Irish Racing Cars
Everything up to 1956 is an established part of the team's history. Anything referring to the events of 1957-61 is not set in stone and may be retconned depending on the team's success and financial situation in tommykl's alt-F1. What is known is that, whatever the circumstances, IRC will not last beyond the 1961 season.
Irish Racing Cars (IRC) was an Irish racing team founded by Wicklow businessmen Cathal Byrne and Arthur Doyle and competed in the Formula One World Championship and the World Sprint Racing Championship before financial troubles saw the team taken over and reorganised in 1966.
IRC was founded in 1954 by two motor racing enthusiasts from Wicklow; Cathal Byrne, a member of the Leinster Motor Club who was a part-time racing driver in the 1930s and owned a garage in Wicklow town, and Arthur Doyle, owner of Tinakilly house in Rathnew, where the new team would be based. He owned several businesses around County Wicklow, where much of the initial funding for the team came from.
The new team lodged an entry for the 1955 Formula One season. IRC originally attempted to acquire the assets of the recently defunct Erne Racing Development squad, before purchasing a Lancia D50, the Italian marque having decided to return to Formula One for the first time since the inaugural 1950 season. The car would be driven by 27-year-old Ulsterman Desmond Titterington. IRC also rented a second car to be driven part-time by Grand Prix motorcyclist Reg Armstrong, who lived only a few kilometres away from the team's Rathnew base. Joe Kelly, a Dubliner who had some previous experience in the new pinnacle of motor racing would also be driving the second car at Silverstone. Lancia unexpectedly withdrew from the championship before the season began, leaving IRC and rival team Ecurie Maghreb as the only teams running a Lancia chassis.
The team made its debut in the non-championship Rouen Grand Prix in April 1955. Titterington was the only driver entered in the shamrock green D50, the national racing colour of Ireland. He qualified 12th and finished 7th, 3 laps down. This initial performance showed the inexperience of the new team, who were nonetheless happy simply to get into the race at all, but it would not be indicative of the season that was to follow.
IRC appeared for the first round of the 1955 World Championship in Monaco with Titterington once again their sole entrant. As a driver that was new to the World Championship, he would have to pre-qualify. He finished 2nd out of 8 drivers that got through to qualifying proper. Maghreb driver André Guelfi was not so lucky, finishing 17th. This meant that Titterington would be the only Lancia driver in the proper qualifying session. The County Down man qualified an impressive 6th. He ran as high as 3rd in the race before retiring on lap 48 with a fuel pump failure. It was nevertheless a promising start to the season for both driver and team.
The next round was the French Grand Prix at Reims, where the second Lancia chassis was entered for the first time, driven by Armstrong. Once again, pre-qualifying was a necessity with Titterington putting in a stunning lap to top the timing sheets, nearly 2.5 seconds faster than the next car. Armstrong also performed respectably in 4th, over 3 seconds slower than his teammate. Titterington's pace continued to show in the main qualifying session, as he set his first pole position in only his second race. Armstrong did not qualify, setting the 34th fastest time, with only 32 available grid slots. Titterington got off the line well, but soon slipped to 4th. He would eventually spin out of the race on lap 20.
The following round at Spa-Francorchamps saw the IRC squad reduced to one car again, as Armstrong was competing in the Isle of Man TT. Titterington qualified 5th, no longer needing to pre-qualify after his two successful previous attempts. He was on course for a potential win, only for expert defensive driving by Alfa Romeo's Jack Brabham and Giuseppe Farina to prevent him from taking the spoils. The Ulsterman did finish 3rd in the end to take his and IRC's first podium.
The Dutch Grand Prix was cancelled following the Le Mans disaster, as were several other rounds, so the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was next. The second Lancia was entered again, this time with Kelly at the wheel. He did not show good pace however, as he failed to escape pre-qualifying. By contrast, Titterington took his second pole position, beating BCMA's Tony Brooks by the smallest of margins. He initially led, with many of his rivals tripping over themselves in the fight for 2nd, but the BCMA cars of Brooks and Peter Collins caught up in the closing stages. Victory looked a very real possibility for the Irish team before a last lap move saw Titterington pushed onto the grass, handing the win to Collins. The Ulsterman still recovered to finish 2nd after this setback.
Another round in Great Britain followed, as the circus travelled north to Edinburgh for the first Scottish Grand Prix on the Holyroodhouse Circuit. Armstrong was back behind the wheel, and would be for the rest of the season, as the cancellation of several races meant there would be no more scheduling conflicts with the Grand Prix motorcycle racing calendar. This time, the Liverpool-born motorcyclist would make his first start. He comfortably made it through pre-qualifying and would start the race from 11th. Titterington once again shared the front row with Tony Brooks, setting the second fastest time. He would unfortunately become one of many drivers to spin or crash that day, ending up in the straw bales on the way to a safe 4th position with 8 laps remaining. He was classified 9th. Armstrong finished 8th, 12 laps down.
The penultimate round of the season was held behind the Iron Curtain on the Pirita-Kose-Kloostrimetsa Circuit, former host of the pre-war Estonian Grand Prix, and now hosted the first Grand Prix of the Soviet Union, one of the most infamous races in the sport's history. The organisers announced a random qualifying running order. The IRC drivers found themselves near the bottom of this order, which became a problem when a tree fell on the circuit before they could set a time. The session was cancelled and the qualifying results declared final. Five grid slots were yet to be determined, which were chosen randomly by the officials. Neither Titterington nor Armstrong were among those five and IRC registered as a double-DNQ. Titterington, who was three points off the championship lead going into this event, was six points down on Brooks after the Englishman finished second in the race. The Ulsterman's hopes of title glory were beginning to fade.
