Cork gears up for Gathering rerun of 1930s Grand Prix


At the time, it was considered the equivalent of a Monaco or Monza. Now, 75 years on, the Cork Grand Prix of 1938 is to be be recreated as part of the Gathering celebrations.

Cork had been the venue for two previous Grand Prix events in 1936 and 1937, but 1938 brought some of the top names in motor sport such as Prince Bira of Siam to Leeside, much to the delight of locals.

Alan Cavanagh, a director of the Munster Vintage Motorcycle and Car Club who is organising the re-enactment, said it was a major event at that time. “All the top teams such as Bugatti and Maserati sent teams to Cork and some 70,000 people turned up to see the Grand Prix so it was a major event on the motor racing calendar. It was the only motor race held in Ireland to the formula rules at the time so it was actually the equivalent of a modern Formula One race,” said Cavanagh, who is also event co-ordinator.

Hairpin bend

The race route was a circuit beginning on the Carrigrohane Straight and then going clockwise via Victoria Cross, Dennehy’s Cross, Model Farm Road out to Poulavone.

“The only actual change in the route from 75 years ago is that there’s now a roundabout at Poulavone whereas it was a hairpin bend back then, ” said Cavanagh.

“Of course, apart from the bends, the other great attraction was on the Carrigrohane Straight – one car was clocked doing 147mph there which was very good for the time.” The 200-mile race consisted of over 30 laps of the six-mile circuit with victory in the Grand Prix event being claimed by French driver René Dreyfus in a French-made Delahaye ahead of Prince Bira in a Maserati.

Chairman of the Munster Vintage Motorcycle and Car Club Dick O’Brien revealed the winning car is in California and the organisers are hoping it will participate in the event.

UK owners

“A lot of the cars that took part in the 1938 race are still driving – a lot are in the UK and we’re hoping that their owners will bring them over to take part in the re-enactment.

“We’ve been in touch with a number of specialist vintage clubs like Bugatti and Maserati and we’re very hopeful we’ll get some of those cars back here for the anniversary,” he said.

One car which did take part in one of the three races on the card that day was a Smithfield Special built in Dublin and current owner, Mike Foy, will be bringing it along in June.

“It was built by the Smithfield Motor Company in Dublin – they were the main Ford dealers in Dublin at the time . . . It was driven in the race for local owners here in 1938 by Jack Tuohy so it will be nice to bring it out along virtually the same circuit some 75 years later,” said Foy.