American Sports Car Driver, Dick Irish, Passes Away
Another great American sports car driver of the fifties has left us. Dick Irish passed away March 19, 2015, of congestive heart failure at the age of 85
Several highlights illuminated his driving career. In 1951, he traded his aluminum-bodied Jaguar XK-120 for a Norton-engined Kieft Formula III and a Ford pick-up truck to haul it. With the Kieft, he established several track records at the Janesville, Wisconsin Airport and the Brynfan Tyddyn road races, where one turn was named “Irish Corner.”
In 1952, he and co-driver Bob Fergus took a 3rd place overall in the Sebring 12-Hour race, leading four Ferraris and three Jaguars with a 1500-cc Siata Gran Sport. They also placed 2nd on Index of Performance and 1st in Class F. Some say Irish could have driven in Formula One.
In 1954, he campaigned a 4.5-liter Ferrari coupe belonging to Marty Christiansen. With this car he beat Walt Hansgen in a C-Type Jaguar in the rain at Watkins Glen. He was a member of the elite Road Racing Driver’s Club and a life member of the Sports Car Club of America.
Irish knew many people in the sport including colorful importer Tony Pompeo, Cunningham Team driver Sherwood Johnston, car-builder Hal Ullrich and even Enzo Ferrari. Irish was one of the few allowed by Enzo to watch the building of his 275 GTB at the factory.
Dick wore the uniform of his country and, as an Army veteran who served in Korea, he was a patriotic American who constantly sent emails and letters to newspapers, senators, representatives and friends on issues that would benefit our great country. Those who knew him will miss him.
He is survived by his wife Barbara, in their home near Oklahoma City.