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The All Ireland series returned for the fifth year running to West Cork, in the twentieth year of racing for Cork Autograss at Castletownkenneigh. The meeting also featured the Irish Fastest Junior on Grass title race, which is a long established part of Cork’s July two day meeting. The summer heatwave relented slightly on Saturday to give cooler, more overcast conditions, but the sun returned on Sunday to greet Cork’s biggest AIAS turnout, with 108 cars and 116 drivers (90, 78, 106 and 94 being the total entries in the previous four years).


The numbers were made slightly more difficult to agree as one car/driver combination didn’t emerge from the pits until the helpers’ race, while another had a spare car on hand, which was then loaned out for the helpers’ race.


Saturday proved a long day, with extended track maintenance breaks to keep up with the demands of the dry weather, while Sunday ended with the traditional gathering for the prizegiving in Cookie O’Callaghan’s bar in Castletownkenneigh village.


A fifteen car entry in CLASS 1 led to some crowded starts but surprisingly only one heat needed a re-run; one of Saturday’s races actually took three attempts to complete and featured the most bent car of the weekend as Adam Cronin, sharing Sean Nugent’s Junior Micra, took on the armco with a head-on assault. Top scorer on Saturday was Mallow’s Chris Hallinen, with three wins in his Micra, including one where he sneaked the win from club-mate Martin Murphy’s Mini right on the line. Chris had to make do with third in Sunday’s heat, when top series points contender Jamie Thorpe took his second win of the weekend. Paul Boland also won two races while Martin Murphy was the only Mini winner, despite there being an unusually high ratio of five Minis to ten Micras in the field.


The final was stopped when Steven White’s Micra was stranded after a chain reaction moment on the first lap. After taking a convincing lead at the first attempt, Paul Boland got hung out on the outside on the second start and Jamie Thorpe got in front to lead all the way. Martin Murphy headed the six car scrap for second from Steven White, Dylan Feeney, Paul Boland and Lewys Walters, with Chris Hallinen getting shuffled to the back, although the result was scrambled by green flags for Steven and Dylan. Alexander Weir’s Mini was a non-starter in the final, and Gareth Clydesdale’s Mini didn’t make the grid as first reserve, while under AIAS rules the next two in the order, Dale Delacey and Shane O’Neill, couldn’t get in as they’d have needed a run-off. Neilie Cronly’s Micra departed after engine problems on Saturday while the other two who didn’t make the final were young Mini racers Adam Cochrane and Paul Pearce!


When the AIAS came to Cork in 2014, the CLASS 1As outnumbered Class 1 nearly two to one, which isn’t the case now, although 1A is far from dying out. It’s pretty much an exclusively Cork class now, but still there was a respectable field of eleven cars, with ten Micras racing and Kevin Warren’s throwback Fiat Uno left in the pits until the very end of the weekend. They managed rerun-free heats (although the odd black or green flag flew), with three wins for John Shannon and two for Ciaran Tanner. Marie Walsh held on under pressure to win her first heat and then gained the win in the second on count back after it all went wrong on the last lap. Blaine Tanner was also a winner. A scrum at the start stopped the final, and the same nearly happened at the second attempt, but they were allowed to continue with Blaine Tanner squeezed out and rejoining at the back. John Shannon led all the way, chased by Ciaran Tanner and Paddy Walsh. Shaun Leahy just beat Felix O’Neill for fourth with Denis O’Neill, Marie Walsh and Blaine Tanner completing the finishers. The unlucky two who didn’t make the final were Alphie O’Driscoll and Mark Sweetman.


Another six Boxy Micras plus one Nova lined up for CLASS 2. Gary Shannon won all the heats on Saturday but, with a big points advantage already, he didn’t race on Sunday, saving his engine for the coming big meetings. With the local man out of action, Kildare’s Craig Roche won Sunday’s heat and led the final away, but his car slowed in the first corner and got rear ended by Damian Shannon and Eamon O’Brien. Damian and Cian Shorten then bounced off the armco in unison on the second lap before the reds came out. With Craig Roche out of it, Class 2 novice Gavin Tivy then fended off Eamon O’Brien to take the win, with Cian Shorten in third from John Cashel and Damian Shannon, whose Nova, after earlier carburettor problems, went sick again on the last lap.


As at Down, CLASS 3 and STOCK HATCH were well matched in the heats, with three cars in each class, although one or two drivers didn’t appreciate the different cornering styles, so they were split in the final. Paul Parr led Class 3 all weekend in his Rawlinson Nova, chased by Mallow Chairman Daniel O’Keeffe in his ex-Simon Fitzpatrick Starlet (still in Radford colours) and local man Fergus Tanner in a Starlet built from an ex-Hot Rod shell. The results sheet tells a slightly different story as a green flag for cone clipping put Paul behind the two Starlets in their second heat.


