One club that’s been on our visiting list for ages without us ever quite making it to one of their meetings (until now) is the East Cork Hot Rod Club. East Cork’s the last remaining active club in the Irish Hot Rod Federation, which used to rule the roost in Irish grass roots racing until NASA arrived on the Irish scene in the mid-1990s. As far as we’re aware the Federation still controls its own track at Kilflynn, near Tralee, which is available for clubs to rent for the day, but although drivers tell us this was always a great track to race on, it’s just too far from the current centres of Hot Rod racing to be practical. Now, there are just four grass track Hot Rod clubs left out of the dozens that used to be dotted around the south of Ireland. The newest of these, the very successful Ballymurn track in Wexford, runs its own independent show, as do the two Kildare tracks of Ballyshannon and Carbury, leaving East Cork as the only club running under the Federation’s rule book and insurance.


Over the last couple of years the club’s battled factors including the weather and insurance costs, which have resulted in fairly short seasons, but on the positive side East Cork’s moved back in to host the annual Araglin Carnival meeting after West Waterford Autograss pulled out of the popular July event. Traditionally East Cork end their season with a two day meeting on stubble, something that used to be a popular feature of UK Autograss seasons, but has died out in Autograss. This year’s stubble meeting was arranged on the Mount Uniake estate, near Killeagh, at the end of September until it was scuppered by the weather warnings accompanying “Storm Callum”. The club compensated for this by organising a final fling in October at their home base of Broomfield, Midleton, putting up a temporary track on the hillside behind the pits used for the regular track.


After a dull and drizzly start, the day brightened up to give excellent racing conditions on a track that held up well during the day and provided a rare opportunity to see true grass track racing. 33 cars arrived, which is a fairly typical number these days, with the 39 car entry at Araglin having been the biggest of the year. As at any Irish Hot Rod event, over half the entry came from the Juniors, who race here in Class 1, Class 2 and Rookies groups. There were many familiar faces from the Pike and other venues officiating and racing, although not necessarily in the same cars. We sometimes wonder what Irish racing would look like without the trusty K11 Micra; there were 26 of the “bubbles” in the field, with two “boxy” Micras and three Starlets, plus a Focus and Primera in the Stocks class. Four rounds of racing were scheduled to complete the club’s Driver of the Year championship, and with ten lap races for all classes except the Rookies, there was plenty of entertaining action.


In CLASS 1, the runaway points leader, also in close contention for the overall championship, was former Autograss racer Nicholas O’Leary, still with his familiar K10 Micra. Nicholas had a mixed day, starting when his engine literally fell out while leading the first race. After some hasty repairs this was followed by two runaway wins, before he went exploring the track’s surroundings in the final race and came back with a puncture. Sam McSweeney came through to win the first race and took the overall trophy from Liam Fitzgerald, who won the fourth race, while Nicholas took third overall. Edmond Joyce did well in his first day’s racing while Paddy Walsh had a few problems with his Class 1A Autograss car and Ben Hickey had to drop out after two rounds with a blown head gasket.


CLASS 2 featured a trio of Micras and was dominated, as it had been all season, by Catherine Walsh, who won all four races after seeing off challenges from her brother Martin, and her old car driven by Denis O’Flynn.


CLASS 3 provided some of the most spectacular action as overall points leader Jamie Scannell and Joe McCormack, both in Toyota 16 valve Starlets, mixed it with Stephen Healy’s Fiat-powered Starlet. After a fraught last lap they crossed the line three-abreast in the first race, with Jamie just hanging on to win, but an equally close second race came to an abrupt halt when Stephen’s engine sat down on the track in the last corner. Joe won that one, then Jamie just beat Joe in the third race before Joe’s car had enough, leaving Jamie on his own for the last race. Chasing the 3s was the only CLASS 6, Stephen O’Shea’s Toyota twin cam powered Micra, but he dropped out in the second heat after running wide past Anthony Lawton’s stranded Primera, not realising that Anthony was about to rejoin the race! That was only a bit of the punishment the Primera took, ending with its back axle falling out, so Joe Dilworth’s Focus got the better of their battle in the STOCKS class.


Shane O’Shea was unbeaten in JUNIOR CLASS 1, while Sam Shanahan and Joey Dilworth swapped second place between them. Cian O’Mahony’s Micra blew up in the first heat so Cian (not to be confused with the Autograss racer of the same name!) then appeared in two borrowed cars in the next two races, not without incident, while Noel Deasy performed the day’s only rollover, while leading the last race. He was back on the grid for the restart, and it took the loss of a front wheel to finally stop him.


JUNIOR CLASS 2 had the biggest field and was closely contested, with Niall McGrath winning the first race before Leon O’Shea, not to be outdone by his cousin Shane, won the next two, only to drop out while leading the fourth race. A consistent three seconds followed by a win in the final round gave Darragh Walsh the overall win from Leon and Niall, with Aaron Cotter, Kyle Read and Aaron Dilworth also in contention, while Kyle Browne retired in a cloud of steam in the second race.


The ROOKIES were split into two classes but all raced together. Sean Quirke and Ross Ryan were the Class 1 contenders with Sean winning the first and fourth rounds overall, but a close race for the line between Ross and Sean in race two ended with them both black flagged and the win going to Tommy Cronin, who then took another win in race three. The last race was fought out by the Class 1 pair with Sean getting past Ross. That left Sean taking the Class 1 trophy from Ross, while Sean O’Mahony won the Class 2 cup from Tommy, Eimear McGrath and James Fitzgerald.


All in all a most enjoyable day at the scenic Midleton venue. East Cork are set for a busy winter, with plans to re-align the regular Broomfield track, as well as taking on the organisation of the always popular McNamara Motorsport Funsprint at Watergrasshill (scheduled for 27 January 2019) and we’ll look forward to hopefully fitting in a return visit to the club next year.

East Cork Hot Rod Club website