Throngs of motoring enthusiasts descended on Pery Square last weekend, as the Cannonball event – featuring 190 supercars – made a welcome return to Limerick, after a four-year absence from the official route.
In the spirit of the coast-to-coast races that took place in the US in the 1970s and later inspired the ‘Cannonball Run’ films, this event has been part of the Irish car calendar since Kildare businessman and car enthusiast Alan Bannon founded it in 2009.
“The idea came a fundraising idea for a children’s charity called Barretstown that I was made aware of. I’m a car enthusiast and wanted to do something different than the standard 10k fun run fundraiser,” Mr. Bannon told Limerick Life.
Every year since, a different children’s charity has benefited from the luxury supercars zooming around the country, and this year’s recipient is Make-A-Wish Ireland, the children’s charity that grants magical wishes to children between the ages of 3 – 17 years with life-threatening medical conditions.
The first year that Bannon ran the event, there were 137 cars taking part. Cannonball Ireland differs from those infamous races of the 1970s, in that is not a race. Instead, cars criss-crossed their way around Ireland in unison over three days last weekend, carefully remaining within the speed limits throughout.
This year saw 190 supercars take part in the event, with locals feasting their eyes on various cars from McLaren, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche, Maserati, Rolls Royce and Bentley at Pery Square.
“Every year we get more and more cars into it, making it one of the biggest car events in Europe,” added Mr. Bannon.
The organiser of the event managed to get behind the wheel himself, driving an Audi R8 V10 into Limerick last Friday night. He was joined by motorists from around the world. “40% of our entrants are people from outside Ireland; we have people coming from Dubai, the States, but mainly the UK.”
He added that many of those taking part were repeat visitors. “A lot of them would have experienced it before and would come back to do it annually and wold also recommend it to friends. When you experience Cannonball and you’re coming into a town with 30,000 spectators, that welcome is electric, and you want to do it again.”
This year, there was a new aspect to the supercar spectacle, with a host of free family entertainment for the Limerick leg, as well as a performance by Blind Boy Boatclub from The Rubberbandits.
As well as getting up close and personal with some of the world’s most expensive (and fastest) cars, Cannonball brought its own unique festival atmosphere to the event. Cannonball Grid Girls and Brazilian dancers were juxtaposed with the sight of ‘Doc’ and ‘Marty McFly’ with a fully kitted-out Delorean.
To date, Cannonball Ireland has raised almost €900,000 for children’s charities in Ireland. “As well as raising money for the charities, it raises awareness,” said Mr. Bannon, before adding that they hoped to reach a fundraising target of €1million by next year. “That’s our goal,” he told Limerick Life.