Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Keep the Revs Up, with Plum Tyndall

For some people, their interests stem from living close by venues that hold events and they can turn that interest into a passion which lasts their entire lifetime. For others it can be triggered by a photograph in a local paper or a programme on TV. These of course, can only come about by someone willing to share their own passion for something with others, but also being able to get it off the ground and convincing the powers that be in the media and broadcasting world that it is worth their while in doing so.
This would be a lesser task if the topic was of popular interest, but when it is of something which is very much in the minority, this task is a much greater. In a sporting context, Motorsport is the very poor relation to its cousins such as GAA, Rugby, Athletics, Soccer and Horse Racing, to name a few. So it would take someone with great enthusiasm and will to do so. Well luckily for Motorsport fans, one such man was up to the challenge and did so for over forty years, and in doing so set the benchmark very high for others to follow.
I am of course referring to the Alan Tyndall or “Plum” as he is affectionately known. Plum not only brought coverage of all Motorsport disciplines into our homes every Thursday night for twenty three years, with his RPM Motorsport programme derived from his own independent production company, but also every major motorsport event in Ireland prior to its incarnation since the late 1970s. Spanning from International rallying, circuit racing, kart racing to European Rallycross events and anything in between Plum was there behind it all.
Despite his accent, Plum is actually an original “Dub”. Born and rared for  the first two years of his life in Drumcondra in Dublin City, but as his father Charles was a Church of Ireland clergyman, it was not long before he was on the move to a new parish, this time on The Mall in Sligo. He was there until the age of twelve and then on to Enniskillen in county Fermangh for his secondary level education.
It was while in Sligo one day when the first spark of Motorsport caught his eye “ I witnessed a cavalcade of  Hewison Trophy test trial cars going through the town and as a young kid that was really exciting to me, almost like watching a Grand Prix.”
While most young boys gain their interest in cars from their father, in Plum’s case it was from his mother Alice.
“The car influence unquestionably came from my mother and I think that she was probably the first woman to hold a driving licence in County Longford. She used to drive my her father’s old ‘Bullnose’ Morris Oxford which hadn’t the power to go up steep hills so she would put it into reverse to get up them such was the gearing in the car.”
As there was no YouTube or children’s television stations back when Plum was growing up, children sourced comic books and magazines for entertainment. When out with his mother in Sligo one day to get his latest Beano mag, he spotted a cancelled Autosport magazine of the shelf. The rest as they say is history. Dennis the Menace was made redundant and Autosport was now and still is his weekly magazine of choice.

Plum meets an enthusiastic young fan at the launch of his “Keep The Revs Up” book in Naas recently.

It was not until he was seventeen that he saw his first race meeting at an Easter Monday meeting in Goodwood in England. The bug had set in by the end of the day and in his minds eye, a racing driver was what he set about becoming. By the early 1970s his one and only car- a 1275 Mini Cooper had gained a roll cage and lost its passenger and rear seats and was not only driven to his architectural  job, but was now also driven on the the northern circuits of Kirkistown and Bishopscourt!
While fast, Plum was a tad erratic in the beginning, but with help from his friend Jimmy Ogg, the results started to come- finishing runner-up in the Northern Ireland championship in 1973. By 1973, the Ulster Automobile Club followed the British championship in introducing Production Saloon car racing in Northern Ireland. The Mini was replaced with a Ford Escort Mexico and in 1974, Plum won both the Bishopscourt championship and the Northern Ireland Production Saloon Car Championships.
“ I started racing in a Mini, then got the Ford Escort Mexico and won the championship in that. Then got a Ford Capri for a short time, a wonderful car but I hadn’t the money to run it, but I got a deal to drive a Vauxhall Firenza and won the Irish Championship in that.”
Plum competed all over Ireland both North and South and in the Phoenix Park races in Dublin where he nearly got a Park win only to be twarted by Des Cullen who was a Park specialist at the time. This was the end of his racing career though as the money wasn’t there to compete anymore.
This wasn’t to be the end of his Motorsport career however, at the same time as competing he commentated on other Motorsport events. It was during his time in the commentary box the BBC had heard him and offered him the task of commentating on a number of circuit races at Kirkistown which then led onto rallying with a documentary on the Circuit of Ireland Rally.
“ It wasn’t until the early 1980s when I moved to Dublin to work for a PR agency and got a call from RTE, and they took me on board to cover Grands Prix with Michael O’Carroll that my career really started to take off.”
This break came just at the right time for Plum and for Motorsport coverage in Ireland as the Circuit of Ireland Rally received major sponsorship from the Rothmans cigarette company. “ In the 1980s, the big thing was the Group B cars and Rothmans poured sponsorship money into it. This allowed RTE and UTV to have a joint production which skyrocketed the whole interest in rallying in Ireland.”

