
Eric Holland and Martin Boyle with the Reynard SF86, Kirkistown 1987. Photo ©Ian Lynas
A dejected Martin Boyle and his crew set about getting their car ready for practice and qualifying. As Martin explains this was not the work of a moment:
We had arrived at Mondello Park on the Friday very optimistic for our chances and fully planning to have a day of testing on the traditional Leinster Trophy test day. When we knew that the Bridgestone rubber was not forthcoming, we had to scramble to change the set up of the car to go back to the Yokohamas. It has been said that the Bridgestones were a couple of tenths slower than the Yokohamas, but I wasn’t able to feel a huge difference in 1986 when using the Bridgestone tyre. But the Yokohama tyre would come in quickly and by around lap four it really came on song.”
Qualifying for the Leinster Trophy would be split over two sessions with the first on Saturday morning and the second in the afternoon (with an untimed warm up for the teams on the Sunday morning). The first session was topped by John Alcorn followed by JJ Lehto and right behind them Martin Boyle, whose pace had made the entire EFDA contingent sit up and take notice. In the second session Martin Boyle then stunned the EFDA teams by sticking the car on pole position, with a time of 56.84 secs, ahead of JJ Lehto (57.17), Allard Kalff (57.45) and Paul Warwick (57.54). Martin recalls that even though he went quickest, the qualifying session held plenty of drama for himself and his crew.
“Even though we had dominated the season, it was not all smooth sailing and I was quite nervous heading into the final qualifying session for the Leinster Trophy. The tyre situation had upset me and I was somewhat suspect of the reports said the Yokohamas were maybe 1/2 sec quicker. I did not think it was as clear cut as that. Some reckoned the Bridgestones were about as quick once warmed up and some said it was the other way round! It is possible the Bridgestones might have been quicker early on but once the newness was off them, they were a bit slower than the Yokohamas. The Yokohamas were radials and were different height wise and sidewall stiffness and required different ride heights and camber settings so it was not simply bolting on the wheels – it required the car to be set up for whichever tyres were being used. And you needed to test the car beforehand to have the package ‘right’ and we lost most of Friday doing the change in the set up.
To add to everything going on the Yokohamas we were using were not a brand-new set. My friend Alan Torrens bought them for me off somebody who had car problems and had only done practice on them. The old Yokohamas we had brought to Mondello were completely shot and we never expected to have to use them as we thought, like in 1986, we would be getting Bridgestones from EFDA. Alan bought them after it was clear we were not getting Bridgestones.
But we put down a 56.84 in qualifying! It was hooked up! At first, it was a shade over that, and my mechanic Ronnie wanted me in after about three of four laps to cool the tyre with buckets of water. We were quickest car out there, but it was close to JJ. He said to me ‘Can you go any quicker?’ ‘NO’ he was told, and I meant it. But we took a little bit off the back wing. and lo and behold, I did knock in a quicker one to grab the pole.
Mondello was largely about nailing pole or being on the front row at worst. It took discipline to go for that lap – to find space on track, trust the rubber and push but keep it very neat and make no mistakes, something I believed I had learned to do with experience very effectively.”
After the qualifying, Martin Boyle would make short work of winning the FF2000 All-Ireland Championship round that Saturday afternoon, his closest competitor being Leslie Wright from Newtownards, the only domestic competitor to be driving the up-to-date specification Reynard SF87 chassis. However, Wright like Martin Boyle and the other Irish drivers were using the Nelson-built Ford 2.0L engine unlike the Neil Brown or Scholar built units of the EFDA Euroseries competitors.
Dan Partel bemoaned how an engine arms-race had begun to make FF2000 cost prohibitive to all but the best funded EFDA teams such as Keith Wiggins’ Pacific Racing outfit and its Marlboro backing.
“Engine rebuilds are hitting four-figures and these teams are doing it every time out.”
By contrast, Boyle was not only dealing with the disadvantage of a year-old chassis, albeit an ex-Pacific one, the engine already had over 60 hours on it when the Leinster Trophy meeting rolled around, more than offsetting any advantage offered by the Yokohama tyres. Conservatively Partel and others estimated that Boyle was giving up more than 8-10 bhp to Lehto, Warwick, and Alcorn.
By Irish standards, Boyle’s operation was not insignificant, but his budget would still pale by comparison to the top EFDA teams. In 1987 his team had a transporter and were running three other cars in addition to the FF2000 including Andrew McAuley son of Des McAuley, the Clerk of the Course at Kirkistown, George McAlpine, and Aldo Morelli. Martin and his brother John were running the race team and had a reputation for excellent preparation and well-turned-out cars. Martin recalls the pressures of trying to make sure everyone was taken care of:
“Usually, we would focus on our customer cars, but for the Leinster meeting their cars were prepped ahead of time and it was made clear the focus for me was firmly on the FF2000. We were leading the home-based championships and wanted to give the Euro race our best shot. To get myself away out of all the hustle and bustle before the race I hid in Des McAuley’s caravan. Unfortunately, in doing so I missed out on a chat with Jackie Stewart who came round to familiarise himself as he was co-commentating with Plum Tyndall for RTÉ who were televising the event live.”
Just as Martin and his team were getting the car prepped after the All-Ireland FF2000 race, ahead of Sunday’s Leinster Trophy, that they were faced with yet another predicament. Out of nowhere, a set of new EFDA-spec. Bridgestone tyres had miraculously appeared and were offered to Boyle for Sunday’s race; the stipulation being that Boyle would have to start at the back of the grid.
Martin thought this over with his support team. Rightly or wrongly, they felt that they were being played somewhat and declined the offer. They would go into the Leinster Trophy on Yokohamas, fully ready to take the fight to Lehto and the best of what EFDA could bring. There would be no EFDA points on offer and the coveted prize of the Leinster Trophy would not be up for grabs, but Martin Boyle was determined that he would not just be making up the numbers and promised his crew and supporters that he would give them a day to remember on Sunday.
