Time for the second Mondello race meeting of the season this weekend and it looks like it is going to be a good one! The Micksgarage ITCC make their second visit of the year to the Kildare venue and although we will be missing a few of the SEAT Supercup machines- still in the bodyshop no doubt after they drove into each other last time out, we will have some SEAT debutants amongst the entries. Irish Saloon car legend Michael Cullen
makes a popular return to the track at the wheel of the Murray Motorsport run Super-Valu Killester backed machine and it would be a major surprise if he does not run at the sharp end, despite the lack of recent mileage. Former Motorsport Ireland Sexton Young Driver of the year Niall Quinn also comes out of retirement in the ex Brian Fitzpatrick machine. He has limited fwd experience but as I have always maintained, if you can drive, you can drive! Fiesta graduate Barry English also makes his debut in the Spanish machines, having pulled out of the first meeting due to a family bereavement. At the time of writing there is no sign of with Steven Maher or Eoghan Fogarty in their M3s on the list but crowd favourite Kevin Doran is out in his indecently quick Civic and he will surely make the SEATs work for the win, especially in the early laps. Grzegorz Kalinecki will be hoping to take another Production class win in his Sportchip.ie SEAT but will have to overcome opposition from Anthony Murtagh’s Corrado, Robert Doherty’s Civic and Stephen Dunne’s unusual Corolla. Nicole Drought was quick in qualifying in round one but had troubles in the races, but if she maintains the same pace, they might all have to keep one eye on the mirrors!
Formula Vee is back after their recent trip North recently and Kevin Grogan will be confident of winning having pipped Adam Macaulay after a fantastic scrap. Ray Moore had been right in the thick of it too before he retired with a broken rocker. Des Foley, fresh from filming duties with Murphy Prototypes at Silverstone, will be hoping to take the Finol Star of Tomorrow honours, but probably has his sights set on some of the A runners too as he gets used to the works Leastone chassis. David Kelly rejoined the class this year after a sabbatical and has lost none of his pace, expect to see him near the front. Jimmy Furlong will also be in the thick of it in his Newsome Sheane and Colm Blackburn will be worth watching in his works run Leastone too.
The Baker Automotive Strykers have been putting a push on lately for new drivers and to this end, John Burke
& co have put a guest drive car together. With the car literally just finished, Mondello Park’s Ian Beatty will join the zetec engined sportscars on Sunday. Ian has raced Fiestas and rallycrossed a 205 GTI previously but the rear wheel drive sportscar is a very different proposition so it will be interesting to see how he goes! Alan Watkins has dominated this class for the last number of years and as I have written many time, both Alan Auerbach and Dave Griffin have outpaced him on occasion, neither have managed to add the vital element, that of consistancy. Will 2015 be their year or will it be title number 7 for Watkins? Watch out too for Mark Baker, who not only sponsors the series, through his Baker Automotive business, but races too and visited the podium on occasion last year- he could spring a surprise!
The Blackchurch Fiestas are back and numbers are significantly up on the slightly disappointing March grid. Looking at a picture of the pack coming into turn one at the last meeting, it would seem the scrutineers can’t rest just yet as there appeared to be wide track cars and others with significant amounts of camber on the front wheels. Mind you, the mind plays tricks and they were far away, maybe they are all fine! Regardless, we will no doubt be treated to some good racing up front as John Denning, Barry Rabbitt, Stephen Kirwan and Barry Barrable all battle for honours. 2014 race winner Collie Barrable also rejoins the class and should be near the sharp end. Watch out too for local boys Phil Lawless and Shane Roe, who could upset the form book too!
The HRCA class are back on Sunday too and with no sign of Jackie Cochrane’s Tiger on the entry list it should be a Sunday drive for Bernard Foley in his rumbling MGB GT V8. No doubt living legend Steve Griffin has been tweaking and tuning the Plower Modsport Midget as only he can since the last round and it will be interesting if he can get closer to Foley this time. The final podium spot, however, should be wide open with Clive Brandon’s Lotus 47, Paul Gray’s 911 and Ed Cassidy’s Tiger all potentials. In their wake, a horde of steel bodied Midgets battle for honours in the Joe Flynn Trophy section- Wolfgang Schnittger, Liam Ruth and Ken McEvoy take on the MGB of Noel Kavanagh.
Future Classics are back out to play this weekend too and Sophie Byrne will be hoping to make amends for the opening round, where she eventually displaced Robbie Parks’ Castrol Celica, only to break the dreaded barrier time and earn herself a penalty which dropped her down the order. Timothy Duggan’s rally SEAT Cupra was another to break the barrier, in qualifying this time, but he charged up through the pack to join the leaders towards the end of the race. David Hammond is back on the grid in his Fiat Uno and should be back on the pace we saw from him in 2014, whilst Brendan Travers and Aidan Byrne, both Punto mounted, won’t be too far away either.
Formula Sheane is back too with backing from Autocare and once again, the evergreen Brian Hearty will be favourite for the title. Running number 1, a legacy of yet another title he took last year, the man who has won more races at Mondello than anyone will not be handing it over without a fight! Richard Kearney got closer to the front towards the end of 2014, having purchased the ex Barry Rabbitt Leinster Trophy winning car, and he should be capable of challenging for wins this year. David Parks is also on the entry list and if he gets the right equipment under him should be worth watching. Enda O’Connor and Keith Hogg are also proven frontrunners and former champion Kevin Sheane should make an appearance too. Watch out too for former Autotester and Fiesta racer Daniel Clarkin who makes his single seater debut on Sunday in one of the 160bhp machines.
Global GT Lights make a return to Mondello Park for this one with champion Paul Fitzpatrick keen to defend his hard won 2014 title. He won’t have it too easy though as Bernie Braden, Max Drennan and a few others will fancy their chances too. Pat Murphy and Mark Twomey both dust off their cars and racesuits, having been missing from the grids for a while and former Fiesta racer Conor Farrell makes his class debut too.
Tim Buckley should have the pace of the rest in BOSS Libre. Should he struggle to get Paul Dagg’s F3 Dallara off the line though, expect the Formula Renaults of Noel Roddy, Noel Robinson, Fergus Faherty and class returnee Martin Daly to show no mercy though! Stanley Watson, John Daly Peter Dwyer and Colm Hynes all bring out F3000 type machines to challenge for the bigger class but around Mondello’s 2k National circuit, will be doing well to bring the battle to the more nimble F3 and Renaults.
If you can’t make it down to Mondello tomorrow, fear not, it is all being shown live on www.mondello.tv with myself and Matt Feeney keeping you updated on all the action!
Main image from SEAT Supercup Ireland.