Alan interviewing Andreas Mikkelsen after the 2012 Circuit of Ireland Rally.
Photo:Barry Cregg

It was a completely new way of covering an event and certainly a different level of rally coverage with five daily programmes of the rally going out during the Easter period.
It was unique in a way and the only other broadcaster doing something similar was the BBC with the RAC rally at the time. So how did it come about ?
“ The genius behind that was Michael O’Carroll, he had seen the RAC rally been done by the BBC but reckoned that he could do it better!, which is a fair statement with the resources that we had compared to that of the BBC.” He got the Rothmans money and then the RTE and UTV agreement, and put it altogether.”
This was the pre digital and internet era of course, so there was no computer editing software or wifi access to send the action to the studio in Dublin for the nightly report, so how did they do it?
“There were two teams, George Hamilton was the presenter, Gary Gillespie was the UTV reporter and I was the RTE reporter. We worked in booths beside the each other and I would edit the script and do the voice over for one stage and Gary would do the same for another, we put it together and built it up like a patchwork quilt. The deadlines were so tight and I remember twice running down the corridor with the second tape in hand just as the first was ending, for the changeover!”
Like the Group B Supercars of that era all good things must come to an end, and the days of five day rallies were numbered and so too was the big sponsorship from Rothmans. While still commentating for RTE on circuit races at the time an idea came along for Plum to go it alone. This started by covering the Internationals but grew into a new level of coverage on all types of Motorsport in Ireland in the following years.
“When the money from Rothmans died down, an opportunity came up to carry on covering rallies here in Ireland so I setup my own production company and that led on to the RPM Motorsport programme which continued for twenty three years!”
Plum has been fortunate to have been right in the middle of the golden eras of both rallying and racing and has met, interviewed and had the odd tipple at prize givings with all the greats down through the years, so what were his favourite events?
“ There are so many but in rallying definitely the Donegal International Rally has to be it, I love it and the county as well. In racing, I loved the Phoenix Park and I would love to see it back again.”
As his RPM Motorsport programme grew in popularity over the years, he caught all the up and coming stars making their way through the ranks in their respective fields. This became harder the higher they got up the ladder due to media rights, but it also allowed him to bring his programme abroad.
Out of all the RPM programmes that were made, one of the standout episodes was the teams first trip to cover the Barbados rally. Plum was contacted after a brief meeting by chance in Mondello Park by Andrew Phillips from Barbados  who ran rallies over there. As he tells this story to me the grin on Plums face begins to get bigger and bigger as the memories of the trips come to mind.
“ Oh they were fun fun years! Andrew called me and said in his Barabados accent “I want you to bring a shit-hot driver in a shit-hot car to Barabados to whop da locals. Oh, an by da way, da driver must have no preference for drinking milk!” Plum contacted Kenny McKinstry and set the ball in motion for what was to be a memorable trip for all concerned for years to come.
With all that he has seen and covered what does he make of the sport now and what needs to be done?
“ The insurance problems is huge, which causes problems for spectators to watch and also film crews to get close which you need to do at rallies. I think socially too the whole thing has changed. People don’t have the time now to go to rallies and stay for prizegivings etc, and are under pressure to be at home, work or elsewhere. In terms of racing, sadly everybody jumps straight to the England now, we used to have a great training ground here and if you could win here, as competition was fierce, you could be competitive anywhere. I also think not having the same classes both North and South is a big mistake. What can be done? To try and have the same classes over here as in England or Europe would help.”
While motorsport became popular year after year during the 1990s and 2000s, the money to put a motosports programme on the air started to dry up. The “Celtic Tiger” era was over, sponsors went elsewhere, clubs didn’t have the money to give to promote their events due to entries being down and the TV companies stopped their funding which signalled the end to the famous and long lasting programme.
                 Plum with his wife Lynn at the launch of his “Keep The Revs Up” book in Naas recently.
Plum’s RPM show was made in a fun but professional way, which at the time stood out from other motorsport programmes- and still does to this day. It is sad to see it gone and I know the motorsport community would dearly love to have it back again but unless the money and the support from the TV stations on this island can be found it looks very unlikely. Motorsport fans can still of course still get their hands on RPM’s programmes from the RPM website and Plums new autobiography Keep The Revs Up will keep you entertained throughout the current off season.
I personally believe that without the likes of Plum and also Michael O’Carroll in the early years, Motorsport wouldn’t have gone on to be as big in Ireland. I’m sure it still would have been there, but you just have to look over the recent years and without consistent coverage, the sports popularity has taken a massive hit with young people compared to say even ten years ago. Every other sport in the country has risen in popularity and in television coverage but Motorsport has been left behind. The sport needs a Plum Tyndall to make programmes like RPM again and to showcase the sport. When or if it will happen remains to be seen, but I am glad I have collected his DVDs and hope he keeps making new ones, so thank you Plum for capturing the best of our sport.
Barry Cregg

