Its bank holiday Monday and are still full of the after-glow of Saint-Gouéno 2016. Only a few short days ago twenty-five Irish drivers set sail for France, spirits were high and Team Ireland was looking forward to a wonderful weekend of Racing and of course the wonderful French wine, Oh…Lets not forget the excellent French cuisine too.
The weather like home was scorching hot for the event, thick early morning fog soon cleared away and from early Thursday Team Ireland started to arrived at the Paddock and quickly set about setting up home for the weekend. Festooned with copious amounts of Irish flags and banners the camp looked excellent.
Friday was sign-on day and scrutiny, Irish Hillclimb Champ Joe Courtney needed new belts fitted, and with loads of helping hands he was soon sorted. All of the crews were busy checking their cars and carrying last minute adjustments to wring every ounce of performance from their cars.
Saturday qualifying started and conditions early on were foggy, however, the Irish drivers were still pushing hard all the same. Both Joe Courtney and Rory (Grandad Stephens) were putting in cracking times. Once again the Italian Mob made up of Billy White, Gary Eagan and Bishop Neil Bradbury in their Cento’s were the entertainers of the weekend. The lads pushed their cars to the limit as the battle they left behind in Ireland continued to rage in France. The Cento’s are now a firm favourite of the French spectators, well done lads.
The reigning Masters Champion Darren Warwick of Guernsey was absolutely spectacular to watch in action. Joe and Grandad Rory made a valiant effort to try and reel in Darren but the Guernsey driver was not be denied another Masters title, Darren’s average speed for the hill was 149.95 km/h and the French Nicolas Schatz average speed was 157.64 Km/h, not a whole lot in it…Well done Darren.
Peter McKinley was over with the legendary Escort of Simon McKinley, and he received a warm welcome from the French fans. Like ourselves, the French were heart broken when Simon left us, as Peter entered Fer du Cheval hairpin he received a tremendous welcome from the fans who were delighted to see Simon’s Escort back on the hill. They flocked to the paddock to take pictures of the car and the Simon McKinley sticker has become a much sought after item by the French, they all want to carry Simon with them as they make their way around France.
On Sunday about lunch time, the French Marshals (Commissaire’s) were being picked up for lunch in a van…So feeling a bit tired…ok, lazy, I hitched a lift back to the Paddock, or so I thought. The Marshals were fairly surprised to have in their company an Irish man with his funny Paddy’s hat. Well after a few minutes I though the trip back was a bit long, and suddenly the van stopped to the loud cheers of the Marshals within. I had arrived at the village hall where the marshals were having lunch, well… not one to waste an opportunity I set about recording the marshals dinner much to the amusement to the marshals. There was a nice roast chicken dinner and I can tell you in spite of the language barrier I had a wonderful lunch break with some incredible people, who kindly gave me a lift back to the hill after.
Once again I find myself struggling to put into words just how much we appreciate all the help, friendship and kindness extended to us by John Lloyd and his wonderful team. Thanks does just not go anyway near the gratitude we have for all you guys and what you have done for us. All I can say is Merci beaucoup for us all here. And we wish our extended French family all the best for 2016.
Well that’s about it…I could write volumes about our French escapade, but the pictures tell the story so much better than my meanderings…We’ll see ye along the road sometime soon.
For results from France and all things Irish Hillclimb & Sprint follow the links below.
All things Hillclimb in Ireland:
Irish Hillclimb & Sprint webpage all the news, views, results and much much more.
Vantage Point Video for the definitive collection of Irish Hillclimb Video & News.