Cookies on Dublin People website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. We also use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Dublin People website. However, if you would like to, you can change your cookie settings at any time by amending your browser settings.
Hide Message
  • Northside West

Dublin’s Grand Prix history

Thursday, 31st October, 2019 6:00pm
Dublin’s Grand Prix history

Spectators enjoying the Grand Prix along Chesterfield Avenue.

Dublin’s Grand Prix history

Spectators enjoying the Grand Prix along Chesterfield Avenue.

View More Images

THE Irish Free State at the end of the 1920s was still dominated by the events and repercussions of the War of Independence and subsequent Civil War.

Its international reputation was poor and the country was widely regarded as an economic backwater.

Yet two events were to demonstrate the emergence of a new Ireland, one that had a gift for organisation and the ability to stage events that drew worldwide acclaim.

The better known of these was the 31st International Eucharistic Congress, held in Dublin in 1932, and one of the most remarkable public events to have taken place in Ireland in the 20th Century.

Much less well known is the story of the series of International Grand Prix held in the Phoenix Park between 1929 and 1931, yet their influence was perhaps even greater than that of the congress.

A new book by Bob Montgomery, ‘The Irish International Grand Prix 1929-1931’, is a remarkable exploration of the earliest efforts by the Irish Free State to gain recognition as a progressive, independent modern country by its international peers. 

“If I think about it, I have been researching and preparing to write this book for a period of some 20 years,” said Montgomery who is curator of the Royal Irish Automobile Club (RIAC) Archive.

“I began to note the stories from people who were there and to gather photographs from the event during that time. Some of the stories and many images that can be found in this book have not been seen or heard about since the races took place in the late 1920s and early 1930s

“The book will, I hope, do justice to the history of the Phoenix Park and how its very existence was so important to the emergence of motorsport in the early part of the last century, which culminated in the three Grand Prix. 

“It’s a book designed to appeal to anyone with an interest in Irish history and not just the motorsport enthusiasts.”

Many thousands of people attended the three Irish international Grand Prix from 1929 to 1931, watching from grandstands and lining the four-and-a-half-mile circuit to see the cream of Europe’s great motor-racing drivers roar around the Phoenix Park circuit in Dublin.

The races were organised by the RIAC with enthusiastic support, from as early as 1924, of the President of the Free State, WT Cosgrave. The races drew the international press to Dublin, who marvelled at the meticulous preparation and organisation and declared the races “as the greatest ever held anywhere”. 

One story recalled by Montgomery tells how the wife of a German racing legend had to dress as a man to access the circuit – just one of many gems in the book.

“One curious tale from the practice days concerned Herr Caracciola, or to be more precise his partner, ‘Charly’ Caracciola,” he explained.

“In the lead-up to the race, Caracciola - who had piloted his own aircraft to Dublin - and his wife were feted by Dublin society. However, on arrival at the circuit for practice, Charly was refused admission to the pit area in accordance with the regulations for the race that prohibited the presence of women there.

“Not in the least bit dismayed, Charly re-appeared shortly afterwards wearing men’s clothing and on this occasion the officials of the Royal Irish Automobile Club backed down rather than offend their star attraction.

“As a result, the rule regarding the presence of women in the pits was quietly forgotten in Ireland and was never applied again. A small victory perhaps, but important for women over the prevailing mores of the time.”

The Irish International Grand Prix 1929-1931 is published by Dreoilin Publications and is available now priced €49.99.

Bob Montgomery pictured at his book launch. Photo: Peter Houlihan The cars get ready to start.

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here