Mondello March 15th Report- with Leo Nulty

Well that wasn’t a bad meeting was it? The season opener at Mondello Park had all the ingredients you would want- packed grids, great racing, a bit of paint swapping and even live TV!

Supre cars 4

Jamie Chadwick scored a T Car win and a HRCA Podium on her brief Irish visit. Image from Chester.ie

The season started with the new ASK Supercar Championship taking to the track. Sean Doyle, predictably, had claimed pole position in the ex Jonathan Fildes/Michael Leonard machine, with fellow former FF1600 star Peter Barrable alongside in Dave O’Brien’s old car.  Bob Cameron and Philip Jones filled the second row with the main surprise being the pace of Jamie Chadwick in fifth- and first of the T Cars. Jamie, at just 16 years old, was in Ireland just to gain licence signatures for her UK GT programme this year and she had been testing an Aston Martin in Spain the previous week!  when the lights changed Doyle initially got the jump but appeared to baulk slightly as they went under the bridge allowing Barrable to lead into turn one, with the fast starting Jones alongside. Doyle immediately fought back, snatching second before turn two and it looked like we were going to be treated to a cracker of a race. Unfortunately Vinny O’Reilly locked up and parked in the gravel at turn one and the red flags flew, stopping the race. Doyle made no mistakes at the second time of asking, leading the pack down to turn one with Barrable right with him. Jones had challenged the pair with another cracking start but as one, they had seen him coming and closed the door, leaving him with no option but to back off! Barrable’s car began to smoke and by mid race he was clearly nursing it home with Doyle dominating out front. At the flag, the young Wicklowman was over 9 seconds clear of Bob Cameron, with the ailing Barrable hanging on for third. After a terrible start, Chadwick had worked her way to the head of the T Cars to take the class win at the flag, whilst Pat McBennett’s newly supercharged Lotus led arch rival Connaire Finn’s Ginetta over the line for GT Honours.

Doyle was delighted to take two wins. Image from JayTee Photographic

Doyle was delighted to take two wins. Image from JayTee Photographic

In race two, Doyle again lead away but it quickly became evident that Barrable had other ideas as he first matched, and then began to eclipse the leader’s times as the gap came down. By mid race, Doyle’s brakelights could be seen flashing on the straight as he pumped the pedal, Barrable saw this and pushed to close the gap but Doyle had it all in hand to bring it home for the double, with Barrable second and Cameron third and vowing to beat the young upstarts next time round! With Chadwick having acquired enough signitures, she sat this one out and Vinny O’Reilly was first T Car across the line. In the GT class, Finn led for the duration, with McBennett unable to find a way through. Finn had connected heavily with the T Car of Pete Murray mid race and was to find himself in front of the stewards and removed from the results of both races for his part in the incident.

Living legend Stevie Griffin was out in the HRCA race in the famous Liam Plower owned Modsport Midget-

Stevie Griffin never gave up in his chase of Foley's V8. Image from autosportpics.com

Stevie Griffin never gave up in his chase of Foley’s V8. Image from autosportpics.com

looking immaculate as ever and nowadays tended to by Stevie in his Castlewarden workshops. He qualified the diminutive machine on pole, having done the lap early and then sat in the pitlane for the duration of

How does it feel to be beaten by a 16 year old girl Paul?

How does it feel to be beaten by a 16 year old girl Paul?

qualifying while the others tried in vain to better his time. Jamie Chadwick, in one of ASK Racing‘s Porsche 944s, was alongside him on the front row with series pacesetter Bernard Foley on row two in his thundering MGB GT V8. Alongside him was Clive Brandon in the Lotus 47 replica with Paul Gray’s 911 heading the swarm of Bs Midgets and Sprites that make up the Joe Flynn Trophy challengers. When the red lights flicked off, Stevie’s little Midget bolted, seemingly aware of the V8 threat from behind and easily led down to turn one. Chadwick, probably having had a talking to after her stellar T Car performance, stayed away from all the action, concentrating on getting her second licence signature. Foley, with a blast of V8 power, got alongside the Midget on the run to turn two. Predictably, Stevie chose to sit it out round the outside and Clive Brandon, right with them, had to lift, which unsettled the rear of the mid engined Lotus and around he went. On the run to turn three, Foley blasted ahead but Griffin never gave up and gave us great TV viewing as he flung the Midget from lock to lock in his efforts to hang on to the leader. In their wake, a superb battle was developing between Paul Gray’s 911 and the ASK 944 of Chadwick. Jamie made it stick with a dive up the inside into Dunlop but

Jamie Chadwick earned herself a legion of Irish Fans with her HRCA performance. Image from JayTee Photographic.

Jamie Chadwick earned herself a legion of Irish Fans with her HRCA performance. Image from JayTee Photographic.

