This weekend sees the return of circuit motor racing at Mondello Park after the Kildare lockdown and what a way to restart with the Leinster Trophy meeting, the biggest on the Irish domestic calendar.
On Saturday 6 August, 1932 in Skerries, the Leinster Trophy was presented for the very first time to Fay Taylour who had just won the inaugural running in her Adler Coupé.
Since those early days in Skerries, the 'Trophy' has been raced for in Tallaght, Wicklow, Bishopscourt, Dunboyne and latterly at Mondello Park since 1968, a year after the Co Kildare track opened for the first time.
The famous old trophy has also passed through the hands ex-F1 world champions Ayrton Senna, Mikka Hakkinen as well as Eddie Jordan and John Watson, the former McLaren F1 Grand Prix winner.
Its real heyday was 1980s and into the 1990s when the Formula Opel Euro series raced for the Leinster Trophy with the likes of JJ Letho and Maurício Gugelmin winning at Mondello as a stepping stone to eventually competing in F1.
Since the turn of the century however, the visiting classes have all but vanished from the traditional September meeting with various series from Formula Ford to Formula Sheane contesting the weekend's main event. Stephen Daly holds a record-breaking four wins to his credit over the past few years.
The BOSS (Big Open Wheel Series) cars will race for the Leinster Trophy on Sunday as part of the two meetings at Mondello, an event like no other in the history of its running due to Covid-19 restrictions.
It’s the first race meeting at Mondello since the lifting of lockdown on Kildare and, as per protocols, sporting events are permitted behind closed doors with no spectators allowed.
The crowds at the event have dwindled and the RTÉ cameras no longer show the meeting live, but it will still be an eerie meeting with absolute no fans present.
The big favourite is Paul O’Connell who is racing in his beautifully prepared World Series Red Bull liveried V6. However, there are two quick Formula 3 drivers in Meathman Cian Carey, the ex-British F3 champion and Lucca Allen - son of celebrity chef Darina Allen - who is also racing in a F3 car supplied by former winner Paul Dagg.
Allen, the reigning F4 SEA champion plans to move up to Super Formula Lights in Japan but missed the season opener due to travel restrictions last month and is driving in Mondello as a one-off event.
Last year Barry Rabbit won it for the second time in a rain-affected race with Daly second, adding to his 2013 win in a Formula Sheane and Rabbitt returns this year in his Formula Renault.
"It's hard to look outside the F3 cars especially as expected the weather will be dry," said Rabbitt.
"If I'm to have any chance it will have to rain.
"The entry list is very good this year despite all the problems Mondello have had with the County Kildare lockdown and this is the first weekend’s racing since the lifting of restrictions.
"I can't think of a better way to return than with the Leinster Trophy meeting. The pity is there is still a restriction on spectators attending, but nevertheless it's great to be back racing."
Others in contention for overall honours in Sunday's race will be John Daly in his F3000, Eamonn Matheson’s Jade Special 2 litre sports car which houses 700 BHP engine and Fergus Faherty in his F3 Dallara.
As well as the main event for BOSS Ireland cars the meeting will be supported by a plethora of Irish Championship classes including Formula Vee, Irish Touring Cars, Supercars, Formula Sheane, Future Classics, Historics, and the Mondello Park backed Fiestas.
There are races for support classes on Saturday while BOSS will on the Sunday only, with the first of a double header around noon while the Leinster Trophy itself will assemble on the grid at 3.30pm.