The pre-race “team briefing” would take place on the Saturday night at the Town House in nearby Naas, a place very popular with the racing crowd. Team Boyle included Martin, his brother John, Eric Holland the sponsor, and crew mechanics Harry Johnson and Ronnie McWirther. Also in attendance were Team Warwick including Paul, his father Derrick, known to all as ‘Derry’ and their friend and team sponsor Bill Bridges. As the night went on the banter got noisier as the Guinness flowed. Harry Johnson knew the Warwick men from before and each side was blowing a little about who would do better in the Euroseries round the following day. The visitors suggested a £100 wager. Harry responded,
“Make it a grand and yer on!”
The offer was not taken up, a wise decision as it turned out…..
“Do you push it, or screw it?”
Martin Boyle was born on November 14th, 1953 in Ballymoney, close to the north Antrim coast. Martin’s family had deep roots in north Antrim and had a smallholding that his father Martin Snr. would rent out and where he also had a sheep trading business. Martin’s mother Mary was a nurse and raised five children, Martin the eldest, followed by Francis, Maeve, Ann Marie, and the youngest John who would be Martin’s biggest supporter on and off the track.
As a bright if somewhat unmotivated student ‘falling short of other’s expectations’, Martin disliked school particularly after being sent away to grammar school in Belfast as a boarder at the age of 11. After three years of asking (and rebelling), his parents relented and allowed him to enroll in the local technical college in Ballymoney. Martin enjoyed his two years of vocational training and left in 1970 to begin an engineering apprenticeship as a fitter at the Michelin plant in nearby Ballymena. But it was while still at grammar school that Martin first got interested in and then deeply involved in motorsport. Martin explains where the bug first took hold:
“In 1967, while away at grammar school, I went to see a stock car race at Dunmore Stadium in Belfast. I was immediately hooked, and soon stock car racing would become central to my life. When I was only 14, I bought an old Ford Poplar for £4 with the intent of going stock car racing. We spent years rebuilding it at home with some help. I started racing the Pop and steadily upgraded it to become competitive with some of the more technically advanced teams. By 1974 I had won several races along the way and was making a bit of a name for myself.”
- Martin Boyle’s first Ford Poplar Stock Car. John at the wheel. Photo- Boyle Family
Stock car racing on oval dirt tracks would teach Martin the skills of car control and make him a master of racing in difficult conditions. Martin wanted to move up to single seater racing so using the proceeds of compensation from an unfortunate industrial accident that cost him a finger, Martin bought a share of a FF1600 car from Martin Donnelly Snr. and began competing at Kirkistown in 1975. He soon built a reputation as a very promising newcomer winning races, and he also ventured south and started competing at Mondello Park and at the Phoenix Park. Ultimately, Martin quit his job in October 1977 determined to make a go of it as a full-time racing driver. He continued to impress throughout the 1978 season as well, particularly at the Phoenix Park where he would set the lap record taking second behind the much more experienced and 1975 Leinster Trophy winner Jay Pollock.
“I had some good race wins on the stock car scene before moving onto FF1600 in 1975 and ‘76. In 1977 the Inaugural “Irish Driver to Europe Scholarship” was announced, that was to be awarded at the end of the 1978 season by a specially appointed committee. It was the brainchild of David Kennedy who at the time was attempting to break into Formula One and was to include backing and the use of a new Crosslé 32F chassis for a season’s racing in England or Europe for the recipient in 1979.
I knew I would be in with a chance along with a few others, including Tommy Byrne, so I packed in my job to put all my efforts into trying to be as successful as possible race-wise. I duly won the scholarship. I am sure some people felt Tommy should have got it (including Tommy!), but I think the decision was correct at the time. Tommy was still raw, and if he had been racing at home would have been an obvious choice for the following year… if there had been a following year.”
Martin Boyle exiting Woodcote Chicane, Silverstone in the “Yellow Submarine”, 1979. Photo Boyle family.
In early 1979, Martin would make the move across the water for an assault on the English and Euro FF1600 championships. He had few friends and contacts in the UK and would end up as the lodger for Val and Rob Adaway, a move that would have profound if unintended consequences for the motor racing scene in the UK, as it was Martin’s naivety and inexperience that led Val to help him with his paperwork and race entries. Val recalls her houseguest with great fondness:
“I was a Paddock Marshall and looked after the Assembly Area at Silverstone from 1973 through to 1982 and met and got to know many of the drivers and teams when FF1600 was in its heyday. Motor racing was also very sociable in those days and many drunken nights were spent with the Irish contingent. One day Martin asked me if I knew anybody who would like a lodger for the season (him) and ever helpful me said that he could come to us. After a while he brought his fiancée Margaret over a few weekends too.
Anyway, Martin was hopeless at getting his paperwork done to go racing and I offered to do it all for him. Little did I know then that this would be the birth of my company Formula Services, as other FF1600 drivers then asked me to do their nasty paperwork too. By 1982 I had the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy from my job and Formula Services went from strength to strength, doing various organising etc. throughout the world of motor racing. Martin loved his biscuits and was a great guy to have living with myself and Rob, but I had to slow him down when he spoke in his broad Northern Irish accent sometimes (especially when he was excited)”
Phoenix Park 1978. Bespectacled as usual, but the unshaven look was a rarity for the normally impeccably groomed Mr. Boyle. Photo- IMRC programme.
Martin would take part in several races in England, and in Dan Partel’s first EFDA FF1600 Euroseries that was held across the Grand Prix tracks of Europe including Hockenheim, Nürburgring, Österreichring, Zolder, Zandvoort and Donington Park. Always short of money, Martin drove an old bus across Europe that had a nasty habit of breaking down at inopportune moments. Martin’s father would pass away that October, but Martin returned to England for the Ford Festival the following weekend at Brands Hatch. By the end of 1979, a now broke Martin would assess the season with mixed emotions.
“I moved to England in 1979 hoping for a very competitive season in the Crosslé, which being honest was a little overweight and underfunded but always near the front. I won an early EFDA Euroseries round in Austria and a TV race at Kirkistown. Dan Partel was running the EFDA championship and it was run on Grand Prix circuits and with start money for the first 10 in qualifying, and prize money and points down to 10th place.