Photographs: Barry Cregg

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Irish Mr. Rallycross

As another Irish Rallycross Championship comes to a close, we have seen a resurgence in numbers in recent meetings. Grids have become filled in some classes and others not far off. With this we have seen the return of former champions who have dusted off their chariots of choice and some have even purchased new ones for their return to the grid. One such driver who has made yet another comeback is the Irish “Mr Rallycross”, Tommy Graham from Prosperous, Co. Kildare. His driving style may not be as wild as his Norwegian counterpart Martin Schanche but his off track antics would certainly be on a par with the man universally known as Mr. Rallycross.
Approaching his 58th birthday, Tommy still holds the same passion for motorsport and Rallycross in particular as he did when he took up the sport in the early 1980s. Whilst he often ventured to the Rally of the Lakes in Killarney in County Kerry and the Donegal International Rally as a spectator he didn’t have a serious interest in motorsport at that time. His family were more interested in going to GAA matches so he grew up attending them until by a chance visit to his local circuit Mondello Park he watched a rallycross event and fancied taking it up. A Fiat 128 CoupĂ© was purchased in 1982 to compete in that years championship which earned him some success but the following year a Fiat 128 3P was bought so even from early on he went out with the machinery to have at the time to give himself the best chance of victory.
Then in the following years he decided to venture into the world of Hotrod racing- a completely different discipline to Rallycross where he would need to get used to driving a different type of car and to race in an even more tactical way around the short ovals. This is where his affection for Ford cars began as he purchased a G3 Escort and headed for Tipperary Raceway just outside the village of Rosegreen in premier county. This is also where his the infamous number 727 came from which he has stuck with ever since. The switch to oval racing proved to be the correct choice as he won driver of the year 1986 and again in 1991! “At the end of 1986 Rosegreen closed down so I converted my hotrod into a Rallycross car and went back to Rallycross competing against the likes of Kenny McKinstry and Derek Jobb in their MkII Escorts.” This shift to and fro from Rallycross to Hotrod racing would continue for years with success in both disciplines. “There were times where I would have been competing in parallel, doing both Hotrods and Rallycross and then rallying and Rallycross, but I have always come back to Rallycross.”
This would have been in the early to mid 1990s and where I myself first met Tommy and got to know him. I watched him wring the neck of his famous green rear wheel drive Ford Fiesta by throwing it sideways around Mondello Park to get every last ounce of performance out of the car. It was a sight to behold. “My love has always been for Rallycross and I have been lucky enough to represent Ireland in the Internations team three times at the Nurburgring, Germany and twice at Alanson in France as well as competing at Nutts Corner and Kirkistown in Northern Ireland. I also competed in England and Wales many times, doing the Brands Hatch Rallycross GP for a number of years.”
When listening to him speak of those days with fondness it made me think back to those days and how lucky I, and anyone who followed the sport, were to be around at that time to witness this golden era of the sport as the European and British Championships graced our shores with each having rounds in Ireland over a ten year period between the late 1980s to the late 1990s. “I met great people back then and still keep in touch with them and one of the reasons I came back again to Rallycross was seeing the likes of Derek Jobb and Mike Manning buy Supercars. They were guys I competed against thirty years ago.” Laughingly he admits to wishing to have the car he has now back when he was twenty!
It is a shame he didn’t have a Supercar of that era as he has now, as I feel Tommy would have shocked a few of the sports elite of the time as he definitely had the talent (although it may have needed to have the rough edges rounded off  first!) As it is the way of motorsport, money rules and he had to concentrate on his sand and gravel haulage business which has been very successful for him. So if it is not behind the wheel of a Rallycross car you will find him behind the wheel of a truck somewhere.
