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TDC History
TDC (Trials Drivers’ Club) was founded in 1954 by a group of like-minded enthusiasts including Wilfie Fitzsimmons, Barney Manley, Jimmy Millard, Maurice Cavey and Jack Toohey. Paddy Hopkirk is reputed to have made occasional appearances at committee meetings. Some of the other clubs rather cruelly suggested that TDC stood for The Drinking Club and certainly all of the members of motor clubs in existence at that time would not have been as abstemious as is the case nowadays.

The logo is alleged to have been inspired by the label of the committee’s favourite whiskey - Hewitt’s. To facilitate this tendency, committee meetings originally took place in hotels convenient for the majority of the members and then they used to take place in the RIAC in Dawson Street on the first Tuesday of every month, before moving back to hotels when traffic congestion became an issue. The meetings are now held on the first Thursday of every month in the comfortable surroundings of Club President, Frank Lenehan’s home in Sandyford where a bunch, just as enthusiastic as the original group, lay plans for the club’s activities. Frank is pictured here in his trusty red Starlet.



The club ran test trials, mud-plugs, navigation rallies, autocrosses, treasure hunts and occasionally had an input into race meetings and stage rallies when they were introduced. All the work seemed to fall to the same people (some things never change!) and over the years the range of activities reduced. While TDC may have had a low profile in its early years, it has certainly been one of the premier clubs in Leinster for the last ten years. It has had some illustrious names as members. An appropriate person to feature first is Dermot Carnegie.

Dermot began autotesting in September 1961 and never looked back. Whatever discipline of motorsport he chose to compete in, he was a force to be reckoned with. The list of his achievements, only some of which are mentioned below, is long.



Hewison Autotest Champion (RIAC Irish Autotest Championship) 10 times between 1967 & 1986
RIAC/MI National Irish Rallycross champion 7 times between 1991 & 2006
MSA Rallycross champion 4 times between 1994 & 2004
BRDA Rallycross champion 4 times between 1999 & 2003
Dermot continues to compete regularly in Multi-Venue Test-Trials, Targa Rallies and Classic Rallies. Earlier this year, he was third in his Volvo PV544 on the HERO Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo.

Two more luminaries are featured in this instalment (the third).

FRANK FENNELL
Frank started in test trials and navigation events in 1964. He then took to the stages and entered his first Circuit of Ireland in 1967. The following year he finished eighth overall with Frank O’Donoghue in an NSU TT, losing to Dermot Carnegie’s Escort by just one second. For more than a decade he was a serious stage competitor in a variety of cars. In the late 80s he turned to Classic and Retro events - both here, the UK and the continent. No matter where the location, he was a regular winner in a fabulous assortment of cars, including a Mini, a Volvo Amazon, a Mercedes 300SE and an Alfa Romeo Giuilia.

He was responsible for the introduction of the International Trophy Autotest in 1975 - the Irish equivalent of the UKs Ken Wharton event. This was televised on RTE1.
He was similarly innovative with his pioneering of the TDC Irish Classic Retro.

LARRY MOONEY
While Larry has, by now, hung up his driving gloves, in his time, he did everything - autocross, autotests, navigation rallying, stage rallying, hillclimbs and racing. He was a consummate performer in all of these disciplines.

He is probably most associated with Beetles - he was captain of the Republic of Ireland Ken Wharton team for the first thirteen years of its involvement in the event - he was instrumental in the RoI being invited to take part. (Dermot Carnegie was a member of the team latterly). He raced a Mk1 Golf GTI for seven years and won his class all but once (the throttle cable broke).

Another pair of luminaries for your edification.

PAUL PHELAN
Paul is a font of information regarding all things motorsport. As well as being an exceptional navigator he drives as well. He is a regular competitor in the Hewison Autotest Championship.
His successes include:
National Navigation Champion 19 times between 1971 & 2001.
Winner of the Circuit Retro seven times and winner of many other Retros on many other occasions also.

Third in the Circuit of Ireland proper in 1977 with Öve Andersson in a Celica.
Second in the Circuit of Ireland in 1973 with Eamonn Cotter in a BMW 2002 Alpina.
First in the Circuit of Ireland in 1975 with Billy Coleman in a Mk1 Escort.