Gray was quicker on the exit and took it back on the run to turn one. Not to be deterred, and later claiming she was not going to jeopardise her finish but she “knew she had to have him”, the 16 year old put the matter to bed with a brave move round the outside into turn three, earning herself a podium position and legion of new Irish fans in the process! In the closing stages, Foley may have backed off slightly, unlike Griffin, who wrung the last from the famous Midget, almost having a stab for the lead into Dunlop on the final tour, but having to be content with runner up spot.

Ex Nissan GT Academy star Des Foley, having signed for the works Leastone team, posted notice of his intentions to win the 2015 Finol Star of Tomorrow Formula Vee series by not only outqualifying his title rivals, but managing 5th overall in what was to be his first single seater race. This put him on pole for the B/C race and he didn’t put a foot wrong, crossing the line well ahead of the opposition to take what I doubt will be his last win in Formula Vee! In his wake, we were treated to some classic Vee racing as Gavin Buckley, Anthony Cross, Shane McBride and Ger Byrne scrapped mightily for the duration.  Buckley took second from Cross with McBride just taking fourth

Moore dominated in Vees. Image from Chester.ie

Moore dominated in Vees. Image from Chester.ie

from Byrne with a last lap dive at Dunlop corner! Class returnee Ray Moore was pipped to pole by a resurgent Dan Polley but when the lights changed, Moore nailed it and that was pretty much all the rest saw of him for the afternoon as he emulated Foley’s earlier victory to cross the line well ahead of his nearest challenger. Polley had his mirrors full of Dave Kelly and David O’Brien, the trio scrapping for the entire race- but managing to match Moore’s times on the odd occasions they stayed apart! Kevin Grogan, after a bad qualifying session was on a a charge. Having finally disposed of Colm Blackburn, his Avanti tended Leastone began to haul in the battle for second, eventually finishing right with them, having eclipsed Moore’s fastest lap in the process.

Jordan Dempsey, having changed cars over the winter, was on pole for the first Ginetta Junior Ireland race, with newcomer William Harron alongside.  James Roe was third with debutant Darragh Denning alongside him in fourth. Dempsey led away but Roe snatched second immediately and began to pile the pressure on. He was moving around in Dempsey’s mirrors and the pressure appeared to work as Dempsey missed the second apex

Jack Byrne took Fiesta Juniors. Image from Con Connolly.

Jack Byrne took Fiesta Juniors. Image from Con Connolly.

at turn three, with the ensuing moment sending him off onto the infield. Luckily he had no damage and was able to rejoin- and start an impressive recovery drive! Harron kept the pressure on Roe for the duration but never quite got close enough to challenge and incredibly Dempsey completed the podium after a charging race! In race two, Roe led away but Dempsey, obviously keen to make amends earlier, sliced down the inside to take the lead with a decisive move early on, easing away for a comfortable win. Roe took second, just ahead of Harron and assumed the series lead in the process. Jack Byrne took both Fiesta Junior wins, well ahead of the only other starter Adam Geraghty in both.

Willie Barrett qualified on pole for the Blackchurch Motors Fiesta race, with Barry Rabbitt alongside. They touched going under the bridge with Rabbitt leading into turn one. It may have been the concertina effect, but Rabbitt was helped mid corner and somehow emerged in the lead with an armful of opposite lock on. The pack got as far as turn three before disaster struck, with cars leaving the track in all directions. Most were able

Rabbitt took Fiesta Honours for Blackchurch Motors.

Rabbitt took the Fiesta win for Blackchurch Motors. Image from Chester.ie

to recover and rejoin though.  John Denning had seized the opportunity to grab second in the first corner melée and initially looked as he had the pace to challenge the leader. Barrett found himself embroiled in a lively battle with the already heavily scarred car of Stephen Kirwan. Phil Lawless was another to benefit from the messy first lap, moving up from eleventh on the grid to run in fifth, right with the leaders. The first four ran pretty much in formation for the entire race, with Denning having to keep one eye on the mirrors, preventing him from attacking the leader. Lawless, having started superbly, didn’t quite have the pace of this quartet and gradually dropped back. At the flag it was Rabbitt, adding to his Mondello win tally from Denning. Kirwan completed the podium having smashed the lap record with an incredible 1:10.9. Barrett found himself excluded when it was discovered that his camera was not recording for the duration (part of the series’ regs) which promoted Lawless to fourth from Ulick Burke and Shane Roe.

