GATELEY'S COMET SCORES DEBUT WIN ON 2023 VINTAGE SHAMROCK
Acclaimed new partnership between Irish Racing Green and Rally the Globe
Four-days of epic competition – and craic – on the south coast of Ireland
Californian convertible wins on its dramatic event debut
Class wins for Bentley, Frazer Nash, MG and Talbot crews
The striking 1947 Kurtis Comet crewed by Jim Gately and Tony Brooks scored a dramatic final day victory on a memorable Vintage Shamrock 2023 after only snatching the overall lead on the last morning of the enthralling rally set in the spectacular scenery of the south coast of Ireland (8-11 May).
Gately attributed his stand-out success to ‘luck’ but, in reality, it was the American’s driving skills paired with the navigational dexterities of his English co-driver which combined to secure an outstanding win after four days of closely contested – yet always convivial – competition. The pair’s impressive triumph was all the more remarkable as it was their very first entry into the much-loved Vintage Shamrock. Moreover, the big, red, V8-powered Comet roadster with its ‘Made in California’ heritage hardly seemed to be in its natural habitat on the often narrow and twisty highways and byways of the Emerald Isle.
“It’s so big that it’s a bit like driving a boat at times,” admitted a delighted Gately at the finish. “But with its light aluminium body and a solid Ford V8 engine, we do have a great power-to-weight ratio. As to the secrets behind this surprising success, I’d put that down entirely to beginner’s luck!” he said modestly.
Building on the three past successes, this year’s Vintage Shamrock was the first to be organised by the event’s founders, Irish Racing Green, in collaboration with Rally the Globe and came with additional support from expert insurers Chubb and Barrett Private Insurances. The new partnership proved to be an immediate triumph with Irish Racing Green’s local knowledge and infectious charisma now complemented by Rally the Globe’s proven professionalism. Working together, the pair produced a truly magical driving adventure with the emphasis split equally between some challenging competitive motoring through beautiful landscapes and all-important friendly camaraderie.
Reserved solely for Vintage and Post-Vintage category cars, the Shamrock has always boasted a high-quality entry and this year was no different with a full capacity roster of 60 crews signing up for the craic. The oldest cars – a Bentley 3/4½, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and a venerable Vauxhall 30-98 – all dated back almost a century to 1924 while slightly more modern, competition-proven Frazer Nash-BMWs, Rileys and Talbots from the following decade proved popular choices.
Eager crews were initially based in the rural tranquility of the luxurious Faithlegg Hotel, a restored 18th Century mansion overlooking the Suir Estuary close to the historic city of Waterford. Once all the pre-requisite paperwork was completed and road books together with time cards distributed, the opening day featured an afternoon of action on a cleverly-conceived 78-mile route set in beautiful County Wexford including Tests at the Kiltorcan Raceway, Woodville House and Whitechurch plus a very detailed Regularity close to the village of Campile. As the cars headed back to Faithlegg – via the Passage East ferry – it was the MG K3 of Clint and Dawn Smith which led the pack, with the Kurtis Comet and the Bentley of Graham and Marina Goodwin in close pursuit, as well as leading their own respective classes.
Five regularities and two Tests were in store for crews on day two, alongside some more spectacular scenery – notably on the deserted roads of the Copper Coast. As ever the driving was enhanced by some superb hospitality as crews travelled towards three nights at the fabulous 5-Star Castlemartyr Resort set amid East Cork’s glorious woodlands. With the MG K3 slipping down the leaderboard, it was the Bentley driven by birthday boy Graham Goodwin and the rare Kurtis Comet which moved to the top of the timesheets. They now led the 1934 Talbot AV105 of Bertie and Charlotte van Houtte, which had jumped up into a close third position.
Day three was the longest on the road taking in the wonders of the Comeragh, Knockmealdown and Monavullagh Mountains plus the impressive spectacle of the Mahon Falls. The outstanding 146-mile route presented crews with five Regularities and three Tests as well as a series of well-placed Passage and Time Controls. Despite all the challenges, the top three remained unchanged with the Smiths’ MG fighting back to fourth overall, having slipped to 13th after their promising start.
Though the final day was slightly shorter it was still demanding with three Regularities and four Tests set in and around Dungarvan and Cappoquin before crews could book into the final Time Control and prepare for the prize-giving dinner. With Graham and Marina Goodwin’s Bentley falling back to third, it was the Kurtis Comet that inherited an unlikely victory with the van Houtte’s green Talbot AV105 finishing as runner-up. Sharing the spoils, the top three all won their respective classes as did the Smith’s MG K3 in fourth and the Frazer Nash-BMW 328 of Martin Hunt and Robert Mannix in fifth.
As well as the overall and class awards, there were also some discretionary honours. Thomas Houlihan and Edel Murphy took the Spirit of the Rally for the combination of their ever-sideways antics and ever-smiling faces aboard their 1937 Riley Special. Meanwhile Elizabeth Heyer and Martin Hunter, who faced a battle to keep their delightful but unpredictable Salmson VAL3 Grand Sport on the road, were rewarded with the Against All Odds trophy for their sterling efforts. Special thanks were also paid to the teams of local marshals whose assistance proved invaluable.
The big winner, though, was the Vintage Shamrock with the exciting new collaboration between Irish Racing Green and Rally the Globe being widely acclaimed as delivering what was unquestionably a really special event of exceptional character. “The Shamrock is our baby so we were understandably nervous about sharing it but, now the event is over, we are absolutely delighted – it feels more like a marriage than an adoption!” enthused Michael Jackson, one of Irish Racing Green’s three founders. “We very much wanted to keep the flavour of the Shamrock because it is just so unique and very different to other events – we are really pleased that Rally the Globe clearly appreciates that character. It’s clear that we are all signing off the same hymn sheet.”
“They’ve done a fantastic job,” agreed fellow Irish Racing Green founder, Shane Houlihan. “The whole event ran very, very satisfactorily and, by all account, all the competitors had an absolute ball. The weather was kind and the routes chosen were spectacular with some really interesting and challenging driving. You really could not have asked for more.”
Those on the Rally the Globe side of the partnership were every bit as delighted with the new collaboration. “It was a tremendous event,” enthused Fred Gallagher, Rally the Globe’s hugely respected Rally Director. “The cooperation between us and Irish Racing Green really worked terrifically well. Most importantly, the competitors all absolutely loved every aspect of it: the organisation, the hospitality and the friendliness as well as the competition and the scenery – so that was all very, very reassuring. It was so important that we kept the amazing spirit of the Shamrock and, by all accounts, we’ve done just that.”
Though a little disappointed to have missed out on overall victory, Rally the Globe’s Chairman Graham Goodwin was equally pleased with the collaboration. “We were honoured to be asked to join Irish Racing Green to be part of what’s a wonderful creation and it’s very important that we keep Pre-War events like the Shamrock going from strength-to-strength. Ireland is an amazing country in which to rally, the people are fantastic.”