DEREK TOHILL
Derek was the first ever double European champion in Rallycross Touring Cars (2010 and 2013). He never finished outside the top three in the FIA Championship during this period.

He was Motorsport Ireland’s International Driver of the Year in 2013, following in the footsteps of rallying and racing legends such as Bertie Fisher and Eddie Irvine.


As mentioned before, in the “good old days” TDC organised a wide variety of motoring events. As the club has evolved it now specialises in autotests. These come in different guises.

The ultimate challenge is the Hewison Championship. It features very tight, complicated manoeuvrability tests defined by pylons (neat cones) and lines. Rounds are held in various locations around the country. They are timed to tenths of seconds. The cars are purpose built. Among lots of other modifications, the gearboxes just have “first and reverse”. These are arranged so that first and reverse are opposite each other to facilitate quickest possible gear change. (Liam Cashman is pictured here in his Westfield.)



It would be very difficult to do these tests in a standard car without lots of “three and more point turns”. TDC runs one championship round on a section of Mondello Park track in November. There are four tests, each done three times, and a lot of time is spent learning them. You can find photos and videos on the “Hewison Autotest Championship” Facebook page. It is definitely worth a visit. To my mind it really is poetry in motion.

Not as difficult are the tests (more open and shorter) encountered on club autotests of which there are three or four each year. They can be negotiated by road going cars. There is usually a class for these but the other classes are based on driver experience/expertise. One of the main features of these and, indeed, all of our events is the camaraderie between competitors. It has been known for drive shafts to be changed in double quick time when a posse of competitors will descend on the stricken car to get it going again. Beginners are made particularly welcome and advice is freely available. If newcomers prefer not to commit completely to their motorsport career, the club offers MI one-day competition licences for these events.

Autotests originally took place on public roads at junctions “up the mountains” and in other remote locations. If a local appeared he (there were fewer “shes” in those days) would wait until the driver had completed the test before continuing on his way. They were called test-trials then but the informal road closing and insurance concerns saw their demise. They do still “live on” to some extent in another of the club’s activities - multi-venue autotests (MVATs). These involve moving around an area from one farmyard/quarry/carpark/etc. to another. In each location there are one or two tests. These tend to be even more than those in the club autotests and have very little reversing. Of course, the cars for these events must be fully road legal. Starlets and MX-5s (Christopher Evans at the wheel of the one pictured here)



are currently the most popular choice. There are occasions when a very large site becomes available to the club, in which case all the tests can be held in the one place.

About the TDC events
The piece below was written many years ago. It is worthy of mention that, as you will see from the new item above and the subsequent instalments which will appear in dribs and drabs over the next while, the club’s philosophy has changed little since then.

The club currently runs 12/13 events throughout the calendar year, which include the Club Autotest Championship, the Howard Wilde Memorial Autotest, Production Car Trials and Multi-Venue Autotests/Autosolos. Our events attract competitors from all over Ireland and the UK. The TDC is also involved in promotional events at Mondello Park where our members perform displays in the interest of promoting the club and attracting newcomers.

We have a wide spectrum of membership from all avenues of motorsport including Autotests, Stage, Navigation and Retrospective rallies, Saloon Racing and Rallycross. Included in our current membership are multiple Autotest Champions, Eamonn Byrne, JJ Farrell and Peter Grimes. Also involved are multiple Autotest and Rallycross Champion, Dermot Carnegie, 19 times National Navigation Champion and ex-Billy Coleman co-driver, Paul Phelan and Monte Carlo historic rally winner, Frank Fennell. These members have won over 50 championships between them. However, it is hard to top the achievements of our most famous ex-member, the legendary Stirling Moss.

The TDC is focused on organising quality motorsport events throughout the year with the inclusion of championship and fun events. The Club has a committee made up of very experienced competitors who are always willing to give expert advice to both beginners and experts. New members and drivers are always welcome and anyone wishing to get involved in motorsport should contact us immediately as we are more than willing to help newcomers to the sport.

TDC History in Photos
Some Photographic History of the Trials Drivers Club

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