Historic Racing Festival not dampened by weather conditionsAugust 20, 2019
The 2019 Mondello Park Historic Festival, on Sunday August 18th, attracted large crowds and an impressive turn out of Mini’s of all ages as the event celebrated sixty years of the groundbreaking British car. Sunday’s festival was also set to include Car and Motorcycle Racing as well as Historic Race Car demonstrations, music, food and entertainment, with the retro feel added to by the circuit staff and many show visitors opting to dress in fifties and sixties style.
Displays of Mini’s from the early years of the car right through to the latest BMW built versions proved popular with show visitors, as did the track action including a pair of Mini races which provided some of the best entertainment of the day.
With visiting UK and local Irish cars making up the Mini grid the field was filled with quality and provided some excellent racing despite the best efforts of the weather. Multiple British Champion Jonathan Lewis, whose team provided the visiting cars, led race one initially but was strongly challenged by Steve Griffin in the recently restored ex Alec Poole Wolseley Hornet. Behind Griffin were two more of Lewis’s Cars, in the hands of local tin top racing stars Michael Cullen and David Maguire, with a lone Mini Clubman of Neil Kavanagh making up ground fast.
As the race reached half distance Kavanagh was the fastest car on track and having caught the lead group he passed all three of them in one go to take the lead. The weather then began to worsen but Kavanagh continued to push hard as he built a lead over Lewis. Eventually the Mini Clubman driver pushed too hard and went straight on at the first corner, leading to the race being stopped. When the results were counted back it was Lewis who took the win from Griffin and Cullen.
Ray Cunningham sat on pole position for race two and when the lights changed he took the lead from Lewis and Griffin. Cunningham pulled away from the field in an impressive display of wet weather driving as Lewis began to suffer handling problems and this allowed Griffin into second with Kavanagh up from the back of the grid to once again to challenge at the front. As Griffin and Kavanagh battled, Cunningham disappeared up the road eventually winning by more than eleven seconds. Griffin and Kavanagh battled hard for the remainder of the race, including a first corner coming together, eventually crossing the line side by side, with Griffin holding on to second spot.
The HRCA Historic class produced an impressive grid with Jackie Cochrane’s Sunbeam Tiger and Bernard Foley, with his MGB GTV8, taking the top two spots in both races. Cochrane won the first race by fifteen seconds but in race two, which took place in torrential rain, Foley battled back following a first comer off, to take the lead on the final lap and win by two seconds. Clive Brandon with his Lotus 47 took third on both occasions. By the completion of the race the conditions had deteriorated so much that Foley spun on the main straight after he had passed the chequered flag.
The Future Classics matched the HRCA class for quantity and variety of cars and the racing was even more frenetic. Aidan Byrne proved to be the master of all conditions as he won the first dry race from David Hammond and Mike Dermody and repeated the feat in the second rain shortened race from Gary Duggan and Ulick Burke. Paul O’Brien took three dominant Legends wins while the Pre ’55 handicap went to Shane Houlihan, following on from Nick Bennett’s win on Saturday. Two motorcycle races were run but the Classic Bike Racing Ireland competitors did not go out for their third race due to standing water on track. Mark Johnston won race one from Andy Kildea and Mick Brady, but retired from the lead in the second race to let Brady take the win from Kildea and Robin Heathcote.
Early show visitors were treated to the sight and sound of the Ex Derek Daly March 811 Formula One car on track during its morning run, but the afternoon session, where it was to be joined by cars from the Martin Birrane Collection, had to be cancelled as the weather turned against the organisers. Spectators were at least able to get a close look at the cars in the garages and were treated to the incredible sound of the Ford V8 engine in the back of the 1967 Lola T90 Indycar when it was started up in anticipation of its laps.