Circuit of Clare / Thomond Rally

The Thomond Rally name has been used on a variety of rally formats since 1965 prior to that it was known as the circuit of Clare, navigation, tarmac and forestry, one day and two day. this article is based on period news stories about the event.

11 Oct 1953
This event started at the Dock road, Limerick and travelled a 140mile course via Kilkee (lunch halt), Lahinch, Blackhead and Corkscrew hill to Ennis
1st Colm Hogan MG TD
2nd Michael Kineen Jaguar XK120
3rd Dick Nash MG TD

Report on 1953 event

Oct 1954
Thurles driver A G Ryan (VW) was the winner

9 Oct 1955
1st P B Hopkirk
2nd S H Logan

7 Oct 1956
The event was the first of 16 rounds in the 1956-57 Hewison Trophy Trials championship.
1 Paddy Hopkirk
2 Heber McMahon

Report on 1956 event

Oct 1957
F B Geary, Beford Row, Limerick was secretary for the event. this event became a talking point at the time. some competitors wading waist deep into a river to rescue a stranded car. Actually it was not necessary to go theough the "ford" to reach the next checkpoint, but it seemed a good isea to navigators!
1 JR Davidson (Prefect) 235.0
2 JD O'Leary (VW) 262.8
Best performance on the tests was made by club member Hector Newenham but dropped 40 marks on the road sections.

Report on 1957 event

Oct 1958

Winner M Ivis (Austin A35)

4 Oct 1959
Winner Cecil Vard (Triumph Herald)

Oct 1960
Premier Award D Cullen NSU 270.4
2nd K Sherry VW 274.8
3rd C Vard Austin 7 277.9
1000cc class
1. D Cullen
2. C Vard
3. T Burke NSU 280.3
Over 1000cc class
1. K Sherry
2. C Gunn VW 297.3
3. T Connolly VW 315.2
Open Class
1. P Johnston Sprite 293.7
2. G McNamara Sprite 294.7
3. Mrs C Fitzgerald Dellow 347.0
Ladies Award Miss R Smith Austin 7 318.8
Navigation Award class A: Mrs Johnston. S de Barra, class C: J Cullen

10 Oct 1961
Continued as a tough Sunday navigation event. There were only 15 starters
Premier Award John Moore / Jack Scott Mini Seven 231
Class A Sports Cars
1. J Fildes MG 341.8 (10th o/a) 
Class B Saloons over 1000cc
1. T Connolly VW 240.8 (2nd o/a)
2. J O'Mahoney VW 253.6 (6th o/a)
3. T O'Sullivan VW 256.6 (7th o/a)
Class C Saloons under 1000cc
1. JS Moore A7 231.2 (1st o/a)
2. DWV Glover A7 241.2 (3rd o/a)
3. M Ivis A7 242.0 (4th o/a)
Navigators Awards
Class A Miss O'Clery
Class B D Bradley
Class C JW Scott
Others in the top ten were C Vard, P O'Flynn. F Kealy and L Woulfe

This was the first mention of the name change to Thomond Rally. The event was a circuit of Lough Derg. Dudley Reynolds and Jackie Fildes were the winners - they found the right number on the right pump.

This event started in Limerick and finished 150miles later in Killaloe. The route through Clare and Galway was set by straight and Tulip type navigation sections. Brian Geary found some tough navigation and succeeded in losing the entire field in the mountains below Craughwell.
1. Larry Mooney / S O'Clery VW
2. Terry Power / Jim Cullen Cooper
3. Pat O'Callaghan / Ricky Foote VW
4. Jackie Fildes / Desmond Bradley Midget
Local man Don Grey and his wife in a Prinz 2 won the small saloon class

4 Oct 1964
Four of the 19 entries received no penalties on the naviagation route starting at Bunratty, this meant the top placings were decided by test times including two special stages. there was 60miles before lunch at Lisdoonvarna including 3 tests and a special section. The after used roads around Black Head and Ballyvaughan.
1. Brian Kehoe /Terry Harriman (Belfast) VW
2. Noel Smith Cooper S
3. Connie Bourke Cooper S
Other competitors included Mick Moloney (Dungarvan) Cortina, Tom Burke (Cork) Sunbeam Rapier, Leslie Vard / Mike Bassett, Brian Lawless / Sheila O'Clery

2/3 Oct 1965
As well as a name change from Circuit of Clare to Thomond, the event ran from  Saturday evening (8:30pm start at Bunratty Castle) to a Sunday morning finish near Shannon Airport, the Circuit of Clare had been a day time event. Clerk of Course Steve Moran had 170 miles of navigation and a number of special stages on closed roads in the event. 
1.Jim O'Brien (Athlone) / Philip Deegan (Limerick)Ford Cortina GT
2. Brian Kehoe /Terry Harryman Ford Cortina GT
3. Dermot Carnegie (Dublin) / Noel Davin (Cork) Morris Cooper S
4. Tom Burke / Reggie Tilson VW
5. Pat O'Callaghan VW
6. Bill Pryor Austin Cooper S
Other finishers included Brian Coomber Hillman, Des Flanagan Cooper and John Hayes Cooper S
Noel Smith /Rickie Foote retired with transmission trouble

11 Oct 1966
This years event had no special stages.
1st Connie Bourke/Brian Geary
2nd Dermot Carnegie/Noel Davin

12th October 1972 Galway Advertiser

Several crews from Galway Motor Club competed in The Limerick Motor Club Thomond Daylight Rally on Sunday last. The 180 mile Rally started in Scariff, Co. Clare, and had 13 special stages. The Galway crew of John Dempsey and Ray Murphy finished in seventh place overall.

