It’s not so very long ago that Motor Racing in Ireland was in big trouble. Dwindling grids and lack of promotion meant the discipline was in real danger.
The first ICCR meeting back in June was a massive success, but nobody wanted to have a song and dance- just in case. We knew the planets had aligned, we had great weather, great racing and no delays. It was a good start, a foundation to build upon. As a result though, the second meeting of the year was possibly even more important than the first. I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint.
What a great weekend. Once again the sun split the stones (probably a tad too hot, us Irish folk aren’t built for those temperatures), the grids were good and the racing was amazing. Probably the best part was the fact that spectators were allowed back into the venue. Numbers were limited and to ensure this, tickets had to be booked online ahead of the event, but even so, there was a strong crowd watching on both days, and it certainly added to the atmosphere.
I attended Mondello for years as a kid with my Dad and I was delighted to have these memories evoked when I saw an excited “lad and Dad” hurrying from their car to the grandstand on Sunday morning. Similarly, I saw more than one family arriving with picnic baskets and folding chairs to enjoy the action. This meant one thing. We, the motor racing community, needed to entertain them. I was dreading a lengthy stoppage or some processional racing which might send these new spectators away unimpressed- but my worries were unfounded. The drivers, as if they knew what they needed to do, put on a top class show. Spectators certainly got their moneys worth as they saw Fiestas swapping paint, F1-engined single seaters going wheel to wheel, and some of the most varied saloon classes we have ever seen at the venue going hard at it.
Michael Cullen continued his domination of the Bill Griffin Motors backed Stryker series, but it was in the Coffee 2 Go Fiesta class that he gave us the most entertainment. Cullen and Kevin Doran have an almost magnetic attraction on track- and neither give an inch when they are scrapping for position. The crowd, and no doubt the panel beaters, love it though! They have more to worry about though. Graham McDonnell is extremely strong this year and probably a safe bet for title honours, even at this early stage of the season. What I am referring to though, is the rise of a young star- Jack Byrne. The young man is pleasant polite, presents himself and his car beautifully and to top it all off, he is pretty quick too! His win in the second Fiesta race was one of the most popular of the weekend, and I suspect it won’t be his last!
Jackie Cochrane’s Sunbeam Tiger is also another great crowd pleaser. If you have ever stood on the pitwall when Jackie opens the taps you will know that the rumbling V8 machine almost shakes the ground. He took a dominant win in the opener before diving into the pits in race two. He says he had a coolant leak, but Jackie loves a challenge and once again, the crowd had more entertainment as he blasted up though the grid to third, not quite catching son in law Gareth Thompson on the final tour!
Formula Vee has proved itself in previous years to be recession proof- and with a lot of great promotion the class is now the strongest in the paddock. If rumours are to be believed their numbers may exceed the 30 mark before the season is out. Formula Vee and Zetec Fiestas, and latterly Future Classics, have always been the classes that are within reach of the man or woman in the grandstand. The Siltex Safety backed Zetecs showed that they are suitable for all ages and experience levels as Michael Barrable used all his guile and experience to take race one, while young Harry McGovern took his debut win in race two, just fending off a last corner attack from Barrable in the process!
In terms of paddock presentation, the Irish Legends have it nailed- the POB setup looks fantastic and even their awnings are colour coded to each car- a lovely touch. They entertain on track as well as we saw at the weekend. Rob Barrable was on form and took three wins but had to fight hard for each, as the Richardson siblings and his own brother Peter kept the pressure on.
As for the Finnstown Hotel BOSS Ireland class- well how impressed would you be as a little kid in the stand to see the two Red Bull (liveried!) cars make contact at turn one? Or maybe even more so to learn that Sylvie Mullins’ Gould has a Formula 1 engine- and then see, and hear, it scream by Paul O’Connell for the lead- right in front of the grandstand! That’s one to tell your school friends about when you get home!
If just one little boy or girl went to sleep last night dreaming of racing at Mondello Park some day- and I suspect they did- then we have all done a pretty good job.
The ICCR returns to Mondello Park on August 14/15 for more of the same,
Onwards and upwards, folks!
Images from Michael Chester