CORK has a strong motorsport tradition with the Carrigrohane Straight very much an intrinsic part of its fabric

CORK has a strong motorsport tradition with the Carrigrohane Straight very much an intrinsic part of its fabric

The "Flying Corkman" Mel Nolan (left) at the opening of the Cork Motor Sport Exhibition at the Central Library, Grand Parade pictured with fellow Corkonian Tony Skillington, former Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of International Motorcycling (FIM). The exhibition continues for the next three weeks. Picture: Martin Walsh.

CORK has a strong motorsport tradition with the Carrigrohane Straight very much an intrinsic part of its fabric. 

Currently, an exhibition at the Central Library on the Grand Parade documents the history of this famed motor racing circuit. 

On Thursday last Mel Nolan, who was born in Magazine Road, told a captive audience of how, as a seven-year-old, his inquisitiveness of sounds led him to Dennehy’s Cross where he watched races on a course described as the “ideal circuit.” 

One of the display panels contains the following description. 

“The roughly D-shaped 6.1 mile circuit ran towards the city, along the 2.2 mile Carrigrohane Straight to Victoria Cross, before turning right to Dennehy’s Cross and right again along the Model Farm Road, then heading west down the narrow and twisting back stretch to the Poulavone Hairpin Bend, before passing Hell Hole Corner and back on to the Carrigrohane Straight.” 

Indeed, it was on the same Carrigrohane Straight that, many years later (in 1981) Nolan, now 77, went on to set the Irish land speed record of 184.1 mph (296.28kph) a record that still stands to this day and from which he gained the affectionate name of the “Flying Corkman.” Currently, there are four motor clubs in County Cork, all of whom are affiliated to Motorsport Ireland, the governing body for Irish motorsport. In terms of longevity, they are the Munster Car Club, the Cork Motor Club, the Skibbereen and District Car Club and the Imokilly Motor Club.

The first motorcycling record at the Carrigrohane Straight was set unofficially in July 1903 when the venue hosted the Gordon Bennett Cup speed trial as part of the Irish Automobile Fortnight.

However, it appears that the Cork and District Motor Club was the first club in the county, it was formed in 1910 but wasn’t incorporated until 1923. 

It catered for two, three and four-wheeled motorsport in Cork.

Records reveal the club’s first event in 1911 was a 103-mile Reliability Trial from Cork to Killarney and back to Cork. 

In 1912, the “Cork 20” Rally took place and it remains the second oldest car rally in history, second only to the Monte Carlo Rally. Motorcycle Trials featured in 1914 and 1915.

The exhibition includes memorabilia from times past including photographs of Vernon Mount, home to the former Munster Motor Cycle and Car Club, a superb example of a Georgian classical villa until it was burned down by a fire in 2016.

The exhibition also features excellent photographs of the Cork Grand Prix showing the great Prince Bira rounding the corner at Victoria Cross in 1936 in a race organised by the Irish Motor Racing Club (IMRC). 

The exhibition continues for the next three weeks.

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