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Updated: Jan 5

Sunday the 10th of April saw the return of a magic spectacle to the outskirts of Cork City as you head West along the Bandon road. A little stretch of asphalt just up from Ballinhassig was closed off to public traffic to host motorcycle drag racing as organised by the West Cork Motorcycle Club (WCMCC). Despite my being from East Cork myself this was the first available opportunity I had to attend the races but I was not disappointed. I was also lucky enough to start off my weekend on Saturday afternoon at the Ramble Inn just down the road from the track. Here was base camp for competitors, club members, helpers, scrutineers and those of us punters who were in search of the faces that made up the West Cork drag race as well as the machinery on display.

My next assignment was at the paddock gate on Sunday morning at 7am. For those that didn’t make the Ramble Inn yesterday evening, they eagerly formed a steady queue to go under the watchful eye of the scrutineers. At 8am the stretch of road from the Ballinhassig exit down to the Halfway roundabout was closed and a small, dedicated army of volunteers began to form the drag strip, holding area and public viewing areas. I lend a hand to lay out the crowd barriers that formed the holding area and went down then to scrutiny. The holding area behind the start line also allowed the G Class entrants the luxury of having their bikes on the road along with their own “Pit area” so to speak. These gentlemen were the premier class in drag racing and there was great Cork contingent with the O’Driscoll brothers Ciaran and Justin, Adrian Dorgan and of course Ted Brady on Mel Nolan’s built Yamaha FJ 1200 Pro Stock. These Super Street Bikes as they are known have effectively no restriction on chassis, fuel, tyres or engine. As we head towards the start line the sense of anticipation was visibly bubbling as the enigmatic Mr. Tyner gathered the riders for their briefing. Bhí nóiméad ciúnais I gcuimhne na daoine who had gone to their eternal rest in recent times and it was hard not to feel emotional to see the likes of the Carey brothers from Lisgoold at the starting line in honour of their brother and Denis whom was fondly remembered by the drag racing community amongst others.

So the scene was set and at 10:53am Pascal Bowen and Kieran Kelly had the honour of being the first bikes down the road and filling our nostrils with the smoke from the melting rubber at the start line. The action came thick and fast with the aforementioned Tyner and team of marshals keeping the bikes coming down the road all day with most riders blowing the cobwebs off and settling into the business end of 5 qualifying runs. Benny and his team sat cool calm and collected after burning the midnight oil the previous night to ensure everything was spot on with the timing and shortly after lunchtime, we we’re ready for knockouts. There was disappointment for the Wexford raider Mark Culleton as he parted company with his Hello Kitty inspired pre-injection machine but thankfully Mark walked away unscathed from the incident and was lending his support to those at the start line once his bike was recovered. After the qualifying runs, the riders we’re paired up and bumper entry meant Class F we’re first to get the action underway with the 751cc and up class having 8 pairings break the starting beams. Kieran Kelly picked up where he left off in qualifying to lead the times for the final 8.

Going back the order then Class C took to the line in the last 4 pairings with James Royal showing the way. Pre -injection Class CA was led by the 2 Jacks Kelly and Dynan and they would inevitably meet in the final 4. Class D saw some great Club rivalry with Donal O’Donovan and Adrian O’Driscoll pulling through to semi-finals. Class E machinery always throws up some beautiful machinery from yesteryears and Ollie Leahy topped the EA sheets on his 1984 1100 with Mick “Basher” Healy not far behind onboard his 1982 Katana knocking out Ray Foley and Aaron Durnin respectively. In Class E Stephen Murphy set up a final against Mark Quilligan with his unmistakeable t-shirt telling us to “Burn Rubber not Your Soul!” Class F was heating up and Kieran Kelly now dipped under the 10 seconds, Stefan Georgiev, Eltan O’Hea and Johnathan O’Brien onboard the Panigale all progressed too. The knockout stages for G Class were limited to 3 pairings as Adrian Dorgan received a bye as Eric Sheehan’s Hayabusa experienced some mechanical troubles in Qualifying. Kieran O’Driscoll was the first to progress to the semi-finals as he had a relatively easy passage against Guinness Record holder Ted Brady was struggling to find a rhythm on board the Mel Nolan Yamaha FJ 1200 Pro Stock. The 2018 G Class winner Justin O’Driscoll pipped Limerick’s Karol Davern whose Spondon framed turboed GSXR was a real fan favourite every time he came to the line. The last pairing saw the renowned Jarrod Frost put in a solid run if 8.922s against the Leeside legend that is Eddie Galvin. At this stage I had missed out on some of the action on the drag strip but all was not in vain as I was given the task of calling those to the grid for the knockout stages in conjunction with our master of ceremonies John Tyner accompanied by his right hand man (and son) Rhys! The first semi-final in Class B saw William Roberts beat Ian Lynch and on the opposite side of the draw Club man Conor McCarthy pipped Ben Mullane by 6 hundredths of a second. Garry Keohane rolled back the years by clinching the first space in the Class C final with Richard Murphy beating Ray O’Brien. Class CA was led early on by Jack Kelly and Jack Dynan and Kelly got the nod in their semi-final pairing.