It’s pretty unusual to have nearly the whole of Ireland praying for rain, but 2018 is turning out to be a pretty unusual year. However, when those prayers were answered, it just had to be on a race day!


Round 6 of Waterford Raceway’s Driver of the Year Championship, sponsored by Weston electrical and featuring the Tom Murray Cup race, attracted the smallest turnout at the Pike for a while (38 cars, with 42 drivers signed on), partly due to the weather forecast (which was unfortunately accurate), partly maybe to clashing events but probably mainly just mid-season fatigue, which saw a few regulars conspicuous by their absence. However, there’s also a bright side and there were three new, or returning, drivers among the entry. New Ross based Arkadiusz Konieczny (or just Arek!) was the Class 1 Champion in 2012 at the wheel of a Starlet, but was now returning after five years’ absence with a beautifully prepared Micra. Padraig Smiddy, whose father last raced at the Pike twenty years ago, made his debut in Class 5 at the wheel of an ex-Charlie MacNamara Micra – the K12 “frogeye” shell with 1600 Toyota Twin Cam power. In the Production Juniors Ben Kenneally was back in his familiar grass car because the Micra in which he’d made his Pike debut had been converted to Rookie spec for the debut of his little brother Aaron.


The day started misty and drizzly, and when the weather eventually changed it was for more persistent rain. After the dry spell this of course made the track something of a skating rink, and some struggled more than others to find grip – not helped by quite a few drivers getting caught without suitable tyres. Everyone coped well, though, with no major incident or damage, and there were some good battles developing through the day.


In CLASS 1 Arek was immediately back on the pace and ended up with two close second places and a third in the final, although, like everyone else, he had no answer to the flying Michael Baldwin. Anthony Cronin led the early stages of the final and finished second in front of Arek, with the other places taken by Davy Banville and Shane Hickey. Michael was the overall winner from Arek and Anthony.


CLASS 2 had a good seven car entry, including Katie Egan who, finding herself the only ladies’ contender, opted to race with the men rather than give herself an unfair advantage in the ladies’ points. Katie put up an impressive showing, particularly in the final where she hung on round the outside of Stephen Healy for several laps before ending up facing the other way. Eddie Baldwin won the first head but was eliminated in the second just after taking the lead from Stephen. Stephen won the rerun of that race but in the final he had to accept second behind the on-form Jack Pollard, who held on to take what we think was his first ever race win in his multi-coloured Micra (even changing colours between heats this time as his driver’s door had been left at home, causing him to race with a door off Davy Wall’s 206CC, which actually fitted!). Adrian Power’s Fiesta, despite the exhaust falling off twice, held off Michael Coughlin’s Starlet for third, while Kieran Deasy didn’t start the final after a wheel was knocked off his shared Micra in the Juniors. Stephen Healy was the trophy winner from Jack Pollard and Michael Coughlin.  


PJ O’Sullivan was the only CLASS 3 entry in his Suzuki-powered Starlet so took it steady while racing with the CLASS 4s. Here Alan Houlihan’s Civic was dominant, winning the first heat and final, although Pat Nolan’s Starlet held on to win heat two. Alan was the overall winner from Pat and Peadar Wall, who coped well with having the only RWD car in the class, while Kieran Cooney took fourth after a puncture put him out of one heat.


Davy Wall was on his own in CLASS 6 this time, racing with the CLASS 5s where Andy O’Brien and Andy Foley fought their usual friendly, but sometimes scarily close, battle. This time Andy Foley took both heats with Andy O’Brien doing well not to hit anything when he lost it under braking in the second race. The handicap in the final started O’Brien a couple of lengths in front of Foley, and this was enough to settle the race in the yellow car’s favour. Andy F was the overall winner from Andy O’B, with third going to Padraig Smiddy after a good debut, although he left before the final.


The STOCKS had three entries with Joe Dilworth proving the rain master in his Focus. After leading the first race all the way, next time out he made a move that took him round the outside of both Brian Weston’s Mazda and Anne McGuire’s Hyundai to win again. Meeting sponsor Brian Weston led the final nearly all the way, but Joe again took to the outside and emerged from the last corner in front. That made the Joe the overall trophy winner from Anne and Brian.


The two cars in CLASS 1B provided one of the day’s closest duels with Willie Heney just beating Martin Fitz in both heats. Unfortunately Wille then burst a brake pipe heading for the pit lanes for the final, leaving Martin, who’d spent the day swapping the restrictor plate in and out of Conor’s Rookie car, to take the win.


The ROOKIES coped well with the conditions. Ross Ryan and Brian Scannell won the two heats and Ross then took the final, leading home Brian and Liam Kiersey, with Conor Fitz and Toby McGuire next up. Aaron Keneally made a promising debut, while Ross took the overall win from Brian and Liam.


The JUNIOR PRODUCTIONS were down to seven cars this time with a few absentees, but the racing was as competitive as ever. Aidan Heney met his match as the immaculate new car of Ted McGrath was flying; Ted headed Aidan home in the first race, with Aidan levelling the score in heat two. In the final Joey Dilworth led for a while, but Ted made it through the traffic first and then headed Aidan and Ben Kenneally to the finish, with Joey, David Browne and Luke O’Donovan next up. Evin Harding was a non-starter after good results in the heats. Ted was the overall winner from Aidan and Ben.


The JUNIOR MODIFIED class looked like a non-starter in the morning, but the last three cars through the gate as scrutiny was closing brought the class back to life! The result was an ultra-close battle between Jack Hickey and Cian Deasy. Cian stole the win from Jack on the last lap of both heats, but Jack held the advantage in the shortened final after the third contender, Noel Deasy, slid firmly into the armco.


After a few contenders fell by the wayside, the TOM MURRAY CUP brought out seven cars for the twenty lap race. It didn’t follow the usual spectacular pattern of the Pike’s cup races at all, because nobody had bothered to tell Michael Baldwin that the track’s supposed to be slower in the rain! Starting the Class 1 from the front of the grid, Michael’s first move was to lap the two Class 5 cars that started at the back, and after twenty laps he was half a lap ahead of Stephen Healy and Alan Houlihan in second and third. Jack Pollard and Andy O’Brien completed the finishers with Adrian Power and Andy Foley pulling out.


The Pike’s next meeting, on 19 August, should be one of the biggest of the year, featuring the Tony Dunphy and Maura Walsh cup races. NASA commitments make it unlikely that we’ll be able to cover that one, so our coverage should resume with Round 8, on 9 September.