But I was let down by some people who didn’t deliver what had been agreed. And although I had some strong results it was not as good as had been hoped for in some quarters.
I ended up staying for a while at Eddie Jordan’s garage at Silverstone. That led to Eddie Jordan making me an offer to do the Formula 3 race at the Monaco Grand Prix in May for Eddie Jordan Racing, but I had to find £5,000 at short notice. I could not find £5,000 even at long notice so it didn’t happen. It was also a reality check for me in that if I couldn’t find that money for such a prestigious race, I would have problems finding the funds to get my bum into a front running seat for 1980. I was not going to do another year unless it was in the right team.
In the 1979 season Tommy Byrne had also gone to England and got a works deal at PRS which was followed up by a seat in the works Van Diemen where he would win the Formula Ford Festival in 1981. Coincidentally, Tommy was in the same FF1600 race as Martin at the fearsome 14.2-mile Nordschleife Nürburgring circuit and would finish in first place only to be immediately disqualified for pushing a rival driver off (and into hospital!) at the flat-out Pflanzgarten bend.
Martin returned home to Ballymoney and he and Margaret were married in January 1980. He gave up the dream of a full-time motorsports career and focused on building his motor import business and starting a family with Margaret. Conor was born on Martin’s birthday in 1980, to be followed by Róisín, Séan, Niall, and Ciarán. Martin kept his hand in by racing hill climbs in a friend’s old Crosslé 30F.
Martin Boyle 1984/85 Mondiale FF1600. Photo ©Ian Lynas
That was to be the extend of Martin Boyle’s ambitions until he was introduced by Colin Lees, at the time a director at Mondiale Racing Cars, to a potential sponsor halfway through the 1984 season. The Pallet Centre run by John Halliday would bring Martin back to top tier racing in Ireland winning all three FF1600 championships (Motovox, STP and All-Ireland), in 1985. But Martin wanted to move up to FF2000 for 1986 and beyond.
“In 1986 I wanted to go FF2000 rather than do FF1600 for another year and I did a deal with Crosslé. The new Crosslé 66F car wasn’t great initially, but we got it going with a bit of playing around with the suspension settings, roll bars, wings etc. and we won four races including the Phoenix Park. However, the 2nd placed driver protested the legality of the Crosslé over the height of the engine cover that cost us the race. The bodywork was altered for the following race which was the 1986 Euro round and Leinster Trophy Meeting at Mondello where we dominated the Irish round on the Saturday and ran really strongly on the Sunday in a strong 4th trying to pass Mark Blundell for 3rd until sidelined by the plug lead falling off.”
1987 Crosslé 66F launch. Left to right: Colin Scott (brother-in-law of John Crosslé), Herbie the ace welder!, Rosemary Crosslé (John’s wife), Martin Boyle in the car, John Crosslé, Terry Murphy.
In 1987 Martin Boyle had started the season in a new Crosslé 66F FF2000 and won the first four races, but he gave it back mid-season and got a deal together to get into a Reynard with the backing of Eric Holland with a year-old Reynard SF86 chassis. Martin would again dominate the 1987 FF2000 calendar and was looking forward to the Leinster Trophy in particular:
‘It was a difficult decision to switch mid-season as I had a long and warm association with John Crosslé and we had won the first four races with it. In short, the Crosslé was OK in the dry but hopeless in the wet, and there was some internal politics that led me to believe I would be better off with a fresh start.
We had the Reynard well sorted, in fact it was lovely to drive. It performed very well around Mondello Park and I knew every bump on the circuit.
Putting it on pole for the Leinster Trophy might have surprised the Euro guys. But not me.”
Crosslé 66F in early 1987 at Kirkistown. Brother John Boyle in blue jumper on the right. Margaret Boyle in yellow and Eric Holland (white hat) in the background. Young son Sean in the back of the truck. Photo Boyle family.
1987 Kirkistown. First outing in the newly acquired Reynard SF86.
Phoenix Park 1986 – Crosslé 63F. Another win taken away!!
Sunday, September 13th, 1987 was a warm if overcast autumn day in Co. Kildare. Weather would not be an issue unlike the showers that had fallen intermittently and often heavily on the Saturday. Still smarting from what he felt was a series of slights, Boyle lined up his Reynard SF86 on his inside line pole position on the main straight of Mondello Park’s 1.24-mile National Circuit. Boyle knew the circuit well. Very well in fact, having raced there since the mid-1970s when he was making a name for himself in FF1600. Already 33 years old when the 44th Leinster Trophy rolled around in 1987 Martin knew his shot at the big time, if he ever really had one, had come and gone but he was fiercely determined to give a full account of himself in front of a crowded Mondello Park, and a national TV audience on RTÉ where the special guest commentator would be none other than three-time Formula 1 World Champion Jackie Stewart.
The ‘mind games’ that Martin Boyle felt inside had been going on all weekend continued onto the formation grid when Pacific Racing chief Keith Wiggins started staring intently at Martin Boyle’s car from JJ Lehto’s second grid slot across the track. Martin recalled being first unnerved but then a different feeling came over him.
“Wiggy, as he was known in racing circles, did a stare-me-out psych-out job on the grid for the race when we put helmets on, which wasn’t very subtle but also let me know they were worried. It took my brother John a minute or two to twig on what he was at, and somehow block his line of vision as he was right in front of the nose cone. I thought it was well-done to be honest, but I also took it as a compliment!”
When reached for comment in Indianapolis for this piece Keith Wiggins was surprisingly forthright!
“Yeah, that sounds like me alright!”
