Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

Cultra Hill Climb: Meet siblings Trevor and Fel McIlroy who have been involved with motorsport for 40 years

By Kerry McKittrick

Brother and sister Trevor and Fel McIlroy have been involved in motorsport for nearly 40 years. They will both be participating in the Cultra Hill Climb, one of the world's oldest active hill climbs, on Saturday, June 13. Trevor will be competing and Fel will be clerk of the course. Trevor lives in Belfast with his wife, Roisin, and Fel lives near Lisburn with her partner, Trevor Roberts.

Name: Fel McIlroy

Age: 54

Occupation: Receptionist and race official

Relationship to Trevor: Sister

"It was Trevor who got me into motorsport. He was always interested in it - he started off navigating and then bought a little Mini to compete in and was always tinkering with it. He would tell me to hop in and pump the brake pedal while he was fixing it or to help out in some other way. My grandfather started taking me to watch motor racing when I was three or four years old so there was always some kind of interest in it in our house.

After he bought the Mini, Trevor started taking me along to auto-testing and I began to compete with him in the late 1970s and early 80s. I went on to buy an MG Midget in 1984 and competed by myself.

I stopped competing for a long time after I broke my wrist and the bone at the base of my thumb - I was walking the course before a rally event and slipped on some black ice.

I insisted on doing the rally, but afterwards I had to have lots of pins inserted so I couldn't compete any more - I didn't have the strength for the hydraulic handbrake. After my wrist injury I focused on the marshalling side of things. Now I'm one of the most senior officials in Ireland and have marshalled at Silverstone and Goodwood in England. Often I'm the only female official out there.

I'm clerk of the course at the Cultra Hill Climb and I never find it unusual when my brother is competing. I've told him in no uncertain terms that I won't treat him any differently to any other competitor - it wouldn't be professional if I did.

I always joked with my mum that she should have had two boys because I steered so closely to that side of things. But it's not just about motorsport all the time. Trevor and I go on holidays together and we both like anything to do with speed. We used to water ski although I had to give that up after I broke my wrist. I've also started skiing with Trevor in the last few years, although he's been doing that a lot longer then me. I was there in January when he injured his knees.

We're both very determined people. I was adamant that I'd keep going after my wrist injury and started competing again in the last three years. I wouldn't let that keep me back and it didn't stop me progressing as a marshal. I'm a fully-trained Formula One marshal and a fully-trained World Rally timekeeper, too.

There's a very good social side to motorsport - both when you're competing and when you're marshalling. You get to travel all over the UK and meet people from all over the world."

Name: Trevor McIlroy

Age: 61

Occupation: Accident investigator and valuer of classic and vintage sports cars

Relationship to Fel: Brother

"Our family were shopkeepers based just outside Lisburn. My grandfather always had an interest in motorsport, but I was the one who started getting involved in it and I competed during the mid-1970s. I brought Fel into it later on. There weren't a lot of women involved in motorsport in those days, but Fel has always been keen on it.

Growing up she was the typical little sister and I didn't pay much attention to her. Fel is seven years younger than me, so it was a little while before she started getting interested in motorsport. I brought her auto-testing, where you drive cars around traffic cones and are judged by speed and accuracy. She liked that and got involved. A few years later she bought an MG Midget and started competing herself. She was ladies' champion quite a few times.

She stopped competing after she broke her wrist. Instead, she started to focus on the officiating and running of events instead. She's now the most qualified and experienced official in Northern Ireland.

We might not have been very close when we were younger, but we're close now. There's just the two of us left. Our father died when Fel was just six months old and our mother died about four years ago.

My grandfather was the one who stepped in as a father figure for both of us, but after he passed away, we relied on each other more.

I'm still heavily involved in competing in the sport and I'm planning on competing at Cultra. It will be the first event I do this year as I ruptured both my knees skiing in Austria in January.

Between us we have nine or 10 competition cars and we're very well-known in motorsport - not least because Fel pushed herself after her accident and has been clerk of the course all over the UK now.

I've tried to encourage her over the years and she comes with me when I do hill climbs in Scotland or England as support."

The world’s oldest hill climb

  • Set in the grounds of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, the Cultra Hill Climb takes place on Saturday, June 13
  •  The world's oldest hill climb, the event is turning 110 this year. It was established by the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club on May 6, 1905
  • The theme of this year's event is 'The Road To Recovery' and will feature restored vehicles of all shapes and sizes
  •  The event will feature a fleet of Ford MK2 Escorts to celebrate the car's 40th birthday and the day will round off with a party at Cultra Manor

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph