CORK motorsport competitors enjoyed success across several disciplines of the sport both at home and abroad during 2021.
As ever Douglas native Matt Griffin flew the rebel flag high and proud throughout many iconic European racing venues.
He was part of the Spirit of Race team that clinched second overall in the LMGTE category of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS).
Griffin, the most decorated LMGTE driver in ELMS history is highly regarded especially within the Ferrari family.
“On track it was a brilliant year, every race we entered we fought for the win, second in the ELMS was mega but also a little disappointing as there were a few races where we could have won but things happened that were beyond our control, like in Barcelona when we got a puncture and we had to be content with third.
"In Austria, we made the right call on tyres and then the safety car came out, but that’s the way the season goes.
Winning the 24 Hours of Spa was the pinnacle of my season.
"It was my tenth time doing the race and my second victory.”
Sadly, his father, Matt passed away during the season, the team dedicated their Monza win to him.
In the Mondello Masters Superbike series, Cork bikers had plenty of success.
Kinsale’s Stephen Tobin (Yamaha FZR) won the Moto400 for the second year in succession. Ballyhooly’s Jamie Collins took the spoils in the Supersport Cup where Tobin took a Kawasaki ZX6R to second place.
Carraig na bhFear teenager Aoife Griffin became the first female Masters champion winning the Moto1 series. Clonakilty’s Donal O’Donovan switched to Moto 400 towards the season end but still garnered enough points to secure second overall in Moto1, early season pacesetter Killeady’s Jeff Quilter had a troubled time and only managed six out of the fifteen races, he completed an all-Cork top three.
In sidecars, Kinsale’s Mark Gash took second overall as passenger with Wexford’s Darren O’Dwyer.
Last September, the O’Connell Group Cork ‘20’ marked the return of stage rallying after an absence of some eighteen months.
Derry’s Callum Devine (Ford Fiesta Rally2) took a fine victory, Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin was the top Cork driver finishing fifth in his older specification Fiesta R5.
In the Wexford Rally, Cronin was third and Ovens driver Owen Murphy took his Ford Fiesta to fifth place at the Kerry Winter Rally. Denis Cronin (Ford Escort) was the top Cork driver in the Rentokil-Initial Killarney Historic Rally, he finished seventh.
Just a few weeks ago, Dunmanway’s David Guest (Ford Fiesta R5) won the Cork Motor Club organised Mitchelstown Motors Rallysprint around the windfarm in Nad where Ballyvourney’s Gerard Lucey led until his Mitsubishi lost power for part of the final stage and he ended up third.
Meanwhile, Keith Cronin competed in the British Rally Championship in a Hankook shod Ford Fiesta Rally2, fourth on the Grampian Rally was his best result in a season where he always seemed to be stymied by problems.
In karting, several young karters competed in the IAME Warriors final at the Adria Karting Raceway in Italy with Mogeely’s Daniel Kelleher (11) taking second in the X30 Mini category, he led until the final corner where he appeared to be nudged by a rival karter and he was denied victory by 0.067 of a second. Ballylickey’s Colin and Robert Cronin also competed in other categories.
In the TMC Motox Munster Star series there were championship wins for Bandon’s Fin Wilson (KTM), Ballincollig’s John Barry (Yamaha), Coachford’s David Galvin (Yamaha) and Turner’s Cross biker Philip Deasy (Yamaha).
While it was September before Irish rallying slotted into gear with the O’Connell Group Cork ‘20’ International Rally, there was plenty to occupy the minds of officialdom as almost a third of the clubs affiliated to Motorsport Ireland issued a vote of no confidence in the governance of the sport.
The group of clubs, mostly Munster dominated, included all the Cork clubs - the Munster Car Club, Cork Motor Club, Skibbereen and District Car Club, Imokilly Motor Club and the Munster Kart Club.
Unrest had been simmering for well over twelve months, last August, following the no confidence motions, representatives from the clubs were summoned to a meeting with Motorsport Ireland personnel at the governing body’s headquarters.
Each club was allotted a specific time for the meeting. An update, and then only fleeting, was given (following a question) at the first ever MI congress where it was suggested the clubs should contact a leading official within the MI organisation for information.
All through, there seemed to be a reluctance from MI to actually use the term - vote of no confidence in the governance of the sport. Subsequently the governing body advised its affiliated clubs that signing the 2022 affiliation agreement was an acknowledgement there were no issues (with governance).
The newly formed Irish Rally Competitors Group, headed by Glounthaune’s Luke McCarthy sought recognition from MI to bring the voice of the competitor directly to the Motor Sport Council and its various commissions. Petitions were also submitted to MI headquarters.
There’s been little progress in most matters. Ironically, the financial windfall from the events from September through to December generated what many perceived as much needed funds for Motorsport Ireland. Should the clubs have stood their ground and demanded change?
The answer is probably irrelevant now, but it could have been interesting.