Keith also opened-up on the tyre issues that had dominated conversation at Mondello Park up to that point at the Leinster Trophy event:
“Pacific Racing had come to Mondello ready to wrap up the EFDA Championship for JJ, and we had already shifted our sights to 1988 to some extent. In fact, Pacific were the agents for the EFDA Bridgestone tyres and would sell them to the teams, but Bridgestone were responsible for transport from race to race as well as providing technical support for mounting and balancing. Truth be told the Bridgestone FF2000 tyre was not a great tyre. They were obsolete and the cross-ply construction meant that they would vary quite a bit during the manufacturing process particularly in the sidewall dimensions. So, I would have my guys go out to cherry-pick the sets that were best matched in the sidewalls to keep back for Pacific Racing’s needs. The rest would be sold on to the other teams. As there was only two EFDA FF2000 races left the inventory was almost gone and that must have played into the circumstances at Mondello Park. Unfortunate, but nothing really could be done about it as we were never getting anymore made by Bridgestone.”
As the start approached, Martin Boyle was going over various scenarios in his racing mind. He had, of course, witnessed the start of the 1982 race where fellow Ulsterman Joey Greenan had famously led legend-in-training Ayrton Senna by getting a jump on him at the start and was able to hold off the mercurial Brazilian for two and a half laps. But the script was to play out somewhat differently when the flag dropped to signal the start of the 1987 Leinster Trophy. Martin Boyle recounts the hectic first few laps:
“JJ got me off the line and led into Eircom/Shell (Turn 1) but overcooked it on the braking and slid a little bit wide and I was in like a bullet and kept him right out. JJ kept at it down the grass and I led into BOAC/BP (Turn 2) and stayed there holding the line on the short straight to Budweiser/Duckhams (Turn 3). I remembered how Senna eventually got by Joey Greenan on the run down to Duckhams on the outside line. I would not have let anybody get me into Duckhams – if you do it is your own doing! Joey of course still likes to tell the story telling anybody who will listen! He has been lauded for leading Senna for years for a couple of laps, and in fairness Senna only got by as Joey claimed he missed a gear change when his gearstick popped out of gear.
I was kicking myself for making a very ordinary start but with hindsight JJ probably had at least 8-10 bhp advantage with his Neil Brown engine and he simply outdragged me off the line. JJ then messed up a little and I regained the lead assertively but had to hold him off for a number of laps and make no mistakes until I got a little bit of fresh air between us and the pressure eased. JJ really came at me hard at every corner for the first couple of laps. He was really going for it.
Martin Boyle (12) leads JJ Lehto (9) in the Leinster Trophy.
Behind the leaders, events were unfolding at a pace. John Alcorn, who had qualified just behind Lehto in 3rd place on the grid, had also made an excellent start and was even threatening to split the leaders heading into the first corner. Jeremy Payne starting fourth was struck from behind by another competitor who had completely misjudged his braking, and this forced Payne straight into the back of Alcorn. Payne lost two corners and was out on the spot. Alcorn had to rejoin at the back of the field but recovered well to finish a distant 6th. The first lap also claimed American Evan Demoulas, the teammate of JJ Lehto in Pacific Racing, after getting embroiled in a coming together with Josef Bertzen and Joey Greenan who was racing in another Reynard SF86. The original grid of 18 cars had been reduced to 14 by the end of the first lap when David Wright and Mick O’Dwyer failed to make it around the formation lap.
Lehto continued to push Boyle and by the mid-point of the race had closed the distance somewhat. Paul Warwick, the only driver who could mathematically prevent Lehto from securing the EFDA crown that day was in third place ahead of Allard Kalff who was having a tremendous outing for his small, underfunded AMT team. The likeable and very photogenic Dutchman had been the toast of the Thursday Mansion House reception and parade through the streets of Dublin, his photo ending up on several national newspapers. Kalff would take advantage of a mistake by Warwick through the Esses to leap up to third place, where he would remain for the remainder of the race. Behind them was the next of the local runners, Leslie Wright, the sole local to be driving a Reynard SF87 that he had recently acquired, and Brendan McKenna in a Reynard SF84. Meanwhile, Alcorn was driving a storming race through the pack from dead last to finish a highly creditable 6th place, passing Chris Murphy and Bertzen and Greenan along the way to the flag, but he was unable to find a way past Wright who would finish second of the local drivers.
Podium ceremony with JJ Lehto holding the famous Leinster Trophy. Paul Warwick to his left and Allard Kalff trying to open the champagne. Photo (c)Con Connolly
But up at the front Martin Boyle was driving a highly controlled race managing the gap to JJ Lehto, and he ultimately took the chequered flag of the 20-lap race by a gap of 1.87 secs to the absolute delight of his crew, the festivities led as always by Martin’s younger brother John and ebullient team sponsor Eric Holland. Martin Boyle also recorded the fastest lap on the 9th lap with a time of 57.06 secs, a time that would have been good for 2nd place on the grid. His victory was hailed on the live television commentary by Jackie Stewart who applauded the controlled drive of the ‘local boy’ Martin Boyle who had driven superbly against the top notch EFDA opposition.
“Martin drove a faultless race. Yes, I think he had an advantage but only a very small one and he could so easily have blown it. All credit to him for a great performance.”
Third on the road was a delighted Allard Kalff in what would be a season-best second place EFDA finish, followed by a frustrated Paul Warwick who never got to grips with the bumpy Mondello Park surface and had to deal with a battery issue during the race. Next up would be the second-best local driver in Leslie Wright followed by Alcorn the fourth placed EFDA driver.
Martin Boyle, JJ Lehto, Allard Kalff and Paul Warwick enjoy a lap of honour in an antique brass car.
But, as was predestined on the Friday, after it was evident that the promised Bridgestone rubber would not materialize, Martin Boyle’s victory in the race would be somewhat figurative and he would not actually be shortly receiving the Leinster Trophy. The spoils of victory would go to a somewhat underwhelmed JJ Lehto, with Allard Kalff and Paul Warwick filling the other two slots on the podium in second and third, respectively. Lehto was reserved in celebrating his first place among the EFDA competitors but he was delighted to have clinched the EFDA Championship for 1987.
