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Senna’s letter helps mark Leinster Motor Club’s 100th

Neil Briscoe

Words: Neil Briscoe - @neilmbriscoe

Published on: May 4, 2021

Words: Neil Briscoe - @neilmbriscoe

Published on: May 4, 2021

Letter to Leinster Motor Club from Ayrton Senna just one part of the club’s storied history.

If you've got a personal, signed, letter from Ayrton Senna in your archive, then you've obviously got some interesting history, and some tall tales to tell. Thus it is for the Leinster Motor Club, which today - May 4th - celebrates its 100th anniversary.

The more historically-switched-on of you will have noticed that, 100 years ago, Ireland was in the grip of a tumultuous, bloody civil war. Not the sort of time, you might think, to be establishing a club dedicated to messing about with cars and motorbikes.

Formed in tumultuous 1921

Nonetheless, as the struggle for Ireland's political future waged without, in a room at Thompson's Garage on Burgh Quay, in Dublin, 12 people met to form and establish the Leinster Motor Cycle Club. Later - and by that we mean just weeks later, on the 30th of May - at the club's first AGM, the title was expanded to include the phrase 'Light Car Club' but the whole thing was eventually just shortened to Leinster Motor Club, as it remains today.

According to club stalwart Martin McCarthy: "Ireland was a very bruised country. Tens of thousands of families still mourned their sons and brothers who died a terrible death in the trenches of Flanders. The prospects for the island seemed bleak. But the group who gathered around the table on the banks of the Liffey knew that survivors just get on with it - helped in their case with a mutual love of speed, thrills and the engineering of the latest machinery. By religion, they were diverse - Protestant, Catholic and Jewish (including Russian emigrant Nathan Lepler who had experienced institutional discrimination in local racing events), and all were determined, action orientated and keen to advance in a sport growing internationally. Irish politician Sir Hugh Massy of Killakee House, chaired."

Diversity of background was, it seemed, baked into the club from the start. While the first race was a sprint from Donnybrook to Enniskerry, in Co. Wicklow, and while the government of WT Cosgrave would promote three Irish Grand Prix, held in the Phoenix Park (in which some of the greatest pre-war racers competed, including the likes of Rudolf Caraccioli, Malcolm Campbell and Tim Birkin) the Leinster Motor Club's first proper, big event was held in 1934 - the Leinster Trophy.

First Trohpy won by a lady

Continuing the thread of diversity (at least by the standards of the time) that first Trophy was won by a woman and one who would go on to have a colourful life. "Fay Taylour won that first Leinster Trophy," says McCarthy. "Born in Offaly, "Flying" Fay Taylour achieved fame across the globe as a daredevil motorcycle racer and later notoriety when she was interred during World War II due to her association with Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists."

The list of subsequent winners of the Leinster Trophy makes for quite some reading. Mike Hawthorn, who'd go on to race and win the F1 world championship for Ferrari in 1958, won the 1951 Leinster Trophy, held on a road-circuit set out around Wicklow town. In 1972, up-and-coming Belfast-born racer John Watson took the Trophy, by then held at Mondello Park. He would go on to be a multiple race-winner in F1 for Penske, Brabham, and McLaren. In 1978, the race was won, as McCarthy puts it: "by a Bank of Ireland official driving his Chevron-Ford to Leinster victory before departing to England to seek his fortune. Eddie Jordan was on his way!"

In 1988, Mika Hakkinen - later to be a two-times F1 world champion - took home the Leinster Trophy, and in its illustrious history, the Trophy's competitors have recorded six Formula One World Championships, 90 Grand Prix race wins, three Indianapolis 500 victories and 12 Le Mans 24h wins.

No less than Senna

In 1982, came the big one, although only a prescient few would have seen that at the time. Ayrton Senna, then competing in the British FF2000 championship, came to Mondello and scooped the Trophy. Do we really need to enumerate Senna's subsequent incredible successes and his tragic death?

Better, perhaps, to let the great Brazilian describe his feelings upon winning the Trophy in his own words, in a letter to the Leinster Motor Club dated September 1992.

In it, Senna says: "Dear Sir and Madam, I am sure Ireland and Mondello Park are as proud to host the International Leinster Trophy as I am to have taken part in it, and won a race with such a great tradition.

I can vividly recall my victory there in 1982. And it is my sincere hope that everybody will have the opportunity to witness the arrival of a future Formula One World Champion on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. Therefore I send my best wishes to the drivers and to the spectators as they enjoy their celebration.

With warmest personal regards, Ayrton Senna da Silva."

'Nuff said...