Martin Birrane, the businessman and racing driver who purchased former F1 racing car manufacturer Lola in 1997, has died at the age of 82.
Born in Ballina, Ireland in 1935, Birrane set up his first business in 1960. A successful businessman, he acquired Peer Properties in 1983 and became its chairman and managing director. Today the company known as Peer Group has a property portfolio valued at £170 million.
Birrane’s passion for motor racing led him to compete in sports cars and touring cars. He raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours and scored a class win in the GT category driving a BMW M1 in 1985 before making his final appearance in the race in 1988. Two years later he set the Irish land speed record on an unopened stretch of motorway.
In 1997, following Lola’s unsuccessful final attempt to compete in Formula 1, Birrane bought the struggling company. He continued to race Lola’s historic cars until 2007.
Birrane also renovated the Mondello Motor Racing Circuit in County Kildare, which he purchased in 1986. It subsequently held FIA sports car, British Touring Car Championship and British Superbike races, and remains Ireland’s only FIA-licenced circuit.
Birrane was preparing celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Mondello, the 60th anniversary of Lola and his diamond wedding anniversary when he died unexpectedly last Saturday. He is survived by his wife Susan, children Lis, James, Bridget and Amanda, and five grandchildren.
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