Down drivers again dominated the Stock Hatches, with Chris McCandless’ Corsa getting the better of Keith Graham’s Saxo in every race, while third went to Southern Ireland’s only Stock Hatch at present; Jamie Relihan’s ex-Class 1A Micra, with a 1200 engine giving away 400cc to the others.


A six car grid for CLASS 4 provided good racing with all six finishing every race. Patrick Percival in the ex-Mark Uka/Davy Curran 106 took three wins but in the other race couldn’t get past Liam Eyre’s ex-Jim Hayde 106. Patrick won the final, with Liam in hot pursuit, while Dermot Nugent’s Micra came home third from Stephen Kearney, who took over the series lead, Jim Hayde and Jamie Coyne.


It was a six car grid again in CLASS 5. John Wilde reeled off four heat wins, but it wasn’t all sunshine for the National Champ as some strange noises in the last heat indicated that a valve shim had fallen out. It was fixed for the final – or maybe not as we had the unusual spectacle of John leading two laps before a very sick engine left him struggling round to finish last, a lap down. Sean O’Connor gave John a run for his money in Saturday’s heats, but hit the armco on Sunday. After some difficult heats, Conor Devlin came good to take over in front in the final, just holding off Sean O’Connor, who drove a storming race after being left on the line. Bill Martin took third, John Marley pulled off on the first lap and Sean Lambert loaded up after breaking two shockers on Saturday.


CLASS 6 also had six cars on the grid, but no more than three finished any of the rather fraught races. Dave Heffernan’s Micra-Honda picked up one win in between breaking driveshafts, and Sox Coyne also had a win, but the man on form was Colm Bolger in his Honda-powered Micra, with two wins and two seconds. Matt Jess had a couple of spectacular exits and Pat Warren gave up the unequal struggle on Sunday. The first attempt at the final saw Colm Bolger ending up on the infield, but the second attempt was cleaner, despite Dave Heffernan breaking another shaft and delaying Sox Coyne. Alan O’Keeffe led away but Colm Bolger again hit the front and won from Alan and Sox.


Despite a better turnout at Down, CLASS 7 continues to struggle for numbers with only three in action, including Guy Wynn, returning after too long a lay-off. Davy Curran led the way in his Metro-Honda, only being headed when a stray stone took out his electrics in the second heat, which Guy went on to win. An under-the-weather Paul O’Connor had problems on Saturday but was back on form on Sunday in the ex-Patrick Sheahan Pickup. As Davy won the final, Guy’s single Hayabusa-powered Mini took second from Paul on the last lap, securing Guy the overall win.


A dozen CLASS 8s raised the dust and received their fair share of track watering, making the racing quite hard to follow with at least five identical XCWorx cars in the field, all exactly the same colour (the colour of the Cork track!). Joe McGrath and Shane Houlihan were top qualifiers with three wins each, while Martin Browne and Paul Moore were also heat winners. The final was stopped with Martin Browne and Eoghan Cusack ending up in the armco after the start. On the restart Joe McGrath again led the way, but as at Down, Kenneth Cashel was inspired at final time, and a classic slingshot pass for the lead put Kenneth in front, holding off Joe to the end - although Joe was still class winner on points. Eoghan Cusack took third from Martin Browne, Paul Moore and Shane Houlihan, with Stephen O’Neill on the pace on his return, but lapped after a spin, and Jessica Browne not starting the rerun. Peter Brennan, Gavin Coughlan and Niall O’Brien didn’t make the final, while Shane Parr had an eventful weekend in his new Rawlinson-Kawasaki – but it did come back on four wheels after one race!


CLASS 9 had a four car turnout with the expected battle between John Fuller and Eamon O’Brien this time going Eamon’s way; after two wins each in the heats Eamon got the better of John in the final, giving Eamon the overall win by one point! These two were the only finishers; Dermot Kelly pulled off in the final while Brian Nugent staged the weekend’s most spectacular moment in the Sunday heat. Brian’s Honda-powered car wheelied, stood square on its back wheels and then tumbled over sideways!


CLASS 10 was a straight fight between Derek Leech and Cian O’Mahony. They both won two heats and Cian then took the final, but Derek was the winner on points thanks to a green flag in Cian’s last race putting him fourth out of two!


FORMULA 1200, with no Northern travellers, was another two car class. Eoghan Cusack and Trevor Culbert went into the final level after two wins each, but Eoghan wrapped it up after Trevor got out of shape in the first corner.