His current car only recently bought in England again is another Ford Fiesta although this one being a supercar, continues his loves for the blue oval brand. This mainly comes from his long time friend and engineer Dominic McNeill being a Ford and Cosworth specialist who has always had spares for the cars he competed in so it was easier to compete in Fords than other makes- bar his Subaru rally days.
Another long time friend of Tommy’s is Jack Keane who is never far from his side and where you you see one the other is not too far away. Laughingly  he says “Jack came everywhere with me, he has had a few different titles over the years. He would have been my minder, my contraceptive on a lot of occasions, my chauffeur as he would have had to drive me home a lot of times too. Back in the mad days here at Mondello, after the prizegivings instead of driving the car up on to the trailer we just drove the car home- much to my neighbours disgust!”
Tommy then took to rallying in the late 1990s and early 2000s competing again in a Ford, with an ex-Malcom Wilson Escort Cosworth and then on to a Subaru Impreza WRC. But the costs of rallying got too high and were just not viable for Tommy and a bad accident on the Midland Rally, which was his one and only one where he phyically got hurt, from ended his time on the stages.
He took a break from competing for  few years but the itch was too much and he returned to Rallycross and duly won the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 championships! He restored an old MkII Escort until its sad demise in Lydden Hill where he barrel rolled it into small pieces. It did get fixed but again Hotrod racing came calling- again where he competed until early this year. The chance of buying a four wheel drive Supercar was too much to turn down, so once again Rallycross won and it is where he will stay.
I had to ask him with all the years of experience he has in the sport, why did Rallycross take a hit in popularity? “It’s hard to know really, maybe a few personality clashes didn’t help and the cost of travelling has gone up too which puts people off. We were very lucky back in the late 1980s to the late 1990s with the European and British rounds coming over here as they were like our All-Ireland Final! I think now Rallycross needs to be rebooted back up again in Northern Ireland and guys there want to get back out as some still have their cars in their sheds.”
This is true as the only track used for Rallycross in the whole island of Ireland other than Mondello is Pallas Karting in Tynagh, County Galway.
It would be great to see the likes of Davey Francis, Davey Patton, Sam Crawford, Robin Perry to name a few back out again.
What does he think of Rallycross in Ireland now? “I think the Buggies are great and are great to watch and a welcome addition and each bring an entry fee through the gate. I don’t think it is far off from being what it was, and it has a lot of passionate people involved in it.  The Fiesta class which allows circuit racers come out and do Rallycross when that season is finished is great too. The junior classes have had great racing this year and it is a great way for youngsters to mingle with people their own age from all over the country and not just from their locality.”
Hopefully these youngsters will continue to bring the sport up to the level it once was and maybe they will be the next characters like Tommy in the future although it will hard  for them to get away with driving their cars home after a Rallycross meeting these days!
He has been generous too over the years sponsoring young drivers when he can and also if a friend needs some top soil for his garden! This I personally know when in a brief chat some time before my dad asked him to get him some over to the house. He duly did but without confirming a time or date until one morning one of his drivers turned up outside our house in a truck and proceeded to empty three tonne of the stuff at our front gate!!
As my time speaking to Tommy comes to an end in his luxurious campervan, which is more like a hotel on wheels, I could see the inner child in him getting excited as he gets the call that his first heat is on in a few minutes- just as if it was 1982 again!
I do hope he does stay in Rallycross as the sport is the better for it to have him there. It needs people like him and lets hope he gets his new car sorted and number 727 claims another title next year!
Barry Cregg
Main Photographs: Barry Cregg
Article Photograph: Tommy Graham personal collection

