Araglen Carnival 14 July 2019

For various reasons, which boil down to just one real reason, the dreaded clashing dates, we hadn’t been back to one of our favourite events, the Araglen Carnival, since it was dropped from the Autograss calendar. But on a gloriously sunny Sunday we were back at this unique venue in a small village in the Knockmealdown Mountains, on the Cork, Tipperary and Waterford borders, for the third year that East Cork Hot Rod Club has been back at the helm.


The Araglen (or Araglin – either spelling will do) Carnival, now in its 62nd year, is one of those community centred events that can only really happen in Ireland. Although Hot Rod racing on the track around the village GAA Ground was first featured 25 years ago, for several years West Waterford Autograss took on the task of bringing racing to Araglen’s community field. Eventually a combination of insurance issues and track damage (that year the car racing was scheduled a week after bike racing, which wasn’t a good idea) forced the club to admit that Autograss machinery, and rules, had outgrown the very long, fast and narrow track with all its “natural” features. But for traditional Irish Hot Rod racing, it was still ideal!


In the last couple of years, Araglen has brought the Midleton-based East Cork club its best turnout of the year – not big numbers by other clubs’ standards but every entry helps a club that’s been hit hugely by current insurance costs in Ireland. This year, though, the attendance was unfortunately down to 26 cars and 27 drivers – on a par with this year’s events at Midleton, but there were many more drivers who deserved to experience the atmosphere of this event. Last year attracted a few Autograss visitors, but that wasn’t going to happen this year with West Waterford’s annual “Super Sunday” event going on in the next village down the road, Ballysaggart – a really difficult clash for us, but East Cork had no option but to race on the first weekend of the Carnival and let the bikes take the second week. The chance of attracting Hot Rod racers from further afield was also scuppered by a clash with the fortnightly schedule for the Wexford boys at Ballymurn.


Despite the low numbers, most of the classes were very closely contested through their three rounds of eight lap races (cut from the usual ten laps due to the long track and the otherwise very welcome warm weather). And the spectator car park as usual filled up very nicely as the afternoon progressed.


Biggest class of the day was CLASS 1, with ten cars, but the narrow track meant the club split the class in two for the day – a good move as every race was still very hard fought, but there was only one race stoppage all day. The first group started with a clear win for Ben Hickey, kicking up the dust in front of Edmund Joyce, Jimmy Deane, Sam Shanahan and newcomer Padraig Crowley, in the ex-Paul Boland NEC show Micra. Second time out Jimmy Deane, the ex-rally driver who’d been tempted to return to action after last year’s Waterford Raceway “Golden Oldies” race, was missing, sorting out problems with his shared car after the Juniors’ race. This time Edmund Joyce, with the ex-Patrick Daly Micra, closed up for a last lap pass for the win, beating Ben Hickey to the line. In the final race Ben was back in front, heading Sam Shanahan and Edmund.

The second group, designated CLASS 1A for the day, had a close battle for the lead between Alan Houlihan and Nicholas O’Leary, which was settled when Nick made a winning move on the last lap. Liam Fitzgerald recovered from a first lap moment to beat Catherine Walsh for third after Mark Buckley’s smartly refurbished ex-Sam McSweeney Micra went sick. The second race, with everyone back in after a first corner pile-up, was one of the best of the day, with Catherine Walsh never putting a wheel wrong as she held off Nick O’Leary, Liam Fitzgerald and Alan Houlihan, although Mark Buckley dropped out. The final race saw Nick O’Leary beat Alan Houlihan and Liam Fitzgerald, with Catherine Walsh dropping to the back after knocking over an infield tyre stack.


CLASS 3 was equally close, with four Starlets lining up, the Toyota powered cars of Aaron Browne and Joe McCormick, and the two Fiat-powered versions of Kevin and Stephen Healy. Stephen Healy took the first round, holding off Aaron and Joe after Kevin went flying over one of the relatively few bumps in the track and landed with a broken throttle cable. In the second race Aaron Browne led all the way, while Kevin moved up to second before pulling out with a broken radiator. The final saw Stephen back in front, but Kevin took second and closed in on his son before this time a broken throttle sensor sidelined him, leaving Stephen to hold off Joe and Aaron for the win.


With several classes sadly not represented, potentially the quickest car at the event was the lone CLASS 6 entry of ace signwriter Brendan Dee, who’d brought out a spaceframed Micra for its annual outing, with a newly fitted SOHC Honda engine. Unfortunately problems after the first heat meant Brendan was soon heading for the exit. He’d shared the track with the STOCKS class, and was actually led home in the first race by Anne McGuire’s Hyundai. For the rest of the day Anne was never headed in the unbreakable Hyundai, given a new lease of life by investing in a new front bumper. She was chased at a distance by Joe Dilworth, unable to keep up on the long straights in the 1400 version of his Focus.


The Juniors had their usual two classes, plus the restricted ROOKIES, racing over 5 laps to everyone else’s eight. Tommy Cronin took the first two wins with James Fitzgerald and Sean O’Mahony each taking a second and a third, but in a close final Sean held off Tommy and James all the way to win.


The evenly matched JUNIOR 1 contenders had a few problems, with Joey Dilworth dropping out of the first two races with what sounded like fuelling problems, while first heat winner Darragh Walsh broke a driveshaft in the second heat, leaving Kyle Browne to finish the race on his own. Everyone was back to full strength after lunch though, resulting in another of the day’s best races, with Joey holding off Darragh and Kyle all the way.


Last but not least was JUNIOR 2, where Aaron Cotter won the first two races, chased in the first by Aaron Dilworth and Kyle Reed, although in the second it took Aaron Cotter until the closing stages to find a way past Aaron Dilworth, attacking both the outside bank and the infield tyres on the way. Just like every other class except the Stocks, though, nobody would get away with winning all three races and Kyle Reed took the final, holding off Aarons Dilworth and Cotter.  James Deane returned from his Pike exploits with a tidy new grass Micra, but had to pull out of all three races.


After an enjoyable and relaxed day’s racing, the trophies were presented in the clubhouse bar. We’re awaiting confirmation of East Cork’s remaining race dates for the year, but they should include at least one day back at their Midleton home base, and hopefully a two day meeting at a yet to be announced stubble venue.

CLASS RESULTS sponsored by GK Quickfit Tyres

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

CLASS 1A: 1st Nicholas O'Leary, 2nd Alan Houlihan, 3rd Liam Fitzgerald

CLASS 3: 1st Stephen Healy, 2nd Aaron Browne, 3rd Joe McCormick

CLASS 6: 1st Brendan Dee

STOCKS: 1st Anne McGuire, 2nd Joe Dilworth

JUNIOR 1: 1st Kyle Browne, 2nd Darragh Walsh, 3rd Joey Dilworth

JUNIOR 2: 1st Aaron Cotter, 2nd Aaron Dilworth, 3rd Kyle Read

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