The podium ceremony was overseen by your correspondent pressed into duty as trophy wrangler at the last minute. It was decided that Martin Boyle would take part in the trophy ceremonies and an old Leinster Motor Club cup, the Dunlop Trophy, was brought back into service to present to Martin. The Dunlop Trophy was a perpetual trophy first awarded back in the 1930s at the Leinster Trophy races at Tallaght for the third placed finisher. That the Dunlop Trophy was used was fitting given that Ballymoney’s other favourite son was none other than Joey Dunlop, and indeed Martin Boyle knew Joey and the Dunlop family well.
EFDA winner JJ Lehto had matinee idol looks and the blond hair to go with his Finnish heritage. He had drawn comparisons to another Nordic visitor, Swede Stefan Johansson, who had finished in second place in the 1979 Leinster Trophy, but while Stefan played the role of Viking Rockstar, JJ was more Boyband. Lehto’s delight in setting his eyes upon the magnificent Leinster Trophy and feeling the heft in his hands was great to witness, even if he did seem rather deflated immediately after when he was told he would not be taking the historic trophy back to his hometown of Espoo, a suburb of the Finnish capital of Helsinki.
After the champagne was sprayed the top three along with Martin Boyle took a lap of Mondello Park in an antique brass car, Martin clearly relishing the moment. In the post-race Interviews JJ Lehto was fairly magnanimous in recognizing Boyle’s performance, probably channeling the famously rough-edged Keke Rosberg’s lessons in diplomacy:
“I’m happy to win the title here in Ireland. It is a nice track and the people here have been very nice to me. Martin had the little bit better tyres, so I let him win…”
A year later when asked to comment for the 1988 Leinster Trophy programme Lehto was more reflective and perhaps a good deal more honest:
“I enjoyed racing at Mondello Park last year. The circuit was very bumpy, and it meant you had to work very hard. The Leinster Trophy was a good race for me. I say that even though I finished second on the track behind Martin Boyle. I wasn’t really disappointed about that and I know it would have been good to win the event outright. But you must remember he was on Yokohama tyres whereas the Euroseries contenders had to use Bridgestones in order to gain Championship points. This gave Boyle the advantage in the race as my tyres did not work as well after about five laps. Second place gave maximum points in the Championship and I also won the Leinster Trophy. My car was sliding all over the place in the corners. Still, it was a close race, and I did everything I could possibly to get past.”
Behind Lehto, Allard Kalff was delighted with his EFDA second place, a season best performance. When reached for a contribution to this article 33 years later he still recalled the Mondello Park race weekend with great fondness.
“Wow. What do I remember? Well, it was a strip and a half! I came from Silverstone where I raced a Sierra Cosworth in the World Touring Car Championship the weekend before and picked up my engine on the way to Ireland. We had a lovely reception at the town hall or somewhere official. Everybody was really nice, and it was a great event. I remember the tyre situation as I didn’t fight Martin as he was in his own race, but I had a great scrap with Paul Warwick. The tyres were simply not available if I recall right. JJ was as usual in a class of his own, but my 2nd place was a great result for me and my little AMT team. All in all, fond memories of a lovely weekend.”
The third place of Paul Warwick, the younger brother of British Grand Prix star Derek, had guaranteed that JJ Lehto would clinch the EFDA Euroseries Championship and he was understandably very disappointed that he had never really gotten to grips with the tight confines of Mondello Park.
The local and international press were fulsome in their praise of Martin Boyle’s performance. He was hailed as the first Ulsterman ever to win an EFDA Euroseries race at Mondello Park by the Belfast Newsletter and Coleraine Chronicle who both conveniently glossed over the tyre controversy. In point of fact, Martin Boyle had already won a round of the nascent EFDA FF1600 Euroseries back in 1979 at the fearsome Österreichring circuit in Austria, now known as the RedBull Ring and home to the Austrian Grand Prix.
Des Bradley, writing in the Irish Times, praised Martin Boyle’s drive but led with “Boyle has to share spoils with Lehto”. Bruce Jones in Autosport was waxing poetic describing the race in tones of ‘Gold and Silver being decided by the black objects that were Bridgestone tyres’ and mentioned how Martin Boyle’s pole position had put the noses of the Euroseries regulars ‘out of joint’. Vincent Hogan in the Irish Independent lauded Martin Boyle’s “shoestring defiance” in the face of the well-financed EFDA teams. Hogan did paint a blunt if realistic picture of the career arcs of the two main protagonists:
Boyle’s age (which was 33 not 30 as stated in the article) realistically must temper his ultimate ambition. Consequently, while Lehto may be setting his sights on a future Formula One career, Boyle openly admitted: ‘After this, I’m not really sure what I’ve left to be aiming for.’”
Irish Times report.
Martin Boyle himself has had more than three decades to reflect and come to terms with the events of September 1987 at Mondello Park. In long conversations, Martin went back and forth between disappointment, frustration, and quiet satisfaction that despite the challenges and difficulties he and his team faced that weekend he remained undaunted and was never intimidated.
“Yes, it was disappointing not to get the credit we felt was due in some quarters. We were put in a no-win situation not of our choosing and Leinster Motor Club were put in an awkward situation also … not of their choosing either I always felt.
Being around motor racing and some of the skullduggery has made me a tad cynical, paranoid, suspicious and cautious even. Right now, stepping back from how I saw it at the time … maybe there was a plan to make sure the Irish didn’t upset the Euro party – JJ on a roll would win the Mondello round and on TV and seal his Euro title in style. Or maybe there wasn’t a plan and they just underestimated the pace of my older car and ‘slightly’ older driver! Maybe because it was the last year the FF2000s, the Euro guys were deliberately running down their stock of Bridgestones and genuinely didn’t have ones available for us due to prudent housekeeping, is also possible. We were just pawns to be dealt with as suited at the time. The truth is always easier to accept.”
During the research for this article multiple Leinster Motor Club officials, RIAC race stewards and other Irish competitors (including PJ Fallon, Arnie Black and Brendan McKenna) in the FF2000 race were approached for comment. Unsurprisingly, the fog of time has played its part and while most recalled that there was ‘questions regarding tyres’, most had only vague recollections of what transpired that weekend regarding tyres and concepts of ‘Force Majeure’.
