After the Mallow club’s biggest year to date in 2017 (set to be repeated in 2019) with rounds of the BAS and All Ireland Series, Mallow’s showpiece event for 2018 was saved to be the last two day meeting of the Irish season, the second running of the Donal O’Brien Memorial Trophy.


This was obviously a meeting close to the hearts of Autograss racers on both sides of the Irish Sea and a good few UK racers hoped to make the trip to the Ballyhoura Mountains, of whom three actually made it; Graham Bennett with his Class 8, Jake Williamson with his Class 7, and Michaela Dance, who’d be sharing Jake’s car. A good selection of cars and drivers representing all six Irish clubs were also in attendance, giving a total entry of 93 cars and 97 drivers – disappointingly a little bit down on numbers seen in this year’s All Ireland rounds, but enough for a very competitive weekend’s racing.


The planned format was the regular three heats on Saturday, followed by one heat and final on Sunday, although a fifth heat was added on Sunday, after the day’s activity started with a very moving on track tribute to Donal.


The only downside came from the Mallow club’s usual pursuit of perfection in its track preparation. Once the heats were completed at a very respectable 1.20 on Sunday, it was nearly two hours before the first final lined up. The finals ran to form; it took three efforts to finish Class 7, two to finish the Junior Specials and Class 8 was started four times and never was finished! By the time the Champion of Champions was called, the visitors with ferries to catch were on borrowed time and the meeting came to a hurried and slightly controversial end as Jake Williamson grabbed the trophy and ran – all the way to Rosslare!


CLASS 1 had nine entries and the close racing started as Shane Farrell’s Yaris snatched the win from Timmy Moloney’s Micra on the last corner of the first heat. The second race saw Trevor Cusack in his newly acquired Mini, still with the S177 number, beating another with a new toy, Christopher Hallinen swapping his Micra for an ex-Adam Browne Mini. Trevor and Chris both took wins on the second round with Martin Murphy’s Mini and Shane Farrell winning on the third round. On Sunday Kevin O’Halloran’s Micra was the first winner, with the other heats going to Trevor, Shane and Chris. Trevor Cusack led away in the final and stayed in front for five laps, but Shane Farrell was closing in and the Yaris squeezed through entering the last lap, with Shane winning from Trevor, Martin Murphy, Kevin O’Halloran, the Minis of Stephen Ryan and Adam Cochrane, with Timmy Moloney completing the runners after somebody assisted Chris Hallinen in losing his bootlid. After an earlier green flag was lifted, Shane was the overall winner from Trevor and Martin.


In contrast to previous big events at Mallow, CLASS 1A just brought out one car, Robert Crowley driving the familiar Jack Houlihan Micra. He mixed it with the Class 1s in the heats, then for the final Robert was matched with the only Stock Hatch entry, Jamie Relihan’s 1200 Micra, and the only non-qualifier from the Class 1s, Pat Doyle. The three of them made it a good race with Pat just beating Jamie and Robert over the line.


A closely matched six car field turned out in CLASS 2, with the expectation of some hectic racing. Steven White in the ex-Callum Hallinen Micra won the first heat, but in heat two Peter O’Grady’s Micra was the only car still running after two laps! The rest all ended up piled into Craig Roche’s Micra, with Darragh “Badger” Foley’s Nova on its side, John Shannon’s Micra with enough damage to put him out for the weekend and Steven and Jamie White both with black flags! Peter O’Grady won the rerun and the three car third heat. On Sunday there were just two cars left so after combined races for Classes 2, 4 and 6, Peter O’Grady took the honours from Darragh Foley.


CLASS 3 is quite frustrating in Ireland; we know there are plenty of good cars about but it’s difficult to get more than a handful to any one meeting. This time Keith Kelly’s V8 Micra was pitched against the two Starlets of Daniel O’Keeffe and Noel O’Mahony. Noel headed home after the first heat after understeering into the armco, but with a superb effort the car was back at the track by the end of the day, straightened and ready to go on Sunday. Keith threw the Micra around in fine style to win all six races, with Noel beating Daniel into second in the final.


CLASS 4 is another that could fill a couple of grids if you could get all the cars in Ireland to turn up at the same time. Just three lined up this time and the ever unlucky Aiden Murphy’s Fiat blew up within a couple of laps. Liam Eyre’s 106 won four of the heats and the final, chased each time by the similar car of Jim Hayde, with Jim winning one heat when Liam pulled off.


