PHOENIX PARK, 16 AUGUST 2003

A GOOD WEEKEND IN THE PARK

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first races in Phoenix Park in Dublin a race weekend returned there this year making this the oldest continually used racing venue in the world. A strong contingent of historic racers travelled over to Ireland at the invitation of MotorSport Ireland for two days of unique motor racing. For the uninitiated the Park is over 1700 acres of public land and the largest enclosed park in Europe. Apart from containing the residences of the US Ambassador to Ireland and the President of Ireland it also is home to almost 1000 free roaming deer! The circuit therefore contains several hazards not usually seen these days adding wandering animals to a generous selection of park benches, sturdy oak trees and lamp posts.

Needless to say the hospitality provided by the organisers was wonderful and the organisation was pretty impressive bearing in mind that the site had seen Robbie Williams play live to 135000 three days earlier. For the historics the races were divided into single seaters and closed wheel cars – lumped together in a race each on both Saturday and Sunday. Eventually these and a whole range of other races took place bathed in hot sun for the whole weekend.

Your intrepid team was back on the track for the first time following the Mallory Park disasters both cars having been restored to health – but appearing in Dublin without testing.

The Lotus Junior was first out and initially struggled with poor pick up at low revs where the mixture seemed too rich. Practice went reasonably well and the time set saw us the 3rd Junior on the grid after Robin London (way too fast) and Bob Birrell and just ahead of Len Selby. We changed the jets for the race and whilst things were somewhat improved we finished exactly where we started in a pretty uneventful race.

The Elva was another matter with the torque from the BMW engine being ideally suited to the circuit design. We claimed pole position quite comfortably and indeed at the start of the race all seemed pretty easy. However, traffic soon intervened and a comfortable lead soon evaporated and somewhat to my surprise a very rapid Morgan suddenly came hurtling past at the last corner before the straight. Serious concentration was required and the place regained was held until the flag.

Sunday saw the Junior lining up again just behind the yellow Brabham BT6 of Bob Birrell and this time I managed to keep him honest – even managing to get past on one lap only to be outdragged down the straight by his much better running engine. Sadly, Robin Longdon had elected not to start as he had suffered a serious oil leak first time out and wanted to avoid an expensive disaster. So Colonel Bob won the Junior class with the orange Lotus second followed by Len Selby. Incidentally, this race was won by the legendary Irish racer Tommy Reid who celebrated 70 years on this earth this weekend – no slower and no sense!

Jumping out of one car into another immediately is never a great idea but this was necessary if the Elva was going to start on pole for the second time. Once again I was harried all the way by the roaring Morgan but this time I managed to use the traffic more to my advantage and held on the a very pleasing second win of the weekend – a first for me and very pleasing for all concerned.

So it was thanks all round for the organisers – a fantastic venue and a great job all round. On now to Oulton Park for the Gold Cup and then the big one – Goodwood for the Revival.

 

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