The Mondello Park based Siltex Safety Fiesta Zetec series travels to Anglesey in Wales next month as part of the first ITCC meeting outside the country since the initiative was conceived three years ago.
Former Champion Michael Barrable heads the closely fought Championship standings after a strong weekend at the July Mondello Park meeting. The North Dublin motor dealer has the equally experienced Alan Dawson as his closest challenger and both will be hoping to bring a healthy haul of championship points on the ferry home on Sunday night. Young Guns Dave Maguire and Sean McGovern have taken a win each and, on dropped scores, are also right in the title mix. Both experienced Sim racers, they may be more familiar with the technical Anglesey Circuit than their more experienced real world competitors!
Next up are two danger men, James Byrne, who dominated the Rookie series in 2022 and is capable of running right at the front and has already taken an outright win this year, and the hugely experienced Northern Ireland visitor Derek Graham, who must be due to take the top step of the podium soon. Following them in the title chase are 2022 Champion Keith Dawson, who missed out on the last round, the ever improving Mick Kehoe in the immaculate Donegan Motor Services car, and Brazilian driver Eduardo Gonzaga, who went well at the last meeting too. Others to keep an eye out for are the spectacular Keith Rabbitt, whose Wrapco car took race two last time out.
The Rookie Cup has been a popular addition to the Zetec Championship over the last 18 months and this year is is once again providing close battles and some very impressive drives from inexperienced drivers. Jason O’Connell leads the series, and as we have seen already this year, is well capable of running with the leading pack too. Four wins from six outings means he leads the title standings but Lorcan McGivney is not too far away in second. Despite missing the opening ICCR meeting in April, Josh Brown has taken a win and two seconds in his first season- he lies in third place. Matthew Tyrrell is next up from Laura Hannon and Andrew McCormack. Stephen Cullinane, Senan Noone, Christian Brennan and Luke Kilmartin round out the top ten.
Anglesey Circuit – or Trac Môn as it is known in Welsh – is among the UK’s most modern racing facilities and among its most spectacular. Overlooking the Irish Sea and with Snowdonia as a backdrop across the water in mainland Wales, the circuit has been designed to take account of the undulating landscape, packing in imaginative cambers, a blend of fast sections, technically challenging mid-range corners, hairpin bends and even a banked corner.
The circuit has become well recognised thanks it use by the TV motoring programme Fifth Gear for its’ ‘Shoot Out’ segment of the show. As with many track day enthusiasts, the Coastal layout was favoured, mainly due to the difficult downhill corkscrew segment.
Located on the island of Anglesey, off the north Wales coast, the circuit is built on what was originally a British Army and later RAF establishment. The camp at Tŷ Croes was originally home to a Royal Artillery training facility and then later a TA Barracks. Among those passing through the facility in its early years to complete his National Service was the late British radio DJ John Peel, whose demob record was unequivocal about his lack of military prowess: “At no time during his National Service has this man shown any sign of adapting to the military way of life” it read, though he was praised for maintaining the most spotless lavatory!
Another interesting footnote in the barracks’ life was its use in the 1970s to house Asian refugees fleeing from Idi Amin’s Uganda. It must have been a considerable culture shock, but there are tales of strong bonds being formed with the local community which have lasted well beyond the incomers’ stay on the island.
Later in its life, Tŷ Croes became an RAF radar establishment, complete with signature domed arrays and even a small narrow gauge railway. It continued in this guise before eventually being decommissioned in 1992/93 , with the buildings and facilities steadily falling into disrepair.
It was against this backdrop that the Wirral 100 Club saw an opportunity to organise motor racing, with the course formed by roadways around part of the complex. In October 1992, the first events began, with a meeting for a variety of motorcycle classes. Facilities were fairly rudimentary, but the track was noted for its good surface and excellent organisation. The first event proved a success and further races were organised in the following years, along with sprint events for cars. Rallycross also proved a popular additional activity, forming part of the British Championship.
By 1997, It was clear that racing had a future on Anglesey and upgrades were carried out to the circuit to ensure it could be fully licensed for club car and motorcycle racing. A new complex was added where the slower chicane once stood, while the Menai Straight was diverted through a new sequence of corners. A small pit lane was also added, though there were no permanent garage facilities. The track soon became a mainstay for two- and four-wheeled club racers from across Wales and the North West and was a popular destination, despite its capacity to often be windswept and wet.
In 2006, the circuit embarked on a much-more ambitious upgrade, which saw a completely new course created featuring four possible layout variations. Only a small portion of the old circuit was retained (the original start/finish straight and ‘Beth’s Bend’ were incorporated into the new design, though you would be hard-pressed to spot this as a spectator) but the new layout is fast and flowing and has proved just as popular. One of the straights is named in honour of (to date) Wales’ only Grand Prix driver, the late Tom Pryce.
While no major championships have made the trip to Anglesey (possibly put off by its relative remoteness), the circuit nevertheless continues to thrive with a wide range of club motorcycle and car races, alongside numerous track days. The largest event is the annual ‘Racing Rocks’ weekend, which sees the BRSCC organise a varied schedule culminating in a VW Fun Cup ‘Race into the Night’, bolstered by performances from around 30 rock groups.
Circuit information with thanks to racingcircuits.info
Images from Marc Quinlivan