A strong 7-car field in CLASS 5 produced a running battle between the now very evenly matched Pickups of John Wilde and Conor Devlin. John just beat Conor in the three Saturday heats, although John picked up a black flag in the first heat after Sean Lambert ended up in the fence at the first corner. Disappointingly Maeve Devlin’s Pickup, which we’d expected to be just as quick as her brother’s, spluttered round with a misfire that no amount of effort could cure. On Sunday Sean O’Connor was mixing it with John and Conor although John remained unbeaten – Conor led the fifth heat until he got too close to the armco with a lap to go. Unfortunately that heat ended with a big tangle over the line between Bill Martin, Sean O’Connor and Sean Lambert. That left a three car final, which John Wilde won, chased by Sean O’Connor, with Craig Roche third in an ex-Paul Watson Peugeot-powered Fiat 126. John won overall from Conor with Bill Martin third.


CLASS 6 started with a top class field of five cars, but after three spectacular battles between Evan Curran and James Sinnott on Saturday, all won by Evan, James had to leave on Sunday. Dave Heffernan and Matt Jess already had problems so just two cars raced on Sunday. In the fourth heat Sox Coyne finally managed to get in front of Evan, but a slight touch propelled Sox through the finish line flags and brought out the reds. Evan took a green flag into the rerun, letting Sox take the win, but Evan was in front for the rest of the day, closely chased by Sox.


With a full and competitive 8 car grid, nobody was betting on CLASS 7 going far to its first red flag – in fact they made two laps before cars were scattered everywhere to bring out the reds. Jake Williamson had got away late, but had no trouble winning the rerun, in which Terry Falvey’s luck struck again, leaving him on three wheels. Everybody but Terry was out for the next two heats, won by Tom Buckley and Kevin Roche, back behind the wheel. On Sunday Sean Maher also pulled out. Tom Buckley won the fourth heat but the fifth needed three starts, with Tom among the casualties, and Jake Williamson was the only one to stay out of trouble. Just four cars made the final but only one, Paul O’Connor, survived the first lap. The restart saw Alan Long’s Metro-Honda out at the first corner and Paul O’Connor spinning down the back straight while Ricky Houlihan challenged Jake Williamson for the lead – for two laps until Ricky rolled! The last rerun, on a watered track, was spectacular as Alan Long led to the last lap, when Paul O’Connor’s wide line took him into the lead, only to run too wide in the last corner, letting Alan back through to win from Paul and Jake. On points from the six races, though, Jake was the winner from Tom Buckley and Alan Long.


CLASS 8 had the biggest field with 14 cars and as always alternated between brilliant racing and a total mess! Both heats were red flagged on the first run, with Ray Carey and Con Healy coming off worst, before Graham Bennett and Jess Browne took the wins. Second time out Stephen O’Neill and Martin Browne were the winners, while Graham Bennett and Barry Leech won their third heats. Sunday saw Graham with another win. He then got tagged and spun out in the fifth heat, but was back in front in the rerun. Stephen O’Neill won both his races on the track, but Barry Leech was reinstated as winner of the last race after spinning out on the last lap. All eight qualifiers made the final, with the five heat winners joined by Peter Brennan, Gavin Coughlan and Jamie Coyne. Non-qualifiers were Cian Shorten, Martin Feeney, Ciaran Nugent, Mark Kelly, Con Healy and Ray Carey – plus Jack Houlihan, who joined in the final heat in Jenny’s car. The race never did get finished. A messy start saw Barry Leech the unlucky one who ended up in the armco, but on the restart it was Barry in front, leading for all of four laps before the reds came out with Jess Browne in the armco and Stephen O’Neill spinning.  Next time Graham Bennett led away, but there were immediate reds. All eight cars were still on the grid for the fourth attempt, but Jess and Gavin Coughlin came together in the first corner and this time Graham Bennett drive straight off into his truck with the clock ticking on his dash to Rosslare (never book that Sunday night boat – it’s just too stressful when a meeting runs late!). He didn’t miss anything though as a result was declared with Stephen O’Neill the overall winner from Graham and Martin Browne.


With just two CLASS 9s entered, they raced throughout with the 10s. Richard Davis made a welcome return with his unique Citech V6 (the Cork Institute of Technology designed Rover/Honda based engine). John Fuller headed the class in Saturday’s heats but didn’t race on Sunday, so Richard picked up the class win.


A five car field in CLASS 10 was soon thinned out, with Keith McCammon still having the drive problems that have plagued him all year, and Gavin Tivy and Cian O’Mahony having a spectacular coming together in the second heat. That left a straight battle between Jamie Lyons and Derek Leech. Jamie beat Derek in four heats, with Derek turning the tables once, and then Jamie held off Derek all the way in the final.


