Third time lucky! The previous two race days at Waterford Raceway had been pretty disastrous as far as the weather was concerned. The first championship round at the end of February had attracted 55 cars and maybe 60 drivers to The Pike and if everyone who'd set out on the journey had actually arrived, it would have been the biggest entry for a while. But it wouldn't have done them any good, as the thick fog never lifted. When the meeting was rescheduled a week later, heavy rain all day severely depleted the entry and the 36 drivers who turned up splashed through two rounds of heats.

But things looked very different at the end of March, with a fine weather forecast and two days of action on offer. Saturday afternoon saw a very well supported practice day with more or less non stop track sessions from 2 pm to 6 pm. 40 cars were in attendance with, by our best count, 57 drivers although it wasn't always easy to keep track of who was driving what, with several non-regular drivers taking the opportunity to give the track a try. Among those completing the most laps were new contenders for the Rookie Junior class, Callum O'Shea and Paddy Fitzgerald, who were joined later in the day by Molly O'Sullivan. All three would be back on Sunday to make their race debuts, as would a couple of new entrants for the Ladies' class, Margaret Cottrell and Mary Prince. In fact nearly all the cars practicing would be back for race day, notable exceptions being Charlie McNamara's BMW Mini, in which Charlie ferried several brave passengers round the track, although he thought the other Class 5 racers weren't quite ready for him. Former Rookie Junior contender Darragh Walsh had a lot of track time but wouldn't be racing as a couple of mods on his car exclude him from the Production Junior class, while Anita Pollard wouldn't race as she would be kept quite busy enough coping with the big turnout expected on Sunday. A couple of drivers tried different cars; Class 1A point leader Luke O'Donovan brought out one of his two Starlets, hoping the outing would sell it, but would be back in his Micra for Sunday, while Andy Foley was in a Class 1 Starlet before swapping overnight to his regular Class 5 car. There were only one or two mishaps, the most serious being Alan Houlihan's Civic wiping out a front corner after the suspension broke - something to do with the car's cornering speed on its fat slicks being more than Honda ever envisaged. It was soon fixed - but unfortunately wouldn't stay that way!

Everyone then dispersed overnight, a fair few of them in the direction of Bridgie Terries' bar over the road. But they couldn't relax for too long on Sunday morning; with the clocks going forward, the fine weather kept cars pouring into the track until the pits overflowed, and then they still kept coming. The eventual count was 70 cars, with 78 drivers signed on - the biggest turnout at the Pike for many a year.

Although it clouded over later in the day, conditions stayed dry, if slightly chilly, and the big entry provided plenty of close racing and maybe too much action. One change to the format was that the Production Juniors and the Rookies, with 15 and 11 entries respectively, were each split into two groups for the day. This could become a regular thing if these numbers are maintained, with the idea being to have a "promotion and relegation" system between the groups after each meeting (as the Pike, like most Irish clubs, doesn't operate a UK-style roof grade system, and handicaps drivers individually).

Racing started with the PRODUCTION JUNIORS. The first heat was headed by two drivers more often seen at Rosegreen, with Lisa Nelson holding off Cian Clancy and the now immaculately painted car of Leon O'Shea. Second time out, with the grid reversed, the result had a more familar look for the Pike with Ted McGrath winning, chased by Aidan Heney, Ben Kenneally and Joey Dilworth. The final saw James Deane take an early lead, but his car wasn't quite on the pace today and Ben Kenneally took over, holding off Leon O'Shea to the finish. Aidan Heney won a close fight for third in front of Joey Dilworth, Ted McGrath, Lisa Nelson and Cian Clancy with James Deane dropping to the back.

The second group saw the day's first mishaps, first when Brian Scannell got accidentally spun out of the lead and then  when Tadgh Foley collected the inside wall, bringing the first heat to an early halt with Ross Ryan impressively leading the way from Ryan Hickey and Ava Moloney. Tadgh just made it to the grid for heat 2 and then had a good run to third, battling with Brian Scannell, while Ava Moloney took a good win over Eoghan Doherty. Unfortunately this race also saw a red flag, with Ross Ryan's Micra blowing its engine while in second place. This group's final was led all the way by Eoghan Doherty, taking his first win in his first outing of the year, staying ahead of the second place battle where Ryan Hickey headed Brian Scannell, Tadgh Foley, Ava Moloney and Darragh Healy.

The first group of ROOKIES was headed by Martin Power, chased by Toby McGuire and Tommy Cronin. Their reversed grid heat then saw Martin come through from the back to take the lead by half distance, winning from Aaron Kenneally and Conor Fitzgerald. The final saw a rare hat-trick in the evenly matched Rookie class, with Martin Power again coming from the back to take the lead from Conor Fitz, Martin winning from Conor, Tommy Cronin, Toby McGuire and Aaron Kenneally.

