“Golden Mondello – From Grass to Glory” visits the internationally renowned Irish race-track and reveals the many captivating stories behind it, since the 110 acres of farmland was cut open in 1968, to the present day, 50 eventful years later where the speeds have increased and the sport has evolved technically.
Martin Birrane, commissioned the documentary, shortly before he died. So, as well as being the story of Mondello Park, it is a dedication to the man who invested much money making the circuit in Co. Kildare stand proudly as an internationally recognised facility for cars, motor cycles, karting, drifting and rallycross.
Mondello Park is Ireland’s only internationally accepted racing circuit for cars and motor-cycles. It has been the home to Irish speed-sports and a training ground for indigenous racing practitioners, since it was initially carved out of fertile Kildare farmland, near Naas, in May 1968.
Mondello Park was started by enterprising enthusiasts, who recognised, because of competitor safety, that the days of traditional road racing was near an end,. That era started near Athy, Co. Kildare in 1903 with the staging of the highly successful and much acclaimed Gordon Bennett International.
What started as an 0.8 mile short circuit, with few facilities and a limited number of competitors, progressed over the past 50 eventful years, into a properly run facility with an amazing number of home-grown competitors – a fitting place for budding racers.
Mondello had its troubles in the early years when a lack of investment hampered progress. It had to be financially rescued more than once. And, it was not until it was bought by Ballina-born UK based property owner and successful amateur racing driver, Martin Birrane, that it developed into a racing facility with the best of pits and paddocks, alongside a remarkable museum.
Nowadays, Mondello Park has a racing school, corporate suites, support from the motor industry and a busy competition schedule. Birrane’s purpose in buying into it, and spending many millions of his own money during development, was to encourage local talent, to provide safe yet challenging facilities in addition to local employment and even local tourism. Birrane also wanted to develop the international aspect.
Mondello Park has been graced by many international stars down the years, like world champions Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, James Hunt, Emerson Fittipaldi, Joey Dunlop, Mike Hailwood and many more. Senna was even sensationally challenged by a local driver when he raced there in 1982.
But the real success of the facility has been the development of local Irish talent. The list is impressive starting with John Watson, Derek Daly, Kenny Acheson, David Kennedy, Eddie Jordan, Tommy Byrne, Michael Roe and many more. Daly and Kennedy went to Western Australia, where they worked in the murky mines in order to fund their Mondello activities.
Tommy Byrne used Mondello as his kindergarten on his way to Formula 1 while Eddie Jordan, an impoverished bank clerk, saw the possibility of being not just a professional racer, owning his own team, but eventually discovering the mecca that is F1, challenging the mighty ones, and indeed winning at the top level.
From the 0.8 mile mini track that was Mondello Park to the 2.2 mile International complex, the venue has become known as a true competitor challenge. “Race well and win at Mondello, and you can race and win anywhere in the world”, is how multi world champ Jackie Stewart reacted on one of his many visits.
Mondello, is a little heaven for many modern race drivers and bikers. It is their path to greatness; their academy where they can race with safety, and learn the tricks of the racing trade. Where Derek Daly and Eddie Jordan were schooled in wheel to wheel combat, where champions struggled to succeed – that’s Mondello Park, Donore, Naas, Co. Kildare – an acorn that has grown into a sturdy oak!
The Mondello Park story is told with historic action footage, well placed interviews with relevant personalities with many pertinent and colourful Mondello moments and memories.