The inimitable Liam Rabbitt passed away suddenly, but peacefully at his Dublin home last week. A longtime racer himmself, he was the inspiration for his nephews Keith, Shane and Barry to take up motorsport, so upon receiving the news, the trio decided to pay tribute to their late uncle in the best way possible- on track. Late entries were placed for the 500 Motor Club’s Malcom Templeton race meeting at Kirkistown, with Barry and Shane entering Formula BOSS Ireland in a Dallara F3 and Formula Renault respectively, whilst Keith dusted off his faithful Siltex Safety Fiesta Zetec to tackle the Kirkistown regulars.
Barry and Shane were fourth and fifth respectively in the BOSS opener, with Shane only just missing out on a giant killing podium with fourth in race two. Keith, driving in his usual spectacular manner, managed two popular wins in the Zetec races. It’s fair to say Uncle Liam would have approved! Well done all.
Liam Rabbitt, or Liam Henry, his pirate radio handle on Radio Dublin and Big D Radio, was one of a kind. He was an entertainer, a storyteller, a race driver, an entrepeneur, a DJ and a Promoter, amongst other things. He grew up in a large family, two boys and six girls. “We were pretty tight, Liam and me”, says his brother Jim, “sure we had to be- there were six girls, we were outnumbered!” Jim also recalls that he told Liam, then aged only 15 or 16, that he and his girlfiend (and future wife,) Anne Marie would pick him up on the following Sunday morning for their regular trip to Mondello Park to watch the car racing. Liam said he had heard about some stock car racing out near the airport, so the trio headed to the Stock Car track in Santry on the Sunday morning. After a while, the younger of the Rabbitt brothers said he was going to the toilet and disappeared. Jim takes us the story “He was gone for ages and we were wondering where he was when we heard the comentator calling out the driver names of the next race.” And on the second row, said the commentator excitedly, it’s a celebrity driver- it’s Liam Henry from Radio Dublin! “We didn’t even know he could drive- says Jim, “All I could think of was that my dad would kill us, he wasn’t a motor racing fan..”
So began Liam’s long career and association with motor racing. He raced FF1600, a “Modsaloon” Imp, above, that was one of the best presented cars in the paddock, even displaying an identical “show car” at races with (“tell nobody”) no engine in the back! He progressed through Fiat Uno and Punto racing, being a frontrunner in both, before stepping back from his racing to become more involved in the promotional element, running successful initiatives such as Race 2 Race and Ticketfriend, along with nephew Barry, and also being the first in the paddock to stream live footage from a racecar in Mondello Park.
He was also responsible for getting Boyzone, who were at the peak of their career, to come and race Fiat Unos at Mondello Park, all in front of the gaze of the RTE cameras, broadcasting the event live.
To Liam’s family and many many friends, you have my sympathies. We have lost a special one. “Liam Henry” and his infectious grin, will be sorely missed…….
A big thanks to Cregor for the Kirkistown pictures and, as ever, Con Connolly for the images of Liam in action back in the day.