Wednesday 21 March 2018

Perfect formula for a day of high-octane thrills in capital

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

THEY screamed, careened -- and for some there was the indignity of being towed -- around the streets of Dublin as Formula 1 came to town.

Driving rain and strong winds failed to dampen the enthusiasm of tens of thousands of motorsport fans who lined the 2.5km route of the Bavaria City Racing event, which was expected to generate up to €10m for the local economy

However, world champion Jenson Button (pictured) admitted he would not be driving at full throttle, given the slick conditions and tight circuit.

Nevertheless, the city centre's much-maligned 30kph speed limit was well and truly shattered -- as were the ear drums of those closest to the action.

"It's like 1,000 dinosaurs roaring at once," remarked one appreciative fan, as over 100 decibels of pure power bounced off surrounding buildings.

Organisers, who had predicted around 100,000 people at the event, said despite the bad weather 110,000 saw the spectacle. However gardai declined to give an attendance figure.

Over 70 vehicles, from rally cars and superbikes to off-road buggies, took part in the exhibition event. The centrepiece, though, was the Vodafone McLaren F1 car driven by Mr Button -- the same car he won the Canadian Grand Prix in last year.

To accommodate the bumpy, pot-holed surfaces of the city streets, its chassis was lifted several inches higher than normal.

And for much of the route, Mr Button was unable to show its full potential as he had to coax it around a hair-pin bend near the Bank of Ireland on College Green.

But on the straight outside the Custom House and along the north bank of the Liffey, he was able to let rip, reaching speeds of up to 100mph.

Some of the biggest cheers were reserved for the Monster Street Mania cars, which performed 'burnouts' and 'doughnuts', blanketing spectators in plumes of smoke and acrid exhaust fumes.

But the slow circuit appeared to scupper the performance of one F3 racing car, which stalled mid-way and had to be towed back to the paddock. Moving around the city centre was also difficult for pedestrians, with many streets closed, and there were lengthy queues to use the footbridges specially constructed over the course.

For many Irish F1 fans, it was their only chance to see the spectacle.

"I'm a huge Formula 1 fan but I've never actually been to a Grand Prix," said Sean Gillen from Clondalkin in Dublin, who was with his daughter Jessica (5) and his brother Eamonn.

"It's the unique experience of hearing the engine live for the first time, that's what I came for."

While men were well-represented in the crowds, there were a sizeable number of women soaking up the action, too.

Friends Janet Fitzsimons and Suzanne Smith from Ashbourne, Co Meath, and Ann Dalton from Walkinstown in Dublin were flying the flag for the fairer sex.

"I love Formula 1. It's the buzz and everything about it," said Ms Fitzsimons, who has not managed to get to a Grand Prix, although she has completed the Monaco circuit in a Ferrari.

Irish Independent

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