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Report on the Gordon Bennett Rally 2009


Some of the Standards at the Mondello Park Race Circuit

This annual event has been organised by the Irish Veteran and Vintage Car Club since 1974 to commemorate the 1903 Gordon Bennett Rally that was held in Ireland.

It has been my pleasure to attend six of these annual events and over the years I have managed to introduce other Standard owners to the event and get them hooked as well. This year over 230 cars from as far a field as Australia had entered the event, all of them manufactured prior to December 1930.

This year I took my 1913 Rhyl and invited Steve O’Hara to accompany me in the navigator seat. Steve Smeltzer took his 1927 Australian bodied V4 model with Bob and Val Richardson as passengers and Dennis and Sheila Brown in the 1930 Selby also joined the party sailing from Fishguard to Rosslare.

Meanwhile, in a two frontal attack on the Irish coastline, David and Harry Groom were sailing from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire in the 1928 Gordon England bodied Standard Nine.

Gordon England

I had booked the same accommodation in Tullow, County Carlow as last year. Enough words of praise were written on this establishment last year, suffice to say, that the breakfast menu was as excellent as ever and could be the subject of a separate article. Porridge served with cream and whiskey liqueur, homemade Strawberry and Rhubarb compote and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs all feature on the extensive menu!

The traditional start of Rally lunch at Naas was provided courtesy of the sponsors. Plenty of good food and wine on offer. After the customary welcome speech, we were off on the short run to Mondello Park, the International Motor Racing circuit

Steve Smeltzer took me on a couple of laps of the circuit in his V4 – obviously practicing for a change of career to formula one racing! He then pulled into the pit lanes and asked me if I would like to take the wheel and take Bob and Val Richardson around the circuit. That was an invitation that didn’t require much thinking about the answer!

Saturday is the main Rally day and this year proved to be one of the wettest in its history. Yours truly and Steve O’Hara ventured onto the short route of 70 km along with other Veteran and Edwardian cars. Meanwhile the three younger Vintage Standards set off on the longer 140 Km route for Vintage Cars. 

V4 Tourer


Lunch, for all routes, was taken in the town of Leighlinbridge. Whilst here, I was able to meet up with one of one of our Irish entrants, Jim O’Farrell in his 1915 model S.

Saturday night was the Gala banquet back at Tullow. Speeches and prize giving until late into the night. All had a good time, the Standard owners from the UK could sit together on our own table, and a mini bus to take us back to our accommodation afterwards, ensured that we could all enjoy a drink or two.

Sunday was a lot drier that the Saturday. Steve O’Hara arranged all the Standards and their owners in front of Sherwood Park House, for a group photograph. 

There then followed a short run to Altamount Gardens for the final visit of the event. Tea and Coffee, homemade cakes and strawberries were provided courtesy of Carlow Tourism authority.

All to soon it was time to say our goodbyes. Steve O’Hara and myself pointed the Rhyl south towards Rosslare. David and Harry pointed the Gordon England in a northeast direction towards Dun Laoghaire in a journey that took them over the Wicklow Mountains. The whole of their return journey was driven by Harry Groom, good to see the younger generation taking an interest in Vintage Cars. Meanwhile the V4 and the Selby stayed on in Ireland for a further three days holiday.

The Standards outside Sherwood Park House

So another Gordon Bennett Rally draws to a close with next year to look forward to. I hope some more pre 1930 Standards will join my party for next year’s event. It is my ambition to have such a number of Standards taking part that Stena Line has to lay on a special ferry!

Report by Leonard Barr