11th October 1973 Galway Advertiser

Limerick Rally. The Thomond Rally last weekend was made all the more tough by the wet and foggy conditions. It is indicative that 23 starters were reduced to 7 (seven) finishers and all credit is due to the only Galway finishers Pat Higgins, Dave Ray (Alfa Romeo), who survived 7 stages and 200 miles of navigation to take 7th place overall and a class win.

31st October 1974 Galway Advertiser

The Limerick Motor Club have announced that the the Thomond Rally will start from Ennis (rally H.Q. is  the West County Inn) at 9.00 a.m. on Sunday next and will cover ten closed road Sections in two loops. The first loop will start with the Crusheen stage, north of Ennis, and continue in the Ennistymon direction, while the second loop will cover new sections west of Ennis. Scrutiny will take place on Saturday at Lyons Garage, Ennis.

19th October 1978 Galway Advertiser

The Limerick M.C. will run their Tile Boutique Thomond stages rally on 29th October. Entries are being handled by Shawn Wall at ________, Shannon, Co. Clare. Much emphasis has been laid on the leisure aspect of the bank holiday weekend, and already the O'Connell crew from Cork have been seeded at number one.

16th October 1980 Galway Advertiser

The present word is that the Limerick Motor Club are going ahead with their Thomond Rally on Oct. 26/27, and details are available from James Doherty, Adare, Co. Limerick.

25 October 1981

15th October 1981 Galway Advertiser The Thomond Rally '81 should provide some Bank Holiday Entertainment on October 25th in Limerick. Entries close on 17th October. For further details contact Frank Hogan, Dublin Road, Limerick. Phone (061) 46000 during business hours.

24 October 1982 James Doherty/ M Curley Chevette won the 10 stage event with a clear lead from Ken Lyons/G Keyes Escort. Vincent Meade/ J Moran Escort was third and Ray Benskin/O Walsh Escort fourth. Clum members included B Sparling second class 1. P Gleeson first class 2. J Synan third class 4

3rd November 1983 Galway Advertiser

Motorsport Death Of Brian Sparling
Brian Sparling was a director of Limerick Motor Club and his untimely death last Saturday when a competitor in the Thomond Rally, meant the cancellation of the second day in the rally. Aged 54 years, he was a popular competitor and often contested events in Galway, often in a Mini. He was a garage proprietor in Croke, Co. Limerick.

The 1983 event had attracted 75 entries for stages run in rhe Castleconnell/Oola areas. Ken Lyons (Escort) was declared the winner based on the first days times, AJ Keating (Escort G3) from Janturk was 47s behind, Haro;d Thompson (Sunbeam) from Manorhamilton was third.

27/28 October 1984 Saturday's stages were in the Curragh Chase, Shanagolden, Ballyhahill area. Sunday's stages Kilfinny, Cappagh, Pallaskenry

26/27 October 1985  Saturday's stages Old Kildimo, Smithfield area. Sunday's stages Adare, Castletown, Cloncagh, Ardagh area

25/26 October 1986
The club continued its tradition of secret stages, this was believed to be the reason for a low entry of just over 60. Geprge Robinson was the winner ahead of Kenny Colbert. The title "Circuit of Munster" was attached to the Thomond rally after the former was cancelled earlier in the year due to the Insurance crisis

Overall Result 1 G Robinson (Starlet) 9428 seconds, 2 K Colbert (Lotus Sunbeam) 9640s, 3 L Humphreys (Escort) 9675s, 4 M Barrable (Opel Manta) 9679s, 5 V Meade (Escort) 9680s, 6 K Humphreys (Escort) 9750s

Class Winners D Mooney (Celica) 11563, P Gallagher (Samba) 10503, D Brosnan (Escort), D Mulcahy (Escort) 11022, M Ryan (Nissan 160 Violet), V Meade, M Barrable 

25 October 1987
Nenagh was again the location for 90 miles of stages. Hal Lewis was clerk of the Course and Barry Tobin deputy CoC.
Fermanagh driver Alan Johnson (Lotus Sunbeam) was the winner 24s ahead of Donie Keating (Escort). Billy Connelly (Chevette HSR) from Kilkenny was third. There were 64 finishers from 84 starters. The title Circuit of Munster was also attached to this event.

The name was used on the 18 October 1998 Forest Rally, the 9 January 2000 Forest Rally and again on the October 2000 Forest rally. The Thomond Rally name has not been used since then.