Topping the entry lists were the JUNIOR CLASS 1s. There was much relief when 18 cars signed on, justifying six-car grids throughout the heats, but the Juniors had the knack of making six cars look a crowd. Saturday’s nine heats featured five reruns, mainly through a failure to get six abreast through the first corner, on the occasions they got that far. Adam Browne had nothing to do with any of that, taking four straight wins in his Mini, while his closest challenger looked like Jack Kelly’s Micra, with three wins. Northern visitor Ross Graham had two wins while Ellen Waide, Tyrone Cusack and John Gray took one each.


The first two attempts at the final didn’t make it round the first lap, while the third attempt was nearly as bad but continued despite Scott Graham getting spat out of the pack on the first lap. Jack Kelly tried everything to get round Adam Browne, but Adam held on in front with Jack a good second. Ross Graham took third from Ellen Waide, Tyrone Cusack, Ryan Feeney and John Gray, with the other Graham twin, Ross, bringing up the rear.


We lost three cars on Saturday; Sean Nugent’s Micra was wrecked in the Class 1 heats, his cousin Tony Browne added to the Nugent scrap yard when his AX landed heavily in the armco, and Zara Percival had a very sick engine in her Mini. That meant everyone else got a run in the B-final. Adam Walsh took the win, chased by rapid newcomer Jamie O’Brien. Chloe O’Brien was third from Eoin Marley’s Yaris, Emma O’Riordan, Emma Kelly and Oisin Martin’s distinctive Scenic Carlingford Ferry-backed Mini.


Adam Walsh had a problem in the B-final; all weekend he’d doubled up in the heats driving a Class 1A car, but couldn’t drive two cars in the final. As the only entry in JUNIOR CLASS 1A he needed to qualify for the Fastest Junior race, so had a two-lap final all on his own.


There were nine JUNIOR SPECIALS but despite the split grids, there was still a bit of action in the heats, including a three abreast attack on the back straight with the unlucky one, Jack Brennan, getting launched head-on into the armco. Colin Linehan took three wins to the two of Cillian Cusack and the one of Daryl Culbert, with Tom Hayden picking up the last heat win. Unlucky here was Dan Nash, whose car died on the line and couldn’t make the final, meaning that the other eight were automatically in. Also unlucky was Neil Tivy, taking a good heat win only to get black flagged after the race. Colin Linehan was back in his winning ways in the final, leading all the way as Cillian Cusack held off the rest of the pack. Daryl Culbert finished third, but sent a couple of cones flying, which dropped him to fifth behind Jack Brennan and Tom Hayden, with James O’Riordan, Neil Tivy and Charlie Coffey completing the evenly matched field.


The LADIES mustered enough entries to race in their two All Ireland groups, Classes 1 to 6 and 7 to 10. In the first group, Danielle O’Brien beat the handicappers in her Class 1 Micra and never looked like being caught in all five races. That was despite the press-on driving of Sinead Tivy, who brought her Class 2 Micra home second ahead of Ceara O’Neill’s Class 1. Ceara’s cousin Rachel O’Neill should have been a strong contender in her 1A Micra, but her second puncture of the weekend put her out, while Catriona Nugent only raced on Saturday in Uncle Dermot’s Class 4.


The other group saw a trio of Class 8s chasing after Chloe Sheehy’s ever more adventurously driven Class 7 Suzuki. Chloe hung on to win Sunday’s heat, but the other races all went to Michelle Cusack, driving Eoghan’s car while her own sat in the pits (she’d already used up the one number change allowed by the All Ireland rules). Michelle had another fine win in the final, with Chloe hanging on for second ahead of Louise Browne and Jenny Houlihan.


The FASTEST JUNIOR ON GRASS title race, with the top three in each class final eligible, had seven contenders due to the lack of 1As. Defending champion Adam Browne repeated his winning drive, holding off Jack Kelly all the way, with the top special, Colin Linehan, closing right in at the end. Ross Graham just held off Darrell Culbert for fourth, with Adam Walsh in the lone 1A and Cillian Cusack right behind.


The CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS race has been overlooked at some AIAS rounds, but Cork revived it and got a good seven car turnout of final winners. After a battle featuring Danielle Barratt and John Shannon, Kenneth Cashel came through to top his weekend as a delighted winner, with Cian O’Mahony chasing Kenneth to second from John Shannon, Danelle and Gavin Tivy. The Stock Hatch and F1200 winners both dropped out, Chris McCandless pulling off while Eoghan Cusack parked with his front wheels pointing different ways.


The on-track part of the weekend (as opposed to the in-Cookies part) ended with a HELPERS’ RACE. Alan O’Riordan took Eoghan Cusack’s Class 8 to victory after Jack Houlihan lost his way in Jenny’s car. Billy Walsh took one of his fleet of Micras to second from Kevin Warren, finally coming out in his Fiat, and Andy Nash in Michelle Cusack’s 8.


With the ranks of AIAS registered drivers having grown again during the weekend, all was looking good for the final round at West Waterford at the end of August.