Motormouth’s Top Ten Race Drivers of 2015
As a former MI Young Driver of the Year and Formula Ford Festival winner, Murray’s pace is unquestioned. Controversy, though, has never been too far away in his short career. He joined the SEAT Supercup series late on this year and was extremely impressive on his way to the title. His car control was sublime and in wet conditions he did the double at the Leinster Trophy meeting, winning the second race from the back, by simply driving round the outside of anyone he came across. A class act.
2. Enda O’Connor.
O’Connor returned to Formula Sheane in 2013 after a few years absence and was immmediately on the pace. He beat the championship contenders on occasion in 2014, famously posting a picture on social media of the historic Holmpatrick Trophy tucked up in bed when he won at the Leinster Trophy meeting. This year, he drove superbly to wrap up the title. Perennial class pacesetters Brian Hearty and Kevin Sheane may have had lacklustre seasons by their lofty standards, but this does not take away from Enda- he was impressive all year long.
3. Kevin Doran.
Despite not being a familiar name to race fans, Doran took over the ex-Rob Butler Civic and drove like a seasoned pro in the ITCC. He became the darling of Mondello TV viewers as he took on the mighty SEAT Supercup machines, and wasn’t deterred when he came off worst on occasion. When the SEATs went their own way, much of the excitement of the David and Goliath battles went with them, and some issues in later races went against him- but he promises to be back and better in 2016- he won’t be easily beaten.
4. Peter Barrable
Peter Barrable is one of those drivers who, like brother Rob, can jump into pretty much anything and be right on the pace. In 2014, he comandeered uncle Barry’s Fiesta and took an outright win, and in 2015 he did a deal with Alan Kessie to compete in the new ASK Supercar Championship. Sean Doyle was the title favourite, and did most of the winning early on. Once Barrable had sorted a few issues with the car though, he was at the top of his game and he took the title with ease. His battle with Dave O’Brien for the win at the Leinster Trophy meeting was wonderful to watch, with both drivers on the absolute limit, their Hoosiers way past their best. Peter loves the Supercars and vows to be back in 2016 to defend his title.
5. Ray Moore.
Moore is now the yardstick we use to measure talent in Formula Vee. A proven winner and multiple champion, he is never easily beaten and once again in 2015, he fought off all comers to take the National title. Dan Polley and Kevin Grogan ran him close but neither managed to marry the same blend of speed and consistency. Fingers crossed he will be back to defend his title in 2016, as many of the young guns fancy their chances- it won’t be easy!
6. Grzegorz Kalinecki.
Kalinecki took an unusual route to the ITCC Touring/Production title. To promote his Sportchip.ie business, he built a SEAT Leon Cupra R and courtesy of a series of different engine maps, was pretty much dominant. The Hondas, in theory, should be cheaper to build, handle better and every bit as quick, but Grzegorz is not a fan of following the conventional route. The Sportchip team arrived at the Leinster Trophy with a new colour scheme and and even had BTCC style fan posters for spectators- a nice touch and one we could do with more of in the paddock. He moves up to the slick shod Super Touring class for 2016 and could be worth an outside bet for title honours.
7. Jordan Dempsey
The third generation of the Mullingar racing dynasty, Jordan was impressive in 2015 in a borrowed Ginetta. In 2016, armed with the ex Andy O’Brien machine, he was on it from day 1. The Ginetta Junior Ireland class has produced some wonderful drivers since its inception in Ireland- Niall Murray, Jake Byrne and Sean Doyle to name a few- and this shows no sign of abating as Jordan and closest rival James Roe both look like they will have successful careers ahead. Young Dempsey took the title and also made it to the final three for the MI Young Driver of the year. For 2016, he aims to compete in FF1600 in the UK.
8. Des Foley.
The former gamer and Nissan GT Academy runner up made his motor racing championship debut proper in 2015. Joining Paul Heavey’s works Leastone squad meant that there would be no questions about the machinery and the spotlight would be shining on him from the start. He didn’t disappoint and dominated the Star Of Tomorrow series. There was minimal opposition in that one but by mid season Foley was hassling the frontrunners in the A race and almost upset the applecart in Bishopscourt as he challenged for an outright win.
9. Steve Griffin.
Steve Griffin is known to the older generation in the paddock as the man who drove the famous “Smarties Mini” in Modified Saloon racing in the 70s. Steve was one of the first drivers in Ireland to receive commercial sponsorship and had to request special permission from the RIAC to run the logos on his car! Since then, and numerous race wins and titles later, he has been a mentor, mechanic and team owner for many tin top racers- with huge success unsurprisingly. In the last few years he has tuned and driven the famous Liam Plower owned Modsport Midget. He might walk slow and talk slow but once he sits into the car, as the rest of the HRCA grid can tell you, he is still devastatingly quick. Long may it continue….
10. Paul Dagg
Dagg has been competitive in many machines- Formula Vee, Formula Opel, Strykers and now BOSS/Libre. Yes, his F3 car is probably quicker than the rest, but it was immaculately prepared and well driven all year. He was never shaken by heroic performances from Cian Carey and others and was generally happy to sit back and bide his time before cruising on to another win. A worthy champion.
Eoghan Fogarty made the brave move of purchasing Holstein’s dominant BMW M3 to challenge for the ITCC title. By the end of the season he was ITCC Champion- job done. Nicole Drought impressed in her debut season, with a string of ITCC Production podiums. Steven Kirwan ran out as Fiesta Champion, which was reduced to the equivalent of a technical demolition derby in the scrutiny bay- but almost merited inclusion solely because of his hilarious post race descriptions of what had happened on track! Bernard Foley carried an underpowered Porsche 924 on his back while his mighty MG BGTV8 was being rebuilt- and somehow managed 3rd in the HRCA race/hillclimb championship. Jack Byrne did a tidy job in Junior Fiestas, but with only 2 cars on the grid, it’s hard to judge. Shane Rabbitt’s well driven flame spitting Mazda RX-7 was a favourite with the crowds and his first ITCC win was a popular one. Stephen Daly’s dominant performance as he defended his Leinster Trophy is worthy of mention, but FF1600 unfortunately only appeared twice at Mondello, with small grids on both occasions. Similarly, Jake Byrne dominated FF1600 in Kirkistown but for some reason the class is all but dead south of the border. Liam Ruth tends to many of the cars on the HRCA grid and is also on the organising committee of the Association. In 2015, he managed to win both the George Mangan Memorial Trophy and the Joe Flynn Trophy at the wheel of his immaculate self prepared MG Midget. Proof that nice guys win too sometimes!
Images from Michael Chester, Jennifer Tonin and Wesley Dempsey.