In just a few days time the final round of the 2011 Connaught Engines Irish
Hillclimb Championship concludes in Donegal, the location, the spectacularly
scenic Knockalla Hill. And so, as we look back on another high octane high speed
year, where records were spectacularly smashed, and some cars too. We ponder briefly at Last
years battle that went down to the wire between Paul O'Connell and Simon McKinley
on this very hill, Paul had a very scary off that ended his chance of victory,
Handing the championship to Simon McKinley.
Wexford Fethard-on-Sea 26th March 2011
Day one Wexford:
Wexford kicked off the 2011 championship and Simon McKinley blasted right out
of the starting blocks, throwing down the gauntlet to one and all, battle raged
on day one between Simon and David James in his ultra fast Evo, with John Byrne
in his Jedi nipping at their heels. Paul O'Connell in his older Delta finished
forth on the day.
Wexford Day two Duncannon:
Again Simon blitzed the opposition as he stamped his authority on the 2011
championship, even a late charge by Paul O'Connell was not enough to pip Simon.
Paul was followed home by John Byrne in third, with Joe Courtney in his OMS
Hornet finishing fourth.
Round three The Corkscrew Hill:
Corkscrew, deceptively technical, synonymous with legends such as Richard
Young, and a Mecca for spectators; And nothing prepares the senses for the
sound of V8 growling on the start line. Before launching into heavenly a
symphony as the car blasts its way up this Tarmac stairway.
Sylvie Mullins in his Judd powered Gould set a pace that even Simon McKinley
could not match, spectators jumped to their feet every time Sylvie and Simon
took to the hill, their speed was amazing, their driving seemed to defy the laws
of physics. Even Frank Byrnes in his V8 Pilbeam could not match the
outright speed of Sylvie and Simon.
Sylvie won by a mere blink of the eye from Simon, with Frank Byrnes finishing
third. Joe Courtney in his OMS Hornet finishing fourth.
Round four Ballyallaban Hill:
On Sunday the action moved to Ballyallaban Hill, arguably the most feared
hill in the championship, and the location of many spectacularly off road excursions; its
bumpy abrasive tarmac, and 2.2 miles off camber corners with granite
like shark teeth. Lie in wait to catch out drivers who push that bit too far, or
foolishly underestimate this hill.
From early morning spectators made their way up the hill, eager to find the
best vantage point, as drivers prepared in the paddock for the days battle.
From the word go Simon McKinley set a mind binding pace, you could visibly
see Simon wrestle with the wild horses as he made his approach to the carpark,
the car getting visibly sideways, corrected by cat like reflexes from
Simon. On his second run Simon smashed his previous record by over a second,
setting a new Hill record for a second year in a row. It appears the laws of
physics don't apply to Simon; at times, he appears to be able to bend space and
time at will. Either way, spectators and competitors alike were astounded by his
times. Frank Byrnes finished the day in second, even he could not match Simon's
pace. With Brendan Keane in his Swallow R14 coming home third.
Once again Ballyallaban Hill claimed her victims, Ian Quinn in his Mini had a
very scary moment when the bonnet flew open on the fastest part of the hill, the
Mini suffered substantial damage from the hard granite walls, thankfully Ian
was shaken, but unhurt. later on in the day the Nolan car got out of sorts after
the carpark and it too suffered heavy damage. Again Thankfully, the driver
walked away from the car, looking back just briefly to study the carnage wrought on
Once again Simon McKinley was crowned King of this Hill in Ballyvaughan,
adding yet another paragraph to Irish Motorsport History & The McKinley Legend.
Carrick-on-Suir Rounds 5 & 6.
Simon McKinley continued his onslaught on the championship in
Carrick-on-Suir, again he blitzed the opposition, nobody it seems has an
answer to McKinley's speed, Simon took the win on day one with Brendan Keane
coming home in second. And third place went to Rory Stevens in his wonderful
looking & sounding Radical.
Day two ended almost exactly as day one, Simon again took the win, and
stamped his authority on the Championship, He was again followed home by Brendan
Keane in second. With third place going to John Byrne.
With Simon now six for six, it was unlikely the champion would be overtaken
in points, never mind on the road!
Rounds 7 & 8 Carlow:
Round 7: Ardskull
Once again Simon delivered another devastating blow to the other competitors
as he continued to astound everyone with his speed, much head scratching in the
paddock by his fellow competitors failed to deliver an answer. Or even halt his
relentless championship march. He was followed home in second by John Byrne in
his Jedi in second, with Brendan Keane taking third.
Round 8: Bagenalstown
Bagenalstown sprint is another unique round of the championship that runs
practically in the middle of a town, this allows spectators unhindered
views of the high speed action, and after a bit of tweaking to the chicane
alongside the river the action commenced, again Simon McKinley annihilated the
rest of the crews, his speed past the swimming pool was simply breathtaking. Yet
again John Byrne was second. With Rory Stevens coming third in his Fab looking
The championship is all over bar the shouting it would seem, as we head to
the final round..
Before we head to Donegal I thought it pertinent to once again mention the
Irish Festival of Speed that was held in the grounds of the Adare Manor Hotel;
it was (is) without doubt one of the most historic events in Irish Motorsport to
date, It opened up a new audience to the Hillclimb competitors. And the the Hillclimb folks gave the spectators a display they would not soon forget. Simon
of course stole the show, his sideways, tyre smoking display resulted in loud
cheers from the fans, each run. A new legion of Hillclimb fans have the
names McKinley, Stevens, Mullins, Nolan etc, etched in their minds. And we may
yet see this event as a round of the championship.
So as the clock ticks down to Donegal, why not join us on Knockalla Hill and
witness some of the fastest machines in Ireland go head-to-head, at this
We'll see you on the start line.