Bishopscourt, Abarths and ST Fiestas- Motormouth’s Mutterings.
So that’s Bishopscourt over and done with for another year. The opening rounds of the SEAT Supercup Ireland were as action packed as we have come to expect in the few Mondello appearances they have made so far. It would seem the others will have to pull their socks up if they are going to be able to do anything about the pace of former A1 GP driver Niall Quinn. Having won at Mondello, he qualified on pole and won race one with fastest lap in Bishopscourt. In race two, it was more of the same, after a bit of slap and tickle with Michael Cullen but his car, along with that of his closest challenger James Turkington, apparently failed the subsequent ride height test and was excluded from the race. As a result of that, Michael Cullen now leads the title chase- at least this is the way the land lies according to the series organisers. The Bishopscourt officials though, are at pains to point out that they did not receive a non conformance report from a scrutineer and the official results stand as per the finishing order. All seems a little bit messy. Cullen has been the subject of plenty of paddock banter since he made his controversial return to motor racing at the last Mondello round- having been involved in a number of incidents. One wonders though, if he is making a statement- something that many of have done in saloon car racing before. He certainly is not to be trifled with, although nobody told Barry English and I would imagine the atmosphere in the Murray Motorsport awning was tense after their fraught on track exchange at the April Mondello meeting. Cullen is a former multiple saloon car champion, having at one stage won three different championships in two different cars in one year and one thing is sure- he knows how to win.
Erik Holstein guested in the Baker Automotive Stryker class and after qualifying it looked as if he was going to upset the applecart as he split the favourites and qualified on the front row, alongside Alan Auerbach. there were problems with the car though and despite efforts to repair it on site, he politely described it as “a bit of a handful”. Erik being Erik though, he still brought it home fourth! Auerbach took the double- will this finally be the year someone beats Alan Watkins to the title? Mark Francis took NI Seven honours in the concurrently run race, from Trevor Allen and Mark Francis.
Eoghan Fogarty’s ex Holstein M3 took double ITCC honours from Kevin Doran in race one and Rob Savage in race two, whilst Grzegorz Kalinecki did the double in the Production class, his Sportchip.ie SEAT just holding off the hard charging Ian O’Driscoll second time round. Paul Monaghan took GT honours, just, from teammate Connaire Finn, with James Turkington heading the NI Saloons home in third overall. Cian Carey took Libre honours, his task made easier when Tim Buckley’s Dallara F3 machine was sidelined after making contact with the pitwall, sustaining extensive damage. Just two Formula Fords trailed him home in what was a poorly supported race. In race two, Sean Lillis took his debut Ford win, well ahead of just four elderly Fords with no other finishers. With no entries for the last proposed Mondello FF1600 race at the April meeting, you have to wonder what has happened to the class in Ireland.
David Parks returned to the Formula Sheane winners circle in race one, just beating Enda O’Connor to the line, with former saloon racer Richard Kearney in third. Keith Hogg took the honours in race two, from Parks and Kevin Sheane, these results opening the championship right up!
Peter Barrable took the first Fiesta race with Barry Rabbitt taking the second, despite starting from the back, but again, the small grid was disappointing. Clive Brandon took the pair of HRCA races in his Lotus 47 replica, once he had displaced the fast starting 911 of Paul Gray, with the sideways Sebring Sprite of Will Corry completing the podium in race one and Wolfgang Schnittger’s Midget doing the same in race two.
Formula Vee racing has been close but competitive thus far in 2015 and Bishopscourt was no different. Kevin Grogan started from pole and won race one. right with him though, and even challenging for the lead on the final tour was impressive novice Des Foley. Ray Moore had led with Kevin O’Hara, returning to the class to test his modified Leastone for sister Annette, all over him. Tactics were involved and eventually they clashed. Whatever the ins and outs of it, Moore’s championship campaign will have taken a battering as a result- one would think he would have just handed it over to an unregistered driver- that’s easy for me to say though! O’Hara was out on the spot, but didn’t seem to pushed, while Moore, who came home seventh, was not a happy bunny. He made amends though by taking the win in race two, from Adam Macaulay and Dan Polley, who had also completed the podium in the first race and now leads the series from Grogan and Moore.
Hard to believe we are already at the halfway point of many of the championships already!
As you may have read on this site yesterday, there’s a movement to bring in a second Fiesta class for 2016, based on the later ST 2 litre model. It is just a concept at the moment but the intention is to run the regs similar to the UK series for the same cars. Road versions of the cars are available in the UK from GBP2000 and the aim is to have the cars costing somewhere in the region of €8,000 on the track. (Personally, I would like to see them go with one engine builder and have the engines sealed, as the amount of fiddling with the current Fiestas has been little short of ridiculous.) When the original Fiestas were introduced in 2013, the intention had been to eventually bring in a faster, newer Fiesta class to sit just above it and give the drivers something to graduate to- so it might just work. There also seems to be a move to bring back the Punto Abarths- with a new Facebook page having been set up in the last week and a meeting organised already. Let’s not forget how that one ended last time round though! It is always great to see more cars and drivers coming out, but they might be better running as a sub class of the ITCC initially, unless they can get the numbers into mid teens from the off, which is a big ask. The announcement of both has caused lot of debate on social media, with some people involved in existing classes predictably being against the idea. In fairness though, the last thing Irish Motorsport needs at the minute is another half full grid.
Until the next time,
Images from Chester.ie