The East Cork Hot Rod Club kicked off its 2019 season on Easter Monday at their home base of Broomfields, Midleton.

On our last visit to Midleton, the East Cork 2018 season was completed by a very successful day's racing on stubble, with a temporary track behind the regular pit area. The talk at the time was of a completely re-aligned permanent track for 2019, but the plans were eventually modified to move the track further up the field, keeping the existing basic layout and spectator banking but putting the bends onto fresh ground. An intensive programme of work for the members over the previous few weeks saw the venue ready to go at Easter, when all the work was rewarded by fine weather.

Car turnouts for the last remaining club running to the Irish Hot Rod Federation rules are never particularly huge these days; turnouts in the mid-thirties are the norm, but this opening event just drew 26 cars, with 28 drivers. A sunny Bank Holiday weekend always means that some have other plans, while East Cork's numbers are maybe being affected by the number of their drivers who've graduated to tarmac racing at The Pike. Some of these have retained grass cars, one or two were willing to risk using their Pike cars on the grass, but quite a few didn't have grass cars ready to go - although a lot of them were among the encouragingly large number of spectators. East Cork certainly have their work cut out to keep traditional grass Hot Rod racing alive, with the astronomical cost of public liability insurance in Ireland meaning that the club has to be constantly organising fund raising activities. Their successful revival of the winter Fun Sprint at Watergrasshill has certainly helped this year, along with a number of supportive sponsors (this meeting was backed by regular Pike racer Brian Weston's electrical business), which has enabled a six meeting programme to be planned at Midleton, plus a return to the always popular Araglin Carnival in July.

A compact programme was laid on, comprising three rounds of racing for six groups, with breaks between each round including time for an Easter egg hunt, which was as fiercely competitive as any of the on track action. Despite the small entry there was some very close and entertaining racing, with all but a couple of cars surviving the day, some maybe looking a bit secondhand. Inevitably track conditions on the fresh ground were a bit challenging, but everyone entered into the spirit of it and did their best to avoid the other cars when their wheels left the ground!

The biggest grid of the day was CLASS 1, with eight cars, although that unfortunately became seven when class champ Nicholas O'Leary had the engine fall out of his K10 Micra again, this time before he'd even got round one corner. Jack Hickey, driving cousin Ryan's regular Pike car, won the first race, holding off a strong challenge from Edmund Joyce and Aaron McEvoy, who had the only Starlet in the field of Micras. Last year's Class 2 champion Catherine Walsh (we've only just found out that the car Catherine used to win every Class 2 race last year is actually a Class 1!) was also in contention before getting turned round. In the second race Ben Hickey led most of the way, with Catherine looking for a way past, but when Catherine finally had to try the outside line it opened the door to the rest of the field, at which point Edmund Joyce saw the chance to shoot past the lot of them, winning from Ben, Evan McEvoy and Ryan Hickey. Catherine finally got a break in the third race, leading all the way and just holding off Edmund Joyce's last lap challenge. Ben Hickey's car, minus all the bits of bodywork spread around the track, crossed the line third but was docked a place to finish fourth behind Sam Shanahan, with Ryan Hickey and Liam Fitzgerald close behind. Aaron McEvoy retired after getting barged off on the first lap.

The only other main class to put a grid together was CLASS 3, with a trio of 1300 Starlets. Aaron Browne returned from his recent rally exploits to dominate the first race, chased by Mick Boland (in the same car he'd raced the day before at the Pike) and Joe McCormick. Second time out Aaron won again, but the others were a bit closer with Joe passing Mick on the last lap. The third round saw probably the best race of the day, with the three Starlets tied together but avoiding anty contact as Mick Boland held off Aaron Browne and Joe McCormick to the finish.