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The Grand Marshall

For any of us who are interested in motorsport in whatever part of the world that we may find ourselves in, we think of the next event we will be soon attending or tuning into on tv, be it F1, Moto GP, WRC or the local national race at the nearest track.
We think of which competitor will win, which will loose, who will cause trouble and who will be victorious on the day- or will there be an upset? We look at the machinery about to be put through its paces yet again and of course we try and find out any paddock gossip going round. We look at how the track looks, how many people have turned up to watch the event and if there is a decent size entry for it. At the start of the season we see new liveries brought out for the year and even new classes. All these things get noticed but one job that hasn’t chnaged and is the most crucial of all other than the medical crews is that of the motor racing marshal.
The most expensive, hightech and popular forms of motorsports on either two or four wheels would not take place without these dedicated and hardy breed of people, who use their free time to let the motor racing show of any level take place. They have to withstand some atrocious weather conditions from early morning to late evening and sometimes all night if it’s a 24 hour event.
They are the unsung heros of this sport and one of these unsung heroes in Ireland is Ollie Donegan, a native of Castleknock in Dublin, but living for the majority of his life on the Navan Road. Ollie has to date put in an incredible forty seven year shift as a motor racing marshal. He has donned the orange overalls on the banks of Mondello Park, Bishopscourt and Kirkistown,  the hedges of motorbike road races such as the Skerries 100, the streets of Dundalk and Dun Laoghaire and the one he loves most- the Phoenix Park, which is where it all began.
Even at the age of seventy five years young, Ollie remembers well the day he got off the bus as an eleven year old at the Phoenix Park to go and watch the famous motor racing event in the centre of Dublin-  a place where he later would work for fifty years for the Office of Public Works.
So where did it all begin for Ollie as a marshal? “I went down to Mondello for the first race held there in 1968 as a spectator when it had the original layout with no extensions and I liked it. Then in 1970 I was in the RDS at a motorshow where the Motor Racing Marshals Club had a stand so I joined the club there and I have been doing it ever since!”
When you think of how long Ollie has marshalled, you cannot but be in awe of the amount of the legends of the sport, be it on two wheels or four, that he has seen compete around Mondello Park. Motorbike greats such as Joey Dunlop, Carl Fogarty, Max Biaggi to the four wheel gods of Mika Hakkinen, Ayrton Senna, to our home grown drivers like Tommy Byrne and Joey Greenan to name but a few. A favourite of Ollie’s was “Mr. Rallycross” as he was known, Martin Schanche. Ollie recalls in the late 1980s when Schanche competed in the round of the European Rallycross championship in Mondello and in the Le Mans 24hr race on the same weekend. “To have that here was fantastic and I remember marshalling at the final corner where I saw him (Schanche) getting picked up by his helicopter to bring him to his plane to get to Le Mans and then get dropped back here the following morning and getting into his Ford RS200 and going out in that, it was fantastic. He was some driver!”
What comes across so evidently is Ollie’s love and passion for the sport and he has loved every minute of it from the early days of Ford Escorts and Capris racing around through to today and the current cars that are out on track. During our conversation, he thinks of the many friends he has made along the way and of his good pal Al Caffrey, who along with Ollie is another long serving member of the Motor Racing Marshals Club and who is also another well known character within the sport “ Al is not able to get down to that many events anymore as he sadly has fallem into poor helath in recent years but he and myself are probably the longest serving to date”.
Ollie has no preference for two or four wheels but is delighted to see the karts back in Mondello again. As for his favourite meeting of the year, that goes to the Leinster Trophy, but he enjoyed the rounds of the BTCC and BSB when they came over “It’s great to see the changes here in Mondello with the extensions over the years which brought events like the British Touring Cars and Superbikes here.” But the Leinster Trophy meeting is and has been his stand out event. “They (the Leinster Motor Club) have been very good to us over the years and have looked after us well.”
If there was one event he would like to see back what would it be? “ I’d love to see the (Phoenix) Park come back. Its tradition and histort goes back to the 1900s. I remember marshalling out there when it was on a big big track which took them down the main road round by the monument and back by the Embassy and up the main road again. I remember Tony Brise and Alan Jones racing Formula Atlantics there, it was great!”
As I mentioned earlier, racing marshals have to put up with all sorts of weather from the good to the bad but this doesn’t seem to bother Ollie much although he is glad of the huts Mondello Park have installed over the last couple of years, “We had to fight for them a but we got them and they are great, you do need them to get out of the rain for a bit when it is a very bad day.” Laughingly he says “Mondello has a climate of its own, and there have been some very very bad days down here but you climatise to it, you have to! I’m used to it though. from working in the OPW and I like being outdoors, it keeps me healthy.”
While people who compete owe a lot to marshals, do they know what really is involved and has the practice changed much over the years ? Surprisingly, I learned that standards have always been good, right back to Ollie’s early days. “Marshal training has always been quite good. You had to know your own safety on the track and you had your own crew which included a flag marshal, and twice a year you would come down to Mondello and go through your fire training, setting up different incidents around the track and learning how to take people out of cars and that.”
While the grid numbers go up and down, the marshals club numbers are quite good according to Ollie, but with race meetings now being packed into two days meetings now does this cause problems for them? “Yes when the International (circuit) is on it can be very hard to get people to come down, and also a lot of people are working on a Saturday now too so your hoping you have enough to cover all the posts”.
While talking to Ollie and seeing him hopping up and down from the bank during the day he certainly does not show his age, putting younger ones (including myself!) to shame. I hope to have his energy if I make it to his age so I wondered how much longer would he carry on manning the banks of Mondello and does he ever get tired of it. When you think of the hours, days, weeks, years he spent doing it, surely its become a chore now?? His laugh to my question immediately ended any suggestions of it being a chore! “Haha, ah as long as I can, as long as I’m able to put me feet out of the bed in the morning!”
Well I hope he is able to keep putting his feet out of the bed in the mornings for years to come, because they don’t make them like Ollie anymore!!