Robbie Parks’ Donedeal Special- the Castrol liveried Toyota Celica, started the Gem Oils Future Classics race on pole, with Sophie Byrne’s Fiesta XR2 alongside.  Parks led away but Byrne was on the attack immediately. With the Celica looking a bit wallowy on the twisty bits, it looked like it was only a matter of time before she found a way

Parkes' Celica looked like a handful- but he took the honours in Future Classics

Parks’ Celica looked like a handful- but he took the honours in Future Classics

by. A safety car intervention was a blessing for Parks as the front tyres cooled down a little but once they were back racing, Sophie snatched the lead with a cracking move round the outside at turn one. Unfortunately though, next time round, she stopped the clocks on a 1:09.1, four tenths under the barrier time, earning herself a 10 second penalty and costing her the win. Parks had it all in hand from here on in, to take an impressive win and was hugely complimentary about his young opponent afterwards! Dan Byrne, in the Chevette and Tim Duggan, in the SEAT Ibiza, has charged up through the pack, having been put to the back for breaking the barrier time in qualifying. As they got to the leaders, it all got a bit hairy as Eddie Kinirons’ Sunbeam, Ian Thornton’s Golf GTi and Brendan Travers’ Punto were also in the mix. At the flag behind Parks, it was Thornton, Duggan and Travers, with novice Willie Tighe having driven well in his immaculate GRRR 205 GTI to finish right with the lead pack!

Rod

McGovern was quickest in testing and qualifying but it all went wrong in Race 1. Image from Chester.ie

There was a lot of anticipation ahead of the opening round of the MicksGarage.com ITCC championship, especially as the new for 2015 SEAT Supercup Championship was to run within their races. The opening round of the ITCC was not in fact, a round of the Supercup, but three of the cars were on the entry list anyway, eager to get some mileage clocked up. Despite  speculation about the M3s and maybe even a Honda or two outpacing the SEATS, Rod McGovern put the issue beyond doubt with a 58 second lap which secured pole position. As we saw in 2014 with Brian Fitz though, the SEATS are not easy to get off the line and once away, take a few laps to get up to speed. Clearly this was not lost on the rest of the grid and McGovern, along with fellow SEAT pilots John Farrelly and Brian Berry, were jumped by a swarm of Hondas on the run to turn one. Gar Hayden did it to perfection, slicing down the inside to take the lead and bringing Kevin Doran with him to make it a Honda 1-2. In their wake, Anthony Murtagh somehow managed to loose it coming under the bridge, coming by the Grandstand backwards in what looked like a Playstation move! Luckily the car was undamaged and he took off after his Production Class competition! Stephen Maher, first time out in the ex Dave O’Brien M3, was out almost immediately with a damaged radiator after some first corner contact when a car spun into his path.  Up front, Doran was already piling the pressure on Hayden and the yellow Integra rotated at turn three. This allowed Doran to grab the lead, with the impressive Keelan O’Connor in his new Integra right with him. Behind them, McGovern had half spun behind the melee, but nailed the throttle, pulling the SEAT back into line from a crazy angle, and creating a smoke screen for the following pack! With all this and more, it was no surprise to see the Safety Car despatched- this was all inside the first lap, remember! This, of course, suited the SEATS, with a few slow laps crucially allowing them to warm the rear tyres. When the safety car returned to the pits, Doran got the head down whilst McGovern immediately displaced O’Connor and began to chase

David & Goliath. Doran fends off McGovern's SEAT. Image from ITCC.ie

David & Goliath. Doran fends off McGovern’s SEAT. Image from ITCC.ie

down the leader. Unsurprisingly, the SEAT was on the back bumper of the Civic inside a couple of laps but Doran, a new name to us, was driving like a seasoned campaigner and certainly wasn’t rattled. Meanwhile, the Sean Woods Racing SEATS of John Farrelly and Brian Berry were threading their way through the pack and both began to haul in the lead battle. McGovern eventually displaced Doran but Farrelly, driving superbly was by like a flash and began to pile the pressure on McGovern for the lead. He eventually got the switchback at Dunlop corner and drew alongside as they came down the main straight. Rod closed the door but it was too late, they tangled and both were off in a race stopping shunt. On countback, Farrelly got the win from team mate Berry and Doran, who also took the 2.0 N/A ITCC Class. Grzegorz Kalinecki took this Production win in the Sportchip.ie SEAT from Robert Doherty and Stephen Dunne. Debutante Nicole Drought had shocked them all by qualifying second in her Integra but dropped back in the race.

In race two with the grids reversed Rob Savage led away with fellow Integra driver Owain Drought alongside. Drought lost the rear end at turn one though, allowing Eoghan Fogarty up to second in the ex Holstein M3 and sending the unfortunate O’Connor off on a grassy trip round the outside. Doran, up from row three, was already with the leaders, lights ablaze, by turn three. By mid race he had assumed the lead but Farrelly- in the only SEAT still running after race 1 (Berry’s car incidently)- was picking them off, taking his time before uncorking a series of quick laps to bring himself onto Doran’s bumper.  Despite Doran’s best efforts, Farrelly was through and away for a double win, from Doran with Hayden completing the podium from fellow Integra drivers Drought, Savage and O’Connor all in close company. Doherty took production honours from Kalinecki this time with Gareth Jennings completing the podium.

Leo Nulty

Main Image: Chester.ie

Mondello.tv footage of the event:
http://www.mondello.tv/march-15th/