There were two entries in the STOCKS class, including Anne McGuire, back in action in the Hyundai Lantra. Anne almost convinced us that she'd only turned up hoping there was a best turned out car award (if you don't know the car, check the photos!). The truth was that the Hyundai, having spent the winter dumped in a ditch, had then fired up at the first touch of the button, and thereby convinced its owners that it deserved a better fate than the threatened Rookie Bangers! A bit worried that she'd never raced on grass before, Anne went out and won the first race by the best part of a lap, repeating that result second time out. In the third round a punctured outside front tyre on the first lap made life interesting for Anne, but somehow she hung on in a slightly bizarre duel with Joe Dilworth's Focus, finally beating Joe in a virtual dead heat. Joining in the class was the only LADIES' entry, Orla O'Sullivan again out in Mick Boland's car. After chasing Anne in the first two rounds, Orla managed to put the two battling Stocks a lap behind her in the final round.

The rest of the day was about the Juniors, in two classes plus the restricted Rookies. JUNIOR 1 had a five car grid and a good first race saw Joey Dilworth lead for a while before Shane O'Shea took over to win, very closely chased by Darragh Walsh. Next time out Darragh passed Eoin Bernard's Starlet on the second lap and led the rest of the way, under strong pressure from Shane O'Shea. The third round saw Shane O'Shea pull away to win by half a lap, while Darragh Walsh lost second on the last lap when his front suspension broke. Joey Dilworth then took second from Eoin Bernard and Kyle Browne.

JUNIOR 2 gridded six cars. Leon O'Shea was towed off the grid for the first race but quickly reppeared in cousin Shane's car and came through to take the win after managing to pass a close battle between Kyle Reed and Aaron Cotter. For the second race Leon was back in his own car and was safely in front by the time the race was stopped after a tangle between Sean Quirke and Aaron Dilworth brought them to a halt beside Aaron Cotter's car that was already parked up. Ryan Hickey and Kyle Reed were running second and third. The final round saw Leon O'Shea complete a hat trick of wins, chased again by Aaron Cotter and Kyle Reed, with Ryan Hickey, Aaron Dilworth and Sean Quirke completing the finishers.

The last group on track were the ROOKIES, running five lap heats compared to everyone else's ten laps. All three drivers had turns in front, but in the end Tommy Cronin won all three races, with James Fitzgerald and Sean O'Mahony alternating second place between them.

The day was completed with a couple of allcomers' races, which, just for a change, were run in the reverse direction. The Juniors' race brought the two O'Shea boys out together for the first time. Ryan Hickey led most of the way but was caught in the closing stages and Leon O'Shea went through to win from Joey Dilworth and Shane O'Shea, with Ryan ending up fourth from Kyle Browne and Aaron Dilworth. The senior race was led away by Jack Hickey, driving what was left of Ben's car. However, Aaron Browne quickly came through the field and took the last win of the day, chased by Mick Boland, with Jack Hickey third after Alan Houlihan finally managed what Anne had failed to do, and broke the Hyundai!

Despite a brief rain shower in the afternoon, the sun was shining again by the time the trophies were presented by the day's much appreciated sponsor, Brian Weston. East Cork's next two race days were confirmed as 12 May and 16 June, while July 14 sees the action move to the Araglin GAA grounds for the ever popular Carnival meeting.

CLASS RESULTS sponsored by Brian Weston Electrical

CLASS 1: 1st Edmund Joyce, 2nd Jack Hickey, 3rd Ben Hickey

CLASS 3: 1st Aaron Browne, 2nd Mick Boland, 3rd Joe McCormick

JUNIOR 1: 1st Shane O'Shea, 2nd Joey Dilworth, 3rd Darragh Walsh

JUNIOR 2: 1st Leon O'Shea, 2nd Kyle Reed, 3rd Ryan Hickey

ROOKIE JUNIORS: 1st Tommy Cronin, 2nd James Fitzgerald, 3rd Sean O'Mahony

LADIES: 1st Orla O'Sullivan

STOCKS: 1st Anne McGuire, 2nd Joe Dilworth

JUNIOR ALLCOMERS: 1st Leon O'Shea, 2nd Joey Dilworth, 3rd Shane O'Shea

ALLCOMERS: 1st Aaron Browne, 2nd Mick Boland, 3rd Jack Hickey