Mondello Park Museum
History And A Mystery

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Sunday mornings for the 2004 British GT Championship are a relatively quiet time, so the dsc team took the opportunity to mosey over to see what delights the circuit museum had to offer.

For a nominal sum of 2 Euros the public can get up close and personal to the eclectic range of cars that form Mondello Park (and Lola) Boss Martin Birrane’s private collection.

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With the walls hung with period posters, an overhead shot of the original circuit and with staff who simply could not have been more helpful, the museum was the ideal way to kill an hour or so: interest levels were helped immeasurably by the range of cars on offer.

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From an extremely rare example of the Gordon Murray designed Light Car company Rocket....

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......through Group B rally cars, single seaters - including F1 cars from the Pacific, Benetton and Lola (the very car that spelled the end of Eric Broadley’s Lola dream) - and of course sportscars, the collection was fascinating.

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First up was a highly unusual (and particularly scruffy) lightweight Lotus Esprit based sports racer.

The car was apparently built in 1978 and was gifted by Colin Chapman to prolific Lotus racewinner Chris Meek, one of only four such cars built.

The still only part-built car was acquired by Birrane in 1980, and he then completed the project and entered the car in the last ever World Championship Group 5 event at Silverstone. Still undeveloped, the car soon retired and has not been used since (probably a wise decision, from the look of it!).

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Alongside the Lotus was the unmistakeable shape of a Porsche 962, this example a 1989 Kremer built car which ran at Le Mans in 1989 (in fact two of the dsc Mondello reporting team professed to having seen it race there) in the hands of Giovanni Lavaggi, Bruno Giacomelli and Kunimitsu Takahashi, the car retiring from the race when Takahashi suffered a serious fire just after midday, when lying tenth.

Right alongside the Porsche were two C100s, one a Zakspeed C18 and the other an original development version of the Ford C100.

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The Zakspeed car was one of a pair of C100s sold to the team when the factory bailed out on the programme, on the condition that there were not raced as Fords. Rebadged as Zakspeed C18s, the cars raced in the World Sportscar championship in private hands up until the mid 1980s.

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The collection’s second C100 is the sole unmodified car (of three built), purchased by Martin Birrane at the end of the 1982 season during which this car had been raced by Manfred Winkelhock, Klaus Ludwig, Klaus Niedzwiedz, and for the Brands Hatch last hurrah, Desiree Wilson and fellow circuit owner Jonathan Palmer - who brought the car home in fourth place (Martin Birrane finished the same race in 20th place in a Chevron). The car was then campaigned by Birrane and long-time team mate (and partner) David Kennedy in Thundersports for 1983, scoring a win at Donington Park and a second slot (behind yet another circuit owner, John Foulston) at Brands Hatch.

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Last but very much not least (of interest to us) was the BMW M1, this particular car having had a glittering career, winning the 1979 Pro-Car championship in the hands of Hans Stuck and then competing successfully at Le Mans in 1984 and 1985, winning its class on both occasions - with Birrane himself on the driving squad (alongside the late Edgar Doren and Jean-Paul Libert) in 1985. The same car also won the 1985 German GT Championship. The BMW was acquired by Birrane in 1993 and has been fully restored to Pro-Car livery and specification.

Finally – a challenge for dsc readers – sitting atop a stack of (F1?) packing crates at one end of the museum was this carbon fibre tub.

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The first reader to correctly identify it will receive some dsc goodies – email your answers to graham@dailysportscar.net
GG

 

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