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

7/8 October 1967 Winner Dermot Carnegie/Noel Davin after a short speed test was used to settle a tie with Leslie Fitzpatrick/Terry Hardyman after they had visited 32 controls on an 180mile route in counties Limerick and Kerry.

6/7 October 1968 The event was a 180mile navigation event.

October 1969 The event had a supper halt at Abbeyfeale Eamonn Cotter/Ray Murphy and Noel Smith/R Foote competed. Cotter did not finish due to an off after a puncture. 

1970 John O'Regan and Tony Welch (Imp) took the victory beating Eamonn Cotter/Paul Phelan (NSU Prinz) by eight marks. The club had announced the event as a return to the older form of rallying, and this it was with a vengeance with all the roughness and doubtful navigation which had been eliminated from Irish rallying in the previous two seasons  

3 October 1971 Winner Billy Coleman Alpine Renault

8 October 1972
The 180 mile Rally started in Scariff, Co. Clare, and had 13 special stages.
1. and Premier Award W Coleman/M Buckley Alpine Renault 94m49s
2. J Keating/D Keating Ford Escort RS1600 96m 52s
3. Mick O'Connell/Mrs Anne O'Connell Ford Escort BDA 101m 15s
4. Gerry Forde(Dublin)/E Davenport Ford Escort RS1600 104m 8s
5. John Leonard (Newcastle West)/T Gorman Ford Escort t/c 104m 29s
6. Maurice Forde(Dublin)/D McSorley Ford Escort t/c 104m 42s
7. John Dempsey(Galway)/R Murphy Wolesley Hornet S 109m 23s
8. J Shiels/H Shiels BMC Cooper S 109m 59s
9. R Kelliher/J Nolan Ford Mexico 110m 33s
10 J Burns/J Creamer Ford Escort t/c 110m 43s
Class Awards
Up to 900cc
1. P O'Keeffee/R Gaffney Sunbeam Imp 125m 36s
2. J O'Connell/E Harris Hillman Imp 127m 16s
3. F Newport/T Bourke BMC Mini 130m22s
Up to 1300cc
1. J Dempsey/R Murphy
2. J Shiels/H Shiels
3. T Hillgarth/F Greene BMC Mini 1000 113m 49s
Up to 1500cc
1. V Bonner/M Bonner BMC Cooper S 115m 41s
2. J O'Reilly/D Garraghar VW 123m 35s
Over 1500cc
1. J Keating/D Keating
2. M O'Connell/Mrs A O'Connell
3. G Forde/E Davenport

Limerick crew trophy J Leonard/T Gorman
Cork crew trophy W H Hill/M Daly Renault 12
Novices D Cunningham E McInerney Austin

66 Starters, 28 finishers
Retirements included
Eamonn Cotter(Barna) Blew up engine in his BMW
Demi Fitzgerald Clutch trouble
Brendan Fagan(Dublin) A mass of mechanical trouble in his Anglia!
Billy Coleman was lucky to survive a broken wheel.

12th October 1972 Galway Advertiser Several crews from Galway Motor Club competed in The Limerick Motor Club Thomond Daylight Rally on Sunday last.  The Galway crew of John Dempsey and Ray Murphy finished in seventh place overall.

7 October 1973
The 1973 Thomond Rally was made all the more tough by the wet and foggy conditions. It is indicative that 23 starters were reduced to seven finishers. James Doherty from Adare had set the fastest time on the first (Glenstall) and third (Bashsha) stages before retiring. Noel Smith/ Paul Phelan Escort succumbed to fuel trouble during the night run. Paddy Maguire retired after a road section incident with his Lotus Cortina. Robert Maharry/Frank O'Donoghue Clan were plagued with mechanical trouble finally retiring after two punctures near Glenstall. The stages were run at Glenstall, Bansha, Rasheen, Tuamgraney, Keeper Hill, Woodcock Hill and Cratloe.

1. and Premier Award John Keating/N Condon Ford Escort RS1800 2737marks
2. J O'Gorman/L Whyte Ford Escort RS 2817
3. Arnie Poole/ BMW 2002tii 2821
4. Dick O'Brien/D Johnston BMC Cooper S 2905
5. Wally Hill/M Daly Renault Gordini 3123
6. Miss Sue Sinclair/H Inglis BMW 2002tii 5844
7. Pat Higgins/Dave Ray Alfa Romeo GTV 6711

11th October 1973 Galway Advertiser 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 seventh place overall and a class win.

3 November 1974
Preview from 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."

The event had 10 stages over 85 miles of closed roads. 

Gerard Buckley and John Caplice took their third major rally win of the 1974 season by 50s. Retirements included Galway man Ray Murphy whose Ford Escort's clutch failed, Jim O'Connell who rolled on a stage near Lisdoonvarna. There were 32 finishers.