Rookie group two was headed first time out by Conor Fitz, while Callum O'Shea had a most impressive first race to take second from Liam Óg Power. Next time out, with Conor moving into the more "experienced" group, Callum led all the way to take his first win in his second ever race, over Liam Power and Aoife Healy. The final saw Paddy Fitz lead a couple of laps before Liam Power took over to win with Callum taking another excellent second place from Aoife Healy. The other first timers had a good battle with Molly O'Sullivan coming out ahead of Paddy Fitz, who was neck and neck with Darryl Deane.

CLASS 1 was expected to be hetic with 12 cars on track - it should have been 13 but Ronan Foley's newly aquired Micra had problems in practice. Unfortunately it turned out a bit too hectic, with the first casualties being Alex Prince and Pat Nolan. Jack Hickey was having gearbox problems but popped back out for the restart in cousin Ryan's car. The restart saw a great battle developing between Cian Deasy, Davy Banville,  Arek Konieczny and Shane Hickey, but it all went wrong when the leaders caught backmarkers and poor Arek came off worst with another very bent Micra. Davy Banville took the win from Cian Deasy and Shane Hickey. Worse was to come though. As Cian Deasy and Shane Hickey took first and second in heat two, Pat Nolan and newcomer Darragh O'Shea raced side by side virtually the whole race for third. After taking the flag they came together and Darragh was launched off the inside wall into a very heavy roll, completely destroying his tidy Micra. After his promising performances in his first meeting and a half, we hope Darragh will be back soon. The final saw a depleted 8 car grid, with Davy Banville and Mark O'Connor's Starlet also missing. Shane Hickey came from the back to win, chased by Cian Deasy, with Ronan Coughlan's Starlet a good third ahead of Pat Nolan, Jack Hickey and Noel Deasy, with John Cottrell and Alex Prince dropping to the back in their standard Class 1B cars before Alex's boiled up - although both Micras did well to survive two days with three drivers each!

These two cars were out again in the CLASS 1B races with Arthur Cottrell  and Darren Prince being part of the six car field which later grew to eight cars. Willie Heney got the better of Luke O'Donovan in heat one, but Luke still did well to hold off Declan Heney and Liam Fitzgerald. Second time out Willie ran away in front while Liam just pipped Luke for second as Declan burst a tyre crossing the line. The final saw a shake up in the order, though, as Darren Prince drove a faultless race from the front of the grid and was never caught. It was a lot close behind, with Liam Fitzgerald completing lap after lap two abreast with Ronan Foley, who'd joined in with Tadgh's car. Racing side by side to the chequered flag, Willie Heney decided that three abreast would look even better, but Liam just held the place from Ronan, Willie, Arthur Cottell, Declan Heney, Stephen Healy and Luke O'Donovan.

The STOCKS, with three entries, raced with the IBs The first race was Stevie Slattery's Almera leading until Brian Weston's Mazda found a way past in the closing stages to win, with Joe Dilworth's new 1600 Zetec Focus in a relatively lonely third. The second race wasn't good for Joe as the Focus bounced and gripped in the wrong direction, heading straight for the bank. Brian won that race from Stevie, but Stevie turned the tables to win the final.

The LADIES had their best field for quite a while, with eight drivers signed on. A well handicapped first heat saw first Margaret Cottell, then Chantelle Wallace and Jamie Egan take turns in the lead before Orla O'Sullivan came through in Mick Boland's ex-Martin McGrath 1300 Starlet to win from Jamie and Katie Egan. Anita Lonergan's usually front-running Starlet went sick but she was back for the second heat at the wheel of Pat Nolan's Micra. This time Mary Prince and Catherine Walsh both completed laps in front before Orla came through again to win from Chantelle and Katie. Orla's winning run came to an end in the final when she caught a close lead battle and everybody ran out of room, Orla being the unlucky one who ended up in the wall. We then saw a great demonstration of the spirit of racing at the Pike as Orla headed back to the pits to claim Alan D'Arcy's Starlet. Unfortunately that didn't feel right (after a shunt earlier in the day) but as she pulled back in again, Jason Ryan, waiting in line for the next race, jumped out of his car and Orla was back in the race with Jason's Micra! After all that Jamie Egan came through to take the win, with Catherine Walsh quickly mastering her first taste of dry tarmac to hold off Katie Egan and Chantelle Wallace for second, and Orla chasing them home in fifth. The two Class 1A cars completed the order with Mary Prince just ahead of Margaret Cottrell after a good first day's racing for both of them.

