TWOHIGS HILL HILLCLIMB: The story behind Anthony O’Carroll’s first win

TWOHIGS HILL HILLCLIMB

By Donal J. Arnold 

The narrow winding roads from Clonakilty to Ardfield was the scene for the 2022 running of Twohigs Hill hillclimb under the auspices of the West Cork Motorcycle Club (WCMCC), proudly supported by Keohane Readymix. With perfect conditions forecast for the time-trial, the paddock began to fill up with a host of local riders as well as some familiar faces from the road racing and short circuits looking to be crowned King of the Hill!

Twohigs Hill also affords Quad and Pitbike riders the opportunity to run on the closed public road and the spectacle of the 4 wheeled machinery is a sight to behold as the 350 and 450cc machinery slide into the corners. Once the track was ready for racing a familiar voice took to the MCs microphone and John Tyner was calling bikes to the line after riders briefing by Clerk of the Course Thomas Bertram. There were smiles aplenty in the hedges as the crowds gathered to watch the action unfold after the enforced hiatus since 2019.

There was an array of bikes on the dummy grid and the man at the top of the line was Kerry native Anthony O’Carroll on his eye catching ZX6 Kawasaki. Recently crowned multiple Irish road race champion Keelim Ryan was on the grid in the same class as O’Carroll on his 600 Kawasaki also. 2019’s fastest man Derek Wilson was entered in big bike class, but this year was riding his classic ZXR750 and in an unusual twist would share the bike with local man Michael “Darby” O’Donovan. The Pre-injection entries would have their work cut out as Kinsale man and another roads exponent Stephen Tobin would be hard to beat.

Just before 11am the first machines we’re up the road and a few spills led to a disjointed start to proceedings with clean up required on the road but thankfully only a few fairings damaged and riders on their feet as quick as they came off their bikes. Early pace setters in the Quads were Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Barrett and Donie O’Brien all on Yamaha 4-wheelers. The pitbike field was reduced greatly when Donal O’Donovan’s machine developed an oil leak on his first run thus ruling himself and his wife Viola out of the running. The man to beat on the twins was undoubtedly Stephen Tobin and he impressed in qualifying and Race 1 to the top spot. The next couple of riders were only separated by a couple of seconds trading places were Jonathan O’Brien, William Roberts and Conor MacCarthy. The biggest entry of the meeting was the C class or Supersport 600s effectively. There was also great blend of youth and experience with Garry “Fox” Keohane showing some of the younger riders a thing or two with a P5 in the first race. All eyes were on Banagher’s proudest export Keelim Ryan as he pitted all his road racing experience against the up-and-coming star in Anthony O’Carroll. There was a good 400cc entry in CA Class with Cian O’Brien, Roy Werst, Simon Callanan and Jamie Carey all keeping some of the 600cc riders honest. Class D produced the overall winner in 2019 and Derek Wilson was back again to try and retain the Frank Conlon memorial trophy.

Opposition for the coveted Class D came in many forms including the local men David Hayes, Derby O’Donovan, brothers in law Brendan Harte and Derry Hourihan and not forgetting the fastest man in the World on the back wheel over a kilometre Cork’s Ted Brady.

Unfortunately, due to the earlier delays in the program it meant Race 2 in all Classes would be the last chance to upset the odds and claim victory. Bikes came to the line, and it was those that mattered most saved the best till last. No.47 Paul Flynn picked up where he left off on the 350cc 2- stroke Banshee and claimed the fastest time of the day at 57.506′ beating Donie O’Brien on similar machinery by 0.243′. Diarmuid Barrett completed the podium a second behind O’Brien and all 8 riders we’re only separated by 8.603′.

With the omission of the O’Donovan contingent, the pitbike standings became a ding-dong between Eamonn McKeown and William Roberts. The Northern raider led after the first race, but William found over a second on Race 2 to take victory from McKeown, William Grealy and James Toft.

Stephen Tobin took no prisoner in Class B on his Kawasaki ER 650 taking the victory by over 4.5′ from Jonathan O’Brien on the immaculately turned out KTM 690 Duke. William Roberts took another podium in 3rd position closely followed by Conor McCarthy, Ian Lynch, and Michael McSweeney in 6th.

In Class C there was little to separate Anthony O’Carroll and Keelim Ryan, but the pair managed to pull a gap from 3rd place Dean Lacey. James Walsh on the Triumph triple missed out on the podium, and you could have thrown a blanket over the next 5 riders as a second covered Ray O’Brien, Ryan O’Sullivan, Ryan Desmond, “Fox” Keohane and Liam Concannon. Ray O’Brien’s time of 55.254′ meant he took home the Sean Hurley Cup as the fastest 600cc Cork rider of the day.

It was hard to look past the experience of the 2021 Dunlop Masters Moto 400 champion and Tobin once again took the top step comfortably from James and Derick Royal who were only separated by 0.2′. Pawel Rzazsa was 4th on a CBR closely followed by Colin Feeney and Simon Callanan on the impressive looking VFR NC30.

The scene was set for the big bikes and Class D had it all to prove given some of the impressive times laid down by O’Carroll, Ryan, and Tobin. The battle for the 3rd step of the rostrum was what proved to be of most interest early on as “Darby” O’Donovan had taken the 3rd in Race 1 but there was grin on Ted Brady’s face after Race 2 as he bettered his previous time by over a second to take 3rd and resigned Mike to 4th. Hillclimb poster boy David Hayes was able to sit comfortably in 2nd over both races and finished up with a 52.347′ in Race 2 to finish as the fastest local rider and clinch the Kilty Cup however, Hayes couldn’t bridge the gap to Derek Wilson. At 16:42 the No.55 lined up for what would be the last run of the day with a marker of 49.3′ in his sights laid down by O’Carroll earlier when he got the better of Keelim Ryan who put it up to the Kerryman with an impressive 50.008′. Derek left it all on the line as he powered the ZXR 750 up Twohigs Hill for one last cut off the title.

Derek ran in a time of 49.539′ which was just outside the time that claimed his previous victory in 2019. It was enough to secure first spot in Class D and retain the Frank Conlon memorial Cup alas, the man with the biggest smile on his face was the Ballyduff bullet Anthony O’Carroll who claimed the top spot and the mantle as King of Twohigs Hill for 2022 in a time of 49.3′ As the curtain came down on what will be the last closed roads motorcycling event this year, the safety equipment, signage, speakers and all the rest of the gubbins we’re packed away for another year. Spectators and riders are already looking forward to the next years hillclimb with great anticipation after another safe day’s racing with thanks to event organisers the WCMCC, event and class sponsors, marshals, timekeepers, MCI, medical team, landowners, local residents, an Garda Siochana, Cork County Council and last but by no means least our competitors and those of you that have taken the time to come and support Twohigs Hill hillclimb.


 

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