Plum Tyndall interviews Martin Boyle at the 1986 Leinster Trophy.
Clerk of the Course Dermot O’Rourke was open and honest in his recollections of the weekend.
“I remember the issue about the tyres but cannot remember the actual details. There were many incidents during the running of the other races that Sunday with the saloons and with the GT race in particular, that took all my attention. I know we did agree to match the prize money for the top five Irish competitors which meant that Martin did take the first-place purse of £450, that also was awarded to JJ Lehto.”
In truth, the Bridgestone/Yokohama affair had for the most part been settled on the Friday during the pre-event testing. EFDA officials led by Dan Partel assessed the situation, and as was their right declared that the event would have to be run to EFDA specifications come what may. In fact, EFDA would have been within their jurisdictional rights to exclude the home-based drivers from the Euroseries FF2000 race but decided that it would be fairer to all concerned to let the local drivers race so that they could benefit from the live TV exposure.
Had they had known Martin Boyle was about to put the cat amongst the pigeons would they have made the same decision? Dan Partel was very clear on a recent call:
“Absolutely. It was an unfortunate oversight, and one in retrospect was always likely to happen given the series was winding down. We had few spares, few of anything at that stage. Martin was a tremendous pilot. He took full advantage of his situation that weekend. And good luck to him.”
The following year a new circus would come to town in the shape of the newly minted Formula Vauxhall Lotus UK Championship. The new class would certainly make its mark in 1988, and over the following 13 years in various forms, including four years as part of the EFDA Euroseries. The star power would remain. The 1988 winner you may ask. None other than two-time Formula One World Champion Mika Häkkinen.
Martin Boyle savours his victory over JJ Lehto. Photo Belfast News Letter.
The Dunlop Trophy that was presented to Martin Boyle for his “first place on the road” performance. First awarded at the Tallaght Leinster Trophy in 1935 for the 3rd placed overall finisher by handicap.
JJ Lehto’s name on the Leinster Trophy alongside fellow Finn and two-time Formula One World Champion Mika Häkkinen.
The Leinster Trophy.
One last look at the Frontrunners
1987 was to bring down the curtain on seven remarkable years of EFDA FF2000 participation at Mondello Park that saw six Leinster Trophy Champions crowned. Mondello Park had rarely if ever previously witnessed the professionalism of the EFDA Euroseries, with its giant transporters, awnings, team jackets, big event sponsors and the associated buzz of national television exposure with large enthusiastic crowds of spectators.
EFDA’s first visit was in 1981 where Tommy Byrne’s win, while not for the Leinster Trophy, would help seal his 1981 EFDA Euroseries title. In a remarkable series of events over the course of the following 12 months, Tommy, would win the British Formula 3 title and be in and out of a Formula One drive with Theodore F1 by the end of the 1982 season. Tommy would move to the USA and have a long career in various forms of motorsports there. He now works as a race instructor at the Mid-Ohio circuit.
1982 would be the first Leinster Trophy race and winner Ayrton Senna would go on to win three Formula One World Championships in his mercurial career. While Senna deservedly grabs the lion’s share of the headlines since, it is worth noting just how star-studded those EFDA years turned out to be with the benefit of hindsight. Four of the seven Mondello Park EFDA FF2000 race winners would graduate to Formula One as well as several other drivers who competed at Mondello Park from 1981 to 1987 in the EFDA Euroseries.
The Magnificent Seven! Mondello Park EFDA FF2000 winners from 1981-1987.
1981 – Tommy Byrne, 1982 – Ayrton Senna da Silva, 1983 – Cor Euser, 1984 – Mauricio Gugelmin, 1985 – Bertrand Fabi, 1986 – Henrik Larsen, 1987 – JJ Lehto.
Leyton House March and Jordan Formula One pilot Mauricio Gugelmin of Brazil had finished second in the 1983 Leinster Trophy behind Dutchman Cor Euser, before going one better in 1984. The 1983 race would also see future Tyrrell and Lotus driver England’s Julian Bailey make an appearance, as well as Northern Ireland’s Martin Donnelly, who recorded a unique three consecutive third place finishes in the Leinster Trophy EFDA race from 1983 to 1985. In a recent conversation, Arrows and Lotus Formula One driver Martin Donnelly recalled these Leinster Trophy races with a forensic eye for detail, recalling every incident and it seemed gear change around Mondello Park. But he also relished the occasion:
‘We always came back to Mondello for the Leinster Trophy as it was Frank Nolan’s home race. Frank was our sponsor and was also running PJ Fallon at the time. We had some bad luck in some years, but it was always a massive event and I loved every minute of it.”
1985 EFDA winner was the much-missed Canadian Bertrand Fabi. Mere months after putting in a Senna-like dominating performance at Mondello Park, Fabi would perish in a Formula 3 testing accident at Goodwood and became one of the 1980s greatest “what if’s?” Also appearing in 1985 was future Zakspeed Formula One driver and three-time DTM Champion German Bernd Schnieider who just missed on a podium place behind Fabi, Larsen and Donnelly.
In 1986 Dane Henrik Larsen, who incidentally competed in more EFDA Euroseries FF2000 races than any other driver, beat out future Moneytron Onyx, Rial, Coloni, Jordan, Larousse, and Pacific F1 driver Bertrand Gachot of Belgium into second place. Gachot also won Le Mans in 1991 with Mazda and had a single outing in CART at Toronto in 1993 with Dick Simon Racing. Third in 1986 was England’s Mark Blundell, who raced in Formula One between 1991 and 1995 for Brabham, Ligier, Tyrrell and McLaren, also competed in CART for four seasons, and in endurance racing winning Le Mans in 1992 with Peugeot. German Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who spent four seasons with Sauber F1 before moving to Williams Grand Prix finishing second in the World Championship in 1997 behind his teammate Jacques Villeneuve and third in the World Championship for Jordan F1 in 1999, was also in the 1986 Leinster Trophy EFDA race, but after problems in practice did not take the start.
