Racing driver who didn’t want mother to know

BEFORE World War II motor races were held in Cork using a circuit from Victoria Cross to Ballincollig via Model Farm Road and returning via the Carrigrohane Straight.

Does any reader have information about the part played by local man Ernest (Ernie) Coleman of Cobh?

He was born in 1895 and became a racing driver.

He was not your usual racing driver, either then or now. He trained for the priesthood, but was obliged to give up because of TB.

He then made his fortune in the coal business before buying and racing a very unusual car: a super-charged Alvis ‘straight 8’ machine with front-wheel drive. Alvis pioneered front-wheel drive and these were the only such cars ever to compete at grand prix level. A similar four-cylinder version won its class at Le Mans.

To cap it all, to prevent his mother learning the truth, he usually raced under the pseudonym Victor Karachiâ. Later he raced the car in South Africa, returning safely during the war with his car on a British convoy that suffered considerable losses in a U-boat attack. He raced at Ards and Phoenix Park around 1932/’33 and reputedly came second to the famous Prince Bira at Cork about this time.

However, I have only been able to trace records of Cork races for 1936-’38, when Bira certainly competed each year, but Coleman did not. Probably he raced in earlier years. If any readers can shed light on this piece of history, please get in touch with me.

Bill Bailey



Co Cork

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