It is with great sadness that the Birrane family has confirmed the unexpected passing of Martin Birrane. The owner of Peer Group plc and Mondello Park racetrack, Martin died suddenly on Saturday 9 June, at the age of 82.
Martin Birrane was rated among Ireland’s most successful business people, but his route to success, like his favourite sport, motor racing, was colourful and varied.
In 1983, he acquired a major shareholding and became Chairman and Managing Director of Peer Properties Limited, later renamed Peer Group Plc. Martin was passionate about his family, property and motorsport, with the walls of the Peer Group boardroom decorated with pictures of famous racing cars and their drivers, including images of his winning cars.
In every respect, Martin Birrane was a winner, who had motorsport in his blood. He successfully competed in all types of racing for 42 seasons, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans on ten occasions, achieving a podium finish in 1980 and then winning the GT class in 1985 in a BMW M1. Setting the Irish land speed record in 1990 was another memorable achievement. Martin’s final race was in July 2007 in his beloved Lola T70MK3B clocking up yet another race win.
In 1997, he purchased the world-renowned business of Lola and then re-built the company, turning it into a thriving success. Under his stewardship, Lola diversified into new areas of business including aerospace, automotive and motorsport. Winning races and championships on both sides of the Atlantic, including IndyCar titles with luminaries such as Nigel Mansell, his cars were always winners. Since Lola Cars stopped manufacturing racing cars in 2012, the Lola Group was still under his direction and continues to run one of the finest, most technically advanced wind tunnel facilities in Europe.
In 1986, Martin Birrane purchased Mondello Motor Racing Circuit in County Kildare, Ireland. Martin described it as “a wasteland in need of some tender loving care”. He invested heavily in the venue, and today it is the only permanent motor racing circuit in the Republic of Ireland with an FIA Licence. He was busy with arrangements for events to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Mondello, the 60th Anniversary of Lola cars at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July, and also his diamond wedding anniversary when he died so suddenly. Those events will now become tributes to the great Martin Birrane and his incredible achievements.
His family and work colleagues would like to thank everyone who has passed on messages of support. They have requested that they are given the time and privacy to mourn his passing.
Martin is survived by his wife of 60 years, along with his loving children Lis, James, Bridget and Amanda and five grandchildren.
Everyone at The Checkered Flag sends their deepest condolences to Martin Birrane’s family and friends.