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The 1930’s races were the direct equivalent of a modern day Formula 1 Grand Prix with many top international drivers of the day taking part. Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Maserati, ERA, Frazer Nash, MG, Délahaye, Riley, Delage and Ford marques were all represented.

The Cork Motor Races were a huge success, drawing 70,000 spectators to the roads of Cork in 1938. Many of the cars which took part in the 1930’s races are still in use in the historic motor racing scene today. Some are in Ireland, but many are in the UK, Europe and America.

The circuit for the 1930’s Cork Motor Races is still intact – the only major change being the roundabout at Poulavone, where there was a hairpin bend in the 1930’s.

The 1936 race was the first ever motor race in Cork. There were 24 starters and 9 finished the race, which was won by Reggie Tongue in a 1488cc supercharged ERA no R11B. 

In 1937 there were 14 starters and 10 finishers. The race was won by H. Prestwich driving a 1087cc MG K3.

The Cork Grand Prix took place in 1938. This was the most important of all, as it was the only race ever held in Ireland to the then current International Formula regulations and was attended by many of the leading teams and drivers of the time. It was the second race ever to be held to the new F1 Regulations of the time i.e. 3 litre supercharged & 4.5 litre normally aspirated cars.

Unfortunately, at the insistence of the main sponsor, Irish Hospital Trust, the event had to be held on April 23rd, just 13 days after the 1st Championship race at Pau in France.   This put so much pressure on the Mercedes and Auto Union teams, who were building completely new cars to the new Regulations, that they could not attend.

 Alfa Romeo’s main driver, Tazio Nuvolari, was due to come but was badly burned at Pau, so could not appear.

 Irish Hospitals Trust sponsored the entire prize fund and contributed towards the event along with local funding.

 The 1938 meeting, over 2 days, comprised of three races;

–       a 50 mile handicap for racing and sports cars from Ireland & Britain (Cork National Motor Handicap)

–       a Formula Free race of 75 miles for cars under 1.5 litre (Cork International Light Car Race).

–       and, the highlight, a 200 mile race to be run to the new International Formula known as the Cork GP, the only one to be run in Ireland to GP rules.

The National Motor Handicap race, held on the Friday was won by Dudley Colley of Dublin in a 1,496cc Frazer Nash.  (See Dudley Colley’s book Wheel Patter for an enlightening firsthand account of his exploits in Cork).

The Light Car Race on Saturday 23rd April was won by Prince Bira driving his 1,488cc ERA R12C, ‘Hanuman’.

The Cork Grand Prix, also on Saturday, was won by René Dreyfus of France in a 4500cc Délahaye 145, averaging 92.95mph, with Prince Bira second in a 2992cc Maserati 8CM and Louis Gerard third in a 2984cc Delage.

Jean Pierre Wimille in the ‘Cork Bugatti’ T59 was recorded at 147.25mph over a flying kilometre on the Carrigrohane straight.  (For further detail on the Cork Races see Wilf Fitzsimmons Book The Cork Motor Races 1936-1938 published by Dreoilin Publications.)

Fast forward 75 years to 23 June 2013 ………………………………………

The Anniversary Event was based at the County Hall on the Carrigrohane Straight Road on Sunday 23rd June 2013.

At 10.30 am, a number of pre 1950 sports and race cars assembled at the County Hall car park and filtered onto the Straight Road, following a Garda car and Garda motorcycles, and proceeded to follow the six mile route of the original Grand Prix race.  These cars completed 3 laps of the original circuit behind the Gardaí.  

It was particulary exciting to have six of the original cars of the thirties at the event.  These were;

Tom Dark’s 1938 ‘Cork Bugatti’ T59/50BRaced in the 1938 Cork Grand Prix driven by Jean Pierre Wimille
Alan Beardshaw’s 1934 MG K3Raced in the 1936 Cork National Car Race by L. R. Briggs.
Kieran White’s 1938 TRS (Thompson Racing Special)             Raced in the 1938 National Handicap event by J. A. Thompson.    
Kieran White’s 1929 Riley Brooklands*Raced in the 1936 Cork National Car Race by Frank O Boyle
 Yves Honegger’s 1935 Bugatti T57Raced in the 1936 Cork National Car Race by P. M. Dwyer
 Michael Foy’s 1932 Smithfield SpecialRaced in the 1936 Cork National Car Race by Jack Toohey.     

 *Driven on the day by Donal Morrissey              

These cars, along with other cars from the period, remained on display in the County Hall car park area for the remainder of the morning.  There was also a display of photographs, memorabilia and video footage from the original races in the lobby of the County Hall.

The 1938 GP Circuit still remains, pretty much, unchanged in layout from when it was used for racing in 1936, 1937 & 1938.

The  MVMCCC (www.munstervintage.com) are proud of our links to the Cork & District Motor Club, co-organisers of the 1936, 1937 & 1938 Motor Races.

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