MIDGET CARS IN IRELAND           Return Home  

By Trevor Chater, Speedway Historian in UK.
    Some years before the last World War, a small group of enthusiasts, finding that motor racing was essential to life, but entirely outside their means, got together to see what could be done about it.    
    The result was the formation of the Dublin Midget Car Racing Club. The idea was to build and race home made racing cars, when and where possible. The formula chosen was such that only large
motorcycle engines could be used, with a maximum engine capacity of 500c.c and the wheelbase limited to 60 inches excluded the use of normal car chassis.
   In due course a small number of these cars appeared, most of them well finished, but all liable to mechanical troubles to be expected from unorthodox designs.  Motorcycle engines mounted in a flexible car type chassis produced endless transmission troubles.
   Many events were held, mostly on a grass track at Clondalkin and the sport attracted quite a following. Then shortly before the war, the committee in charge decided that reliability was more important than performance and that the solution was to change the formula to allow building from normal production car chassis and engines.
   The formula was changed to permit a maximum engine capacity of 1000 cc and a wheelbase of 72 inches. A suitable wheel and tyre size of 20 inches overall was found in the catalogue of a famous manufacturer and this was chosen as the standard wheel.
    Building started all over again and soon 9 cars were built, all based on the Austin Seven, shortened by 3 inches and fitted with neat single seater bodies.
    Grass track races were held at Clondalkin and Raheny and attracted large crowds. The little cars were remarkably lively and reliable and full justified the committee's decision to change the formula.
    The outbreak of World War 2 put a stop to all this and it wasn't until early 1947 that the midgets came back out of the sheds and garages were they had stayed during the conflict. The shortcomings of grass track racing became increasingly obvious and although many races were held, it was clear that a permanent track must be found.
    At this stage one of the committee members who had an interest in a greyhound track got to work on the directors and soon a cinder track appeared. The club reformed under the title "The Midget Racing Car Club of Ireland" and advertised its first meeting at Santry Speedway in July 1948. At this time there were only 11 complete cars, some of them untested, so it was with trepidation that the
organisers faced their first venture. However on the day about 6000 turned up, the cars performed well with everyone going home with the feeling that midget car racing was now established.
    Some good exciting racing was seen with some crashes but no driver was badly hurt and very little damage was done to these
sturdy little cars. A championship was run through the seasons 1948/49 and was won in each year by Charlie Norton who was then given the number one.
    Organisers became concerned about the track that began breaking up under the strain of so much racing. To add to this a prolonged drought was causing immense clouds of dust to cover both the racers and the spectators.
   Advice was sought from the midget tracks of the USA. Information soon came that the solution was oil !   Huge quantities of sump drainings were sourced and spread onto the track, with amazing results. Not only did the dust problem vanish, but the track bedded down
to a firm and reasonably level surface. Racing was resumed with increased speeds and more competitive racing. Racers then began to put Ford Eight engines into the Austin Seven chassis with again improved performance.
   Another track,  Chapelizod, opened for midgets in June 1950 with further meetings organised for July and August.
That's all I know ! I hope itís of some interest to all speedway enthusiasts.  Trevor Chater in England.

Return Home