JJ Lehto 1994 Benneton B194.
Which brings us to the 1987 Leinster Trophy participants. As was ordained, budding Finnish star Jyrki Juhani Järvilehto would fulfill the promise that led Keke Rosberg to take JJ Lehto under his wing. Incidentally, it was also Rosberg who advised Letho to shorten his name to the more manageable JJ. Ultimately Lehto’s life and career was one of undoubted highs, but it was also somewhat star-crossed, with fate and misfortune seemingly intervening more than on one occasion. Two other participants of the 1987 Leinster Trophy would meet unfortunate ends, one in a motor race and the other in a prosaic and tragic road accident following a motor race.
Hitching his star again with Keith Wiggins and Pacific Racing, JJ Lehto would graduate to British Formula 3 in 1988 and duly won the title before going on to International Formula 3000 again with Pacific Racing. By the end of the 1989 season, he would cement his reputation as one of the hottest properties in racing and not only would test for Ferrari but make his debut in Formula One with the underfunded back-marker Moneytron Onyx team, almost scoring points in the season finale in Adelaide. Over the following season he would finish only seven times before making the move to the Scuderia Italia team for the start of the 1991 season. He confirmed his star quality by scoring what was to be his only podium in Formula One at a wet Imola behind only the two Ferraris. The ill-handling and unreliable Dallara chassis was to be Lehto’s undoing for the next two seasons, and even though he often impressed, he was unable to score any points. A move to Sauber at the start of 1993 began with promise and a point-scoring debut at Kyalami, but again reliability and a poor relationship with his teammate Karl Wendlinger meant the team underperformed.
Lehto’s 1993 season was also marred by a horrific accident after the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. Evan Demoulas, JJ Lehto’s teammate at Pacific Racing for the 1987 Leinster Trophy, was the scion of the Market Basket grocery store empire, a $500 million chain that had over 100 outlets mainly in the northeast of the United States. In the mid-1980s and already in his 30’s Demoulas would step down from the board of Market Basket to pursue a career in motorsports. He would partner Lehto in 1987 at Pacific Racing but be completely dominated by the Finn. However, Evan and JJ became fast friends and Evan would partner JJ to many Formula One events as the years progressed. While Evan and JJ were on their way from the Circuit Île Notre-Dame to downtown Montreal after JJ’s 7th place in the Sauber at the Canadian Grand Prix their car was struck by a driver who had run a red light. While JJ only sustained minor injuries, Evan Demoulas would be killed instantly leaving JJ to deliver the devastating news to Evan’s pregnant wife Rafaele back at their hotel. Evan was 38 years old.
Evan Demoulas (1955-1993).
Invited by Flavio Briatore, Lehto won a ‘bake-off’ test session at Barcelona at the end of 1993 against Michele Alboreto, Luca Badoer and others for the right to partner Michael Schumacher in the Benetton Formula Team for the 1994 season. This was Lehto’s big break and he would begin what was to be his 6th season in Formula One full of optimism. Partnering the sport’s brightest star would undoubtedly put Lehto in his most competitive seat to date. However, his pre-season hopes were to be shattered because of a catastrophic testing accident at Silverstone in the new Benetton B194 that resulted in multiple cervical fractures almost paralyzing Lehto and requiring several surgeries including the grafting of part of his hip bone to fuse his badly damaged 5th vertebra.
While in recuperation he received a get well soon fax from Ayrton Senna but Lehto’s seat was to be taken by Jos Verstappen for the start of the 1994 season. After missing the first two races Lehto was back for the ill-fated Imola race. Remarkably he put the Benetton on 5th place on the grid less than a second behind Schumacher, but perhaps showing signs of rust, he stalled the car at the start and was struck from behind by Pedro Lamy’s Lotus triggering a series of debris-related accidents in pit lane, and a prolonged Safety Car period that some say may have contributed to the fatal accident that was to befall Senna on the restart.
JJ Lehto on his way to victory in the 1995 24h Le Mans.
JJ’s neck was re-injured, but he was able to take his place in the car for the next race at Monaco, but he struggled mightily in the car and qualified four seconds behind Michael Schumacher. Two more lack-luster performances at Barcelona and Montreal were to follow, and Briatore replaced Lehto with Verstappen for the remainder of the season, and although Letho did substitute for a suspended Schumacher late in the season, that was to be it for his Formula One career.
Lehto would use the off season to nurse his neck back to full fitness and although out of Formula One, he would have one of his career highlights in 1995 when he would win the Le Mans 24-hour race in the Ueno Clinic McLaren F1 in a ride shared with Yannick Dalmas and Masanori Sekiya. In a race that was run mostly in wet conditions, Lehto was sublime, at times lapping 30 seconds a lap quicker than his rivals. His win was even more remarkable as it was in a GT1 class car, not a LMP prototype car. Lehto would also win Le Mans 10 years later sharing a works Audi R8 with Tom Kristensen and Marco Werner and he would enjoy prolonged success in America racing ALMS winning the title in 2004. Unfortunately, Lehto’s name would be back in the headlines in 2010 following a boating accident that killed his close friend Simo. After a prolonged court case where Lehto faced charges of negligent homicide and operating the boat under the influence, he was acquitted of all the charges, avoiding a lengthy jail sentence. JJ now works for Finnish TV as a race commentator and lives in Finland with his wife Satu and their daughters Juulia and Johanna.
Another driver slated for greatness after 1987 was Paul Warwick, who was widely tipped to follow his brother Derek into Formula One. In 1988 Warwick would join Lehto in British Formula 3 racing for Eddie Jordan’s EJR team but he would spend three years in Formula 3 with little to show for it. In 1990 Paul made the switch to International Formula 3000 first with Leyton House, but in 1991 he would move to Nigel Mansell’s Madgwick Motorsport for a crack at the British Formula 3000 crown. Warwick would completely dominate the series winning the first four rounds but at the fifth round at Oulton Park he would suffer a front wishbone failure while leading the race at the Knickerbrook righthander. The car hit the Armco barrier head on traveling at more than 140 mph and Warwick was thrown from the car and succumbed to his injuries. Paul was only 22 years old and was retrospectively awarded the victory at Oulton Park and had amassed enough points in the first five rounds to win the British Formula 3000 posthumously.