With 13 entries, JUNIOR CLASS 1 got through the first heats without incident, with the ever improving Tyrone Cusack winning in his Micra and Adam Browne using his National winning Mini to dominate his heat. Adam won again second time out but the other heat needed three runs before little brother Jack Browne won in his Mini. Saturday’s heats finished with another win for Adam and a really close race in which Tyrone Cusack just beat John Gray and Ellen Waide. On to Sunday and the Browne brothers again both won in round 4. Adam then completed an unbeaten 5 wins and Tyrone Cusack beat Jack Browne in a race interrupted by Emma O’Riordan rolling – but she made the restart.


The five non-qualifiers had a B-final and there was a most impressive win, in only his second meeting, for Aaron McGrath in his Yaris, who pulled away from the Micras of Emma O’Riordan, Oisin Breen and Jamie O’Brien, with Zara Percival’s Mini a non-starter. The main final was led all the way by Adam Browne, chased by brother Jack. Ellen Waide looked to be heading for a good third but got spun out on the last lap. John Gray took advantage to move uip to a good third, with Jack Kelly taking fourth ahead of Fionn Breen, Ellen Waide, Chloe O’Brien, and dropping to the back Tyrone Cusack. Adam and Jack Browne took first and second in the trophy standings, with Tyrone third and John Gay fourth.


The JUNIOR SPECIALS fielded ten cars, including Neil Tivy moving on to a Bennett built car while Neil’s old car was in the hands of new boy Patrick Daly. The heats were very orderly with only one rerun needed. Daryl Culbert and Colin Linehan each won four races, with the other two wins going to James O’Riordan and Neil Tivy. Patrick Daly got his rear suspension knocked askew at the start of his first race, but was soon straightened out and was well on the pace to mark himself as one to watch next year. Patrick ended his first event by winning the B-final from Charlie Coffey. The A final didn’t get round the first corner before Tom Hayden was up and over, unfortunately just failing to make the restart. Daryl Culbert led all the way, successfully working round the scattered tyres on the pits bend, chased by Colin Linehan, James O’Riordan and Cillian Cusack. Behind the flying foursome, Sean Nugent came in fifth from Jack Brennan, with Neil Tivy pulling out.  Overall, the trophy winner was Daryl ahead of Colin, Cillian and James.


The LADIES were split into their All Ireland classes of 1-6 and 7-10. In the smaller class Sinead Tivy in her Class 2 Micra had the job of catching Jasmine Cusack’s Class 1 Mini. Every time in was close but Sinead managed it three times and Jasmine held on to win the other two heats. With a couple of extra laps in the final Sinead took a more comfortable win from Jasmine, while third was Siobhán O’Sullivan, driving very well in her first event with a Class 1 Micra.


Two Class 7s were matched against five Specials in the other section, although Stephanie Davis never appeared in the Class 9 and Louise Browne only did the first heat. Nobody could catch Michaela Dance in Jake Williams’ Seicento in any of the heats, so the final was lined up with no handicap. This brought the Class 8s back into the game and Michelle Cusack held off Nicole O’Brien for the win, while Michaela spun out of third on the last lap. Chloe Sheehy’s Class 7 completed the finishers with Jenny Houlihan not starting the final. Overall, Michaela was still the winner, from Michelle and Nicole.


That just left the race everyone was here for – the DONAL O’BRIEN MEMORIAL cup race. Eleven of the potential seventeen qualifiers lined up and Shane Farrell set a good pace in his Class 1, ahead of the chasing Peter O’Grady, Sinead Tivy and Liam Eyre. Further back Jake Williamson’s class 7 was making the faster progress and Jake hit the front on lap 6 – just before the red flags came out as a tangle between Stephen O’Neill and Keith Kelly left Stephen’s Class 8 balancing on its rear end.


After much discussion it was agreed not to rerun the race with just a couple of laps to go – in any event Jake couldn’t have gone in a rerun with his ferry to catch. Some thought the result should have been taken back a lap with Shane the winner, but there are no real rules for a race like this, where you’re only looking for one winner, so the man in front when the race was stopped got the cup and started his next race towards Rosslare (they made it!). Everyone else gathered in the evening sunshine for a more relaxed presentation of the trophies, to round off an excellent weekend for Mallow, a fitting tribute to Donal, and a success for the club’s new chairman, Daniel O’Keeffe, in his first major event at the helm.