Overall placings
1. Gerard Buckley (Kanturk)/John Caplice (Kanturk) Ford Escort BDA 6-4
2. Gerry Forde (Maynooth)/Jim Cusack (Dublin) Porsche Carrera 6-54
3. John Tansey(Dublin)/Rae Inglis (Dublin) Porsche Carrera 8-36
4. Michael O'Connell/Mrs Anne O'Connell Ford Escort BDA 8-51
5. P McCartan/A Rice Ford Escort RS 9-16
6. M Smith/N Corbett Porsche Carrera 10-23
7. B Fagan/P Kavanagh Ford Escort BDA 12-53
8. C Bonner/T Bonner BMW 14-9
9. A Prittie/M Larkin Ford Escort TC 16-24
10. J Leonard/Miss G Doherty Ford Escort TC 17-28

9 November 1975
The 1975 event was cancelled primarily due to problems with road closing orders.

31 October 1976
Event Sponsored by Duckhams Oil
Winner Donal Keating/Richard Keating, Ford Escort 1952cc (Cahir)
Class 1
1. Hal Lewis/Eddie Colton Hi-Way restaurant sponsored Hillman Imp 998cc (Limerick)
2.  D Bruton/F Waters Imp 998cc (Dublin)
3. S Fitzgibbon/J Flynn Mini 998 (Rathkeale)
Class 2
1. F O'Mahoney/B Curton Mini Cooper (Cork)
2. J McHale/R McTiernan Escort (Maynooth)
3. J Dempsey/L Madden Mini (Galway) 
Class 3
1. Ray Benskin/W Benskin Escort 1548cc 
2. J Synan/J Moran Anglia 1598cc
3. P Canny/J Gale Hunter 1725cc

October 1977
1. M O'Connell Escort 70.32minutes
2. J Doherty Avenger 71.65
3. D Fitzgerald Escort 72.??
4. A McHale Escort 74.95
5. F O'Mahoney Mini Cooper S 76.09
6. P Byrne Escort 79.49

29 October 1978
Preview from 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.

There were 81 finishers from 121 starters on the eight stage event. Ger Buckley put his Motorcraft Escort off the road on the first stage and had to retire. 

1. Mick O'Connell/Anne O'Connell Burgolarm Escort 62.48minutes
2. Demmy Fitzgerald/Paddy Kavanagh Escort 63.32
3. N Smith Porsche 63.43
4. J Coyne sunbeam 64.97
5. R Neely Mini 65.58
6. D Lannon Escort V8 65.68
7. J Doherty Avenger 66.21
8. M Dolan Escort 66.27
9. J McHale Escort 66.86
10. Miss r Smith Sunbeam 67.82
Class Winners
M O'Grady Imp, J McHale Escort, H Lewis Avenger, D Bruton Avenger, K Lyons Escort
Ladies Class 1. Miss R Smith Sunbeam, 2. Mrs F Hogan Mazda 3. Miss Ennis Fiat

28 October 1979
The event was based at the Parkway Motel with scrutiny at sponsors Limerick Motor Works premises. Vincent Hanley "Fab Vinny" of 2FM was DJ at the Saturday night disco. There were 10 stages totaling 80 miles in the 140 mile route. The stages were in county Clare and included Gallows hill, there was also four new stages. John Walsh was event secretary.

1979 Thomond Winner

Winner Dan Lannon/ Robert Hennessy Ford Escort MkI V8 3500cc
Second Bertie Law

26/27 October 1980
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.

Ten stages in Adare region with wet and slippery conditions
1. Brendan Fagan (Dublin) Vauxhall Chevette 592 penalties
2. Jim McDonald (Dublin) Vauxhall Chevette 640
3. Bertie Law (Fermanagh) Vauxhall Chevette 841
4. J Culleton Opel Kadett 981
5. Ken Lyons Ford Escort 1017 and Group 1 award
6. E Meegan Ford Escort 1110
7. S Doherty Ford Escort 1145
8. R Bailey (New Ross) Ford Escort 1210
9. J McSweeney Ford Escort 1256
10. P Gleeson 1261 Avenger
Class 1: 1 D Yeates, 2 C Ward, 3 G Mannion
Class 2: 1 P Gleeson, 2 R Murphy, 3. M Delaney
Class 3: 1 E Meegan, 2 S Doherty, 3 R Benskin
Class 4: 1 J Culleton, 2 R Bailey, 3 J McSweeney
Class 5: 1 D McDonald, 2 J O'Connell, 3 A Walson
AJ Keating and Paddy O'Callaghan were off the pace for various reasons. Marie Moloney of Dungarvan was best lady driver. Frank Hogan whose truck business was event sponsor took the Limerick Motor Club award

25 October 1981 Information needed

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 ten 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. Club 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.