Moving on through the class racing, CLASS 2 saw a high speed battle between the Micras of Jason Ryan and Eddie Baldwin. Jason won the first race, Eddie just beat him in the second and Jason (with his car nicely warmed up by Orla!) had the advantage in the final. Michael Coughlan's shared Class 1 Starlet took third, while Jack Pollard and Kieran Deasy dropped out after the first two heats.

Classes 3 and 5 ran together, with Paul Fitzgerald's CLASS 3 Starlet leading the way in heat one until the Class 5s came through, leaving Paul to hang on for a close class win from Michael Baldwin, with the Suzuki-powered Starlets of Alan D'Arcy and PJ O'Sullivan next up. The second race ended controversially as the Class 3 and 5 lead battles tried to occupy the same track space which led to Alan D'Arcy bouncing off the wall, crippling his car for the day despite efforts to get it back on track. Paul Fitzgerald was again the winner from Michael Baldwin and PJ O'Sullivan, while Shaun Lonergan, after problems with his and Anita's Starlet, got out again with the loan of Anita Pollard's car. The handicappers put Shaun at the front for the final, and he then called their bluff by setting such a pace that even the battling Class 5s couldn't catch him! PJ O'Sullivan fended off Michael Baldwin for second, with Alan D'Arcy limping slowly round to claim fourth place points. Paul Fitzgerald and Kieran Cooney were non starters.

Andy O'Brien was unbeaten in CLASS 5 but was of course as spectacular as ever. Padraig Smiddy's Micra-Toyota held off Andy Foley for second in the first heat, although Keith O'Brien, after a good start, retired for the day. Second time out Andy Foley also had problems and missed the final, but there was an epic battle between Padraig Smiddy and Andy O'Brien, with Andy finally winning but not before capturing a classic in-car video that quickly went viral! (Search for "Hunting Smiddys" on YouTube if you missed it!)

Classes 4 and 6 also ran together, with a mix of FWD and RWD cars now in both classes. Raymond D'Arcy's CLASS 4 Fiesta is now starting to show its potential and Raymond led much of the first heat before Peadar Wall finally took the win, with Mick Boland's FWD Starlet third after Alan Houlihan's Civic broke another ball joint and ended up on three wheels again. Mick Boland was given a head start in the second race (running a 1300 in the 1600 class) and was never caught, with Raymond second while Alan was with third after Peadar had a couple of moments before retiring. The final was missing both Peadar and Mick. Alan Houlihan led most of the way until Raymond was brave enough to pass him on the outside in the closing stages to take the win.

Martin Fitz's race debut in his ex-Jason Kew Tigra gave him three straight wins in CLASS 6, chased by Donal Linehan's Honda-powered 206 in the first heat. Ronan Waters had his first outing with the 2-litre Vtec in his FWD Starlet and beat Donal in the second heat, before the battle between them got a bit too close in the final, ending with Ronan in the wall.

It was a long day after all the incidents, with the prizegiving not finished until nearly 6.30, but there'd been no shortage of excitement, with more of the same, hopefully with less damage, to come on Easter Sunday.

CLASS RESULTS sponsored by SLB Manufacturing & Woodcraft

CLASS 1: 1st Cian Deasy, 2nd Shane Hickey, 3rd Ronan Coughlan

CLASS 2: 1st Jason Ryan, 2nd Eddie Baldwin, 3rd Michael Coughlan

CLASS 3: 1st Michael Baldwin, 2nd Alan D'Arcy, 3rd PJ O'Sullivan

CLASS 4: 1st Raymond D'Arcy, 2nd Mick Boland, 3rd Alan Houlihan

CLASS 5: 1st Andy O'Brien, 2nd Padraig Smiddy, 3rd Andy Foley

CLASS 6: 1st Martin Fitzgerald, 2nd Donal Linehan, 3rd Ronan Waters

STOCKS: 1st Brian Weston, 2nd Stevie Slattery, 3rd Joe Dilworth

CLASS 1B: 1st Willie Heney, 2nd Liam Fitzgerald, 3rd Luke O'Donovan

PRODUCTION JUNIOR A: 1st Ben Kenneally, 2nd Ted McGrath, 3rd= Leon O'Shea & Aidan Heney

PRODUCTION JUNIOR B: 1st Eoghan Doherty, 2nd Ava Moloney, 3rd Tadgh Foley

ROOKIE JUNIOR A: 1st Martin Power, 2nd Conor Fitzgerald, 3rd Tommy Cronin

ROOKIE JUNIOR B: 1st Callum O'Shea, 2nd Liam Óg Power, 3rd Aoife Healy

LADIES: 1st Orla O'Sullivan, 2nd Jamie Egan, 3rd Katie Egan