In the final round at Monza, Titterington put in a stunning lap to take pole position. The race did not go so smoothly, and he found himself battling for third place while the Alfa Romeos of Brabham and Gaze pulled ahead. He had to win to seal the title, but ended up pulling into the pits with a blown engine. Both driver and team were nevertheless happy with what they saw as a successful debut season.
The 1955-56 off-season was a busy one for the IRC team. They managed to acquire some of the unraced assets from Lancia's aborted works effort, as well as purchasing the D50 raced by Ecurie Maghreb the previous year. This allowed the team to expand to a two-car effort, and joining the promising Desmond Titterington was Cork-born 1954 Le Mans winner Duncan Hamilton. The rising popularity of the team saw Ireland join the Grand Prix calendar at the 13 kilometre Wicklow Circuit, the route of which went right past IRC's country house base. For this event the team would run a third car for Joe Flynn of Dublin after Armstrong turned down the opportunity due to focusing on his business interests. It was also announced that from 1957 IRC would be building their own car in partnership with British engine builder Coventry Climax after the latter's falling out with Lotus. The partnership began immediately with IRC loaning their spare car to Climax as a test rig for their new inline-four engine, driven by Stuart Lewis-Evans, who was also the IRC reserve driver.
The team arrived at the season opener in Monaco with high hopes after a sterling 1955 début. Hamilton, making his first F1 start in almost two years, had to pre-qualify, making it through comfortably. The main session had its surprises though, as Lewis-Evans was well off the pace and failed to make the cut. Titterington was back on the third row, whilst Hamilton was far back in 17th. Hamilton later expressed his disappointment in his qualifying performance by stealing a bottle of champagne from Louis Chiron and taking it back to his hotel room, emerging for the race start the next day still intoxicated. As a result, Hamilton spent the whole race at the back of the field and getting involved in a collision that eliminated Phil Hill. Titterington himself was involved in an incident that took out Consalvo Sanesi early on, but after that there were no significant mishaps for the Ulsterman. He mainly concerned himself with an exciting battle for the podium places. Towards the end he passed Peter Collins for the lead as the Englishman had run into car trouble. Titterington eventually won the race by a whole lap from the BCMA driver, giving himself and the IRC team their first win, whilst the inebriated Hamilton was able to bring his car home in 5th with the help of attrition.
In stark contrast with the team's successes in Monaco, the French Grand Prix at Rouen was to be a total disaster. Lewis-Evans was entered again with the Climax engine, this time directly under the IRC banner, as Climax's staff was deemed too inexperienced to run a racing effort. Hamilton was easily fastest in pre-qualifying, but qualifying itself left much to be desired, with the three IRC Lancias mostly ending up on the lower half of the grid, Titterington managing no better than 12th. As a plus however, Lewis-Evans was able to make the cut. The race was even worse than qualifying: Hamilton clipped the back of Tony Brooks' BCMA and spun off, hitting an earth bank. He sustained a broken ankle, which put him out for the next two races. Lewis-Evans - who was running well ahead of Titterington in the mid-field - was brake-tested by Lotus driver Dries van der Lof, causing the two to collide, this precipitating the suspension failure and subsequent fatal accident of the Dutch driver just minutes later. Titterington then pulled into the pits later on with a smoking engine, which had clearly run its last race.
1957 saw the début of the first Irish-built Formula One car since the disastrous Reatherson R-01. In the 1956-57 off-season a deal was made with former IRC driver Joe Kelly to use his garage in Clondalkin, Co. Dublin for the construction of the new Mk 1, a car whose design borrowed heavily from the existing Lancia. Kelly was also nominated as the car's test driver.
To be determined.
1962 move to sportscars
After the disastrous 1961 season IRC withdrew from F1, citing the downsizing of engine regulations as a primary factor, but the failure of the new Mk. 3 was also a strong influence in the decision. The team entered the new World Sprint Racing Championship in 1962 and with the help of Kelly's Jaguar connections they acquired an E-Type to be driven by Titterington.
Change of ownership
By the mid-1960s IRC was in severe financial trouble and it was clear the team could no longer afford to compete in top-level motor racing. IRC was sold to Mick Mooney in 1966, who cut back the team's efforts by restricting it mainly to local events and Formula Two.
Complete Formula One Results
|1955||Irish Racing Cars||MON||FRA||BEL||GBR||SCO||SOV||ITA||10||7th|
|Lancia D50||Lancia DS50||Desmond Titterington||Ret||Ret||3||2||9†||DNQ||Ret|
|1956||Irish Racing Cars||MON||FRA||BEL||GER||GDR||IRL||SCO||GBR||ITA||THA||25||4th|
|Lancia D50||Lancia DS50||Desmond Titterington||1||Ret||Ret||Ret||1||Ret||3||Ret||Ret|
|Coventry Climax FPF IV||Ret|
|1957||Irish Racing Cars||MAR||MON||FRA||BEL||NED||IRL||GBR||GER||ITA||ESP||USA||1*||10th*|
|IRC Mk1||OSCA 1557||Joe Flynn||6|
- Season in progress