Paul Warwick in International F3000 (1969-1991)
Of the other competitors in the 1987 Leinster Trophy, John Alcorn would go on to race in International Formula 3000 while Allard Kalff would race in a variety of formulae before becoming a commentator for RTL in Holland. Allard achieved his ambition of driving a Formula One car at a test session hosted by Williams Grand Prix at Paul Ricard in 1993, where at the same test, Derek Daly would also sit behind the wheel of the all-conquering Williams FW14. Of the Irish entrants, many continued racing for years to come including PJ Fallon, Brendan McKenna, Leslie Wright, Tommy Cunneely and Chris Murphy, with several making the switch to Formula Opel Lotus, as FF2000 was to come to an end as a domestic class in 1989.
Martin Boyle racing in British Formula 3. JB Racing ex-Martin Donnelly Reynard 873. British Grand Prix support race.
After 1987, Martin Boyle would continue to race but more on an occasional basis taking up invites from Reynard to compete in FF2000 races in Canada and Brands Hatch, and British Formula 3 races with JB Racing at the British Grand Prix support race and at the televised Brands Hatch Formula 3 round where he would be rubbing shoulders and trading paint with Damon Hill, Perry McCarthy (the original ‘Stig’) and Peter Stringfellow, son of the nightclub impresario, among others. In 1989 he took in two rounds of the British Vauxhall Lotus championship at Brands Hatch and Silverstone and won two of the three FF2000 Championships in Ireland. Over his career Martin Boyle won nine single seater championships across multiple formulae in addition to the Irish Most Promising Driver scholarship in 1978. In 1996 Martin began campaigning a vintage Ford Anglia in the Irish Historic Tarmac Rally Championship, winning the title in 1999 despite giving up considerable horsepower to a field that included Lotus Cortinas, Porsches and Lotus Elans.
Martin Boyle in the 1999 Irish Historic Rally Championship in the Ford Anglia.
Martin and Margaret Boyle with Martin’s vintage Ford Anglia Rally car.
When asked for thoughts on Martin’s driving style and career, his contemporaries were fulsome in their praise of his talent. His meticulous preparation and sublime ability to control a race from the front was mentioned frequently, and Martin himself admitted that he loved racing up at the front, a skill he honed in his early stock car racing days. He also relished the pressure of the big occasion, in fact the bigger the better. Attempts were made to source the video of the 1987 Leinster Trophy as an accompaniment to this piece without success (but Martin swears it is somewhere in his attic!) However, much can be gleaned and appreciated from a very similar performance also at the Leinster Trophy meeting, this time in a Mondiale FF1600 in 1985. Under relentless pressure from FF1600 royalty including Pat Duffy, Alan Kelly, Cliff Dempsey, Vivion Daly and future Formula One star Eddie Irvine, Martin drove a superlative, error-free and controlled race from pole to chequered flag.
Martin’s friend and rival PJ Fallon gave this estimation of Martin’s skills and career:
“Martin was always an excellent driver but like so many struggled for budget at key points in his career. Martin is a really good guy who I have a huge respect for as a driver and a person. Very straight and an excellent guy to prepare his cars. Very thorough. Martin also competed in historic rallying and proved very quick at that sport. Had many great times with him after events.”
In the end, Martin Boyle is pragmatic and philosophical about his legacy and his career in motorsports. Many have said he had the talent to compete at the highest level but as is always the case in motor racing it is about more than talent. Finances, sponsorships, timing, and luck always have and always will play a part. While it certainly would have been nice to have his name on the Leinster Trophy, he knows what was achieved on that Sunday in September in Mondello Park and is undeniably proud of his achievement that day. With over 30 years of hindsight, he laughed off the supposed advantage he had with the tyres in 1987:
“There were a bunch of other guys on Yokohamas there that day and none of them were up at the sharp end!”
The question Martin is asked the most to this day is could you have beaten JJ Lehto and the EFDA guys if you were on Bridgestone rubber that day in 1987. Martin’s answer is always the same.
“If I had been able to stick that car on pole position, I don’t think anyone was beating me that day…if…I could get my nose in front.”
Martin and Margaret still live in Ballymoney and celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary in January 2021. Now 67 he and Margaret love to spend time with family and dote on their grandchildren Emmet, Dáire, Dearbhla, Odhrán and Aoife. He still closely follows motorsports and attends meetings when he can. He very much enjoys catching up with his former teammates, competitors, and friends from his racing days. Given when he raced and how many were lost even in the 1980s in motorsport, Martin considers it a bonus to be still here to tell the tale and to be blessed with his family. In quieter moments he admits that he has many other stories of his life in motor racing to tell and hopefully one day we will all get to hear them.
Martin Boyle at the Mondello Park 50th Anniversary celebration. Photo Boyle family.
Many thanks to Martin Boyle for very generously sharing his memories over countless emails, texts, and Zoom calls. It was great to get amazing insights from the 1987 race, and was a privilege to learn about his life, family, and career.
Thank you to EFDA Chief Dan Partel for his endless well of stories of that incredible period of 20 years when he was Europe’s motorsport kingmaker. He must write a book!
Thanks to Keith Wiggins, Martin Donnelly, Allard Kalff and especially Val Adaway for their contributions. Many efforts were made to get in touch with JJ Lehto and after finally making contact with his representation the trail went cold.
Thanks to the former Leinster Motor Club officials Dermot O’Rourke, Bill Childs, Alex Sinclair, Ann Stevens, Dominic Murphy, Derek Shortall, and Garry Manning. Thanks also to PJ Fallon, and Brendan McKenna for sharing their memories on the 1987 race and to Mark Reeves for his comments and feedback.
The use of photographs from Con Connolly, Russell Murphy, the Boyle family and Ian Lynas is acknowledged and much appreciated.