Barry Cregg
Photographs: Barry Cregg

Saturday, 18 August 2018

A Formula For Females

As we come closer to the end of another motor racing season (which seems to have gone by quicker than previous years maybe due to the rounds being compacted into double header race weekends than single events,) there hasn’t been much to be excited or intrigued about that is new for the current season. This changed when only a mere twelve weeks ago a concept of having an all female race team was born out of many motor racing conversations had between two great friends- both of whom come from serious racing pedigree backgrounds.
Emma Dempsey and Nicci Daly who are only a week apart in age and both grew up literally in race paddocks up and down the country and across the water. Whether they liked it or not, this wasn’t going to change but luckily for their parents they both fell in love with the noise, the smells, the different array of cars and characters they came across every weekend during their summers growing up.
Both of their families were deeply involved in motorsport  and it was that sport which would bring both girls together in a fun but poignant reason as they aimed to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society. This is  a cause which has direct personal meaning for Nicci, as she sadly lost her father Vivion to the terrible disease on 15th November 2002. Vivion dominated the fiercely competitive Formula Ford 1600 championships throughout the 1980s, winning all the main titles and Formula Ford 1600 Dun Laoghaire Grand Prix in 1987. He moved on to the Formula Opel championship where he gained further titles in the following years. The racing tradition doesn’t stop there, her uncle Derek was also a professional racing driver who reached the pinnacle of the sport that is Formula 1 and her cousin Conor currently competes in the IndyCar series in America.  Nicci works as a Data Analyst for Juncos Racing in the same series so even though she lost her father at a young age her love for the sport remained.  After graduating from college as an engineer, she decided to marry her passion for motorsport and her skills as an engineer to seek work within the world of motorsport.

