Nostalgia: Marking the Cork Grand Prix 83 years on

Nostalgia: Marking the Cork Grand Prix 83 years on

The 1938 Cork Grand Prix was watched by an estimated 70,000 spectators.

The 83rd anniversary of one of the largest motorsports events ever staged in Ireland occurred earlier this week.

The 1938 Cork Grand Prix took place on April 23 and was the last in a series that began in 1936.

It was organised under International Formula regulations — giving it the equivalent status of a modern day Formula One race – and attracted many of the leading teams and drivers of the day.

The 1938 Cork Grand Prix took place on April 23.
The 1938 Cork Grand Prix took place on April 23.

Ahead of the highly anticipated event, an Echo article from January 20, 1938 gave a snapshot of what was expected.

The article stated that a Mr J O’Sheehan, who was appointed publicity director of the event said he considered the Carrigrohane straight, which featured in the 200 mile circuit to be “probably one of the fastest stretches of road in the British Isles”.

“He recalled that in 1929, J.S. Wright, at a speed of 152 miles per hour, broke the world’s motorcycle record on that stretch,” the article stated.

The 1938 Cork Grand Prix took place on April 23.
The 1938 Cork Grand Prix took place on April 23.

Mr O’Sheehan also expressed the opinion that it was possible competing cars would reach almost 200 miles per hour in the race as he said that already the Cork course had been lapped at 92 miles per hour “in adverse weather conditions and in a car by no means new”.

The 1938 Cork Grand Prix attracted some of Europe’s top racing teams, such as Bugatti, Maserati and Alfa Romeo.

An Echo article from February 24, 1938 gave details of four more noted drivers who would be taking part in the race.

These were Kenneth Evans, Flight Lieutenant Stanilanda, A.F. Ashhy and Mrs E.M. Thomas.

The 1938 Cork Grand Prix took place on April 23
The 1938 Cork Grand Prix took place on April 23

Mrs Thomas, the article noted, was better known under the name of Aileen Scott and could “boast the distinction of having driven at over 100 miles per hour on the outer course at Brooklands”.

The race would see drivers complete 33 laps of the Carrigrohane circuit, regarded as “the finest road course in Europe,” the article stated.

“But for the generosity of Mr Joseph McGrath, managing director of Hospitals’ Trust Ltd, who contributed £5,000 towards the prize money and expenses, Ireland should have missed the opportunity of becoming the venue for the first road race for Grand Prix cars in these islands and the first race to be held under the new formula of the International Sporting Commission,” it also noted.

René Dreyfus signing autographs for a boy scout after his win in the Grand Prix.
René Dreyfus signing autographs for a boy scout after his win in the Grand Prix.

The Grand Prix, watched by an estimated 70,000 spectators, 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 Gérard third in a 2984cc Delage.

The 1938 meeting, which took place over two days, also featured two other races including The Cork National Motor Handicap, a 50 mile handicap for racing and sports cars from Ireland and Britain and The Cork International Light Car Race, a Formula Free race of 75 miles for cars under 1.5 liter.

Prince Bira who came second in the Grand Prix. 
Prince Bira who came second in the Grand Prix. 

In 2013, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Cork Grand Prix, The Munster Vintage Motor Cycle & Car Club (MVMCCC), with the assistance of Cork Motor Club, held an event where participants retraced the original circuit, commemorating the only Grand Prix to be held in Ireland.

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