Byrnes Oranmore, County Galway report

Following his successful return to racing with two podium finishes in the opening rounds of the Dunlop National Hillclimb/Sprint Challenge (in Dungarvan), Frank Byrnes went two steps higher with not one but two victories at the 98th Annual Phoenix...

Following his successful return to racing with two podium finishes in the opening rounds of the Dunlop National Hillclimb/Sprint Challenge (in Dungarvan), Frank Byrnes went two steps higher with not one but two victories at the 98th Annual Phoenix Park Motor Races last weekend.

During the past week, Frank stripped down the F2000 Reynard and managed to gain an extra few miles per hour out of the 240 bhp 2.0 litre Vauxhall 16V in preparation for the fast 1.5 mile Oldtown circuit. With support from his employers, Oliver Walsh Car Sales, Main Hyundai Dealers, Kilcolgan, Ennis and Ballinasloe and Anglo Irish Bank, Frank was confident of a good result although he was well aware that the Park festival has not been kind to the Oranmore native in the past.

Practice on Day 1 went well with the car's top speed exceeding the 140-mph barrier reached in Waterford. When the real test came along Frank continued to improve and recorded fastest time of the day (58.40) pushing pre-event favourite Karl Cleary (Metro 6R4) and Peter McKinley (Lant F3000) to second and third respectively. In achieving his first victory in the Park, Frank knew that a second win was on the cards the following day. However, it was not all plain sailing as the early morning practise run saw the ex-Padraig Forde Junior race car loose 2nd gear which led to a frantic repair job prior to the sprint start. What the Service Manager at Walsh's in Kilcolgan had to do was actually dismantle the gearbox and take out the 2nd gear cogs and run with just 1st, 3rd and 4th gears.

As the warm conditions led to faster racing thanks to better tyre traction, Frank, despite the absence of 2nd gear, again set fastest time bettered his previous record by 7 seconds. With Cleary not running, McGinley secured 2nd place followed by Bernard Jones (Formula Opel). With the two sets of Dublin Crystal collected from the winners podium, Byrnes now leads the Dunlop Hillclimb Championship after 4 rounds.

Unfortunately, the double victory was marred by an accident in the 'friendly' Top 10 race held later that evening among the ten fastest races over the two-day festival. On this occasion, Frank missed the controlling effect from 2nd gear, especially after adjusting the rear spoiler, and went into the chicane too fast. Lost it, and the Reynard suffered 'a fair bit of damage' according to Frank. "That said, I came to break my Park duck with a win and thankfully this was achieved on the double. The only blot on my copybook was the crash. Luckily, I was not hurt and my main concern now is to start work on repairing the car". Taking the philosophical approach (as always) Frank said, "that's motor racing, I suppose!"

-IMN

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Series Hillclimb