Nicci’s dad Vivion in his iconic Abrakebabra/2FM Formula Opel

Emma had no escape when she was growing up as her father Cliff, another successful driver in the 1980s himself, ran his own race team running drivers in Formula Ford and Formula Opel with much success winning Irish championships in both categories with the likes of Donal Loughrey, Wayne Douglas, Morgan Dempsey, Dave Collier and Michael Edgar to name but a few. As well as running his customers cars, he ran his two sons also with Keith and Peter who enjoyed success at home and for Peter in America. All this time Emma didn’t mind getting her hands dirty helping out her dad with getting cars ready for races and working in the team on race weekends. Asking her why she never went into racing herself she just laughingly admits to being “too much of a messer”. But her brothers came first as they were progressing through the ranks at the time so the effort was on them which she totally understood. She did enjoy the odd spin out in a Formula Ford on a quiet test day though. She now works for JL Gore Materials as a purchaser and is busy raising her 13 month old Ruby with her partner Lauren.
Both girls earliest memories of growing up in the world of motorsport was how big the scale of it was with flags everywhere, especially in the Formula Opel days. Big weekends such as the Phoenix Park races in the centre of the country’s capital or the Leinster Trophy weekend in Mondello Park when our English and European neighbours would come over to visit us. Sadly one shows no sign of coming back anytime soon and the other is only a mere shadow of its former self, but at the time theses races only added to the Emma and Nicci’s awe of this world of motorsport, admittedly a lot of this being down to the fact they were only young and everything would look so big to them at that age anyway. Nicci also recalls how on St. Patrick’s Day each year her dad would take her and his Formula Opel race car to be part of a parade in some town in the country and she would wave to the crowd sitting on the sidepod of the car! They also brought the car to the opening of many Abrakebabra restaurants as they were a big sponsor for her father at the time!
Fast forward to the present and the love and passion for racing still exists as it did back when they were younger. Discussions centred on how both wanted to get into some sort of racing this year and how also it could help the need Nicci has had for a long time to do something in the memory of her father. Over one of many cups of tea the idea of getting a car between them and doing a race at the upcoming Mondello 50th Anniversary event could be the answer and certainly the goal to aim for, as both girls knew they would be both in the country at the same time. They didn’t want this idea to be a one off gesture it was going to be the start of a brand they would call Formula Females and to seriously attract more women into the sport.
The small matter of a Hockey World Cup would have to be taken care of first though. So while Nicci packed her bags for England and the World Cup, Emma was in charge of getting the ball rolling on their idea. Brought into help the girls was Darren Farrell who used to be a mechanic for Vivion in his Formula Opel days. Both Emma and Nicci regard Darren as the backbone of this venture and without him it would not have got off the ground.
A Rover 25 was purchased from ITTC stalwart Brian Sexton and with the plan to enter in the Future Classics class. It was resprayed in the infamous black and yellow colours that Vivian used on his helmets throughout his career. Some of Vivian’s old sponsors came on board like Abrakebabra and also Emma’s employers JL Gore to help out with costs. Suits, boots, helmets, Hans devices, awnings were scrambled together for the big day which was fast approaching and with the Irish team doing so well in the hockey it was leaving less time for Nicci to get all that was needed let alone time in the car. It would prove to be a very busy and successful final couple of weeks for Nicci with the hockey team finishing in the silver medal position a fantastic achievement which drew up brilliant exposure for her and Emma’s idea and also for the Irish Cancer society cause they wanted to help.
Now back from her hockey exploits Nicci and Emma took up the campaigns promotion of their new brand- Formula Female.  They hope they can generate awareness for women who might not know about the sport and to those in other disciplines of motorsport, kart racing for example, to change to circuit racing in cars. They are also aware it will not happen overnight and it will be a long term project and to get rid of the inferiority some women may have for racing against men. Both differ however, when asked would a “ladies only” class attract and help more women into the sport! Nicci agrees, while Emma doesn’t but did say maybe to start off with and if numbers grow then let women race against the men. They are also both of the social media generation where they know its importance to get a new project and brand off the ground- something which they have had great success in doing to date.

Finally all the hard work by all paid off and they made it to Mondello Park last weekend with testing Saturday and two races on Sunday- each doing a race. Testing went well until a thermostat problem occurred which looked to put the whole project in jeopardy. Thankfully the paddock came to the rescue and a replacement part was found and the girls would be on the grid Sunday. Nerves and excitement built up as Emma took to the track in a field of 37 cars and showed the racing skills were not confined to her brothers as she came home in a very credible 7th place in her first race and in a car new to her. Next up was Nicci again in a field of 37 cars which has to be said is a brilliant turnout for any class and also makes one wonder where were these cars all year? But that was far from Nicci’s mind as she set off for her first ever race.  Clearly she has inherited the Daly racing genes as she came home in a fantastic 8thposition to cap off a whirlwind journey from an idea to a reality in the space of a few weeks.
It is great to see people like Emma and Nicci getting involved and genuinely trying to get new people into our sport which is going through a hard time for all sorts of reasons at the moment. Many people talk about doing things but it’s rare it gets past that stage and those people could do with taking a leaf out of the girls book as it can be done with help of course but it can be done. They are already planning on next year and working on getting a budget to do a full season in Future Classics while also bringing on a few more females with them, which cannot be a bad thing at all. Time will tell, but in my brief meeting with them at the weekend I am sure that it will.
Barry Cregg
Photographs : Barry Cregg
Header and Article Photographs : Michael Chester