It is all excitement in motor racing circles this week as we approach the second race meeting of the season. Many of the championships have not yet raced and will kick off their campaigns this Sunday at Mondello Park.
The SEAT Supercup Ireland regulars have been joined, as you will have read on this site by Erik Holstein. Erik has won in every class he has competed in and I would be surprised if this record is broken by the end of the season. It won’t be easy however, as 2015 Champion Niall Murray takes a break from his FF1600 campaign to return to the tin tops for one meeting. Rob Butler has also signed up with Murray Motorsport for the weekend. Having gone well in a Civic in ITCC a few times and with huge karting experience, he should be well able to pedal a SEAT – but with two team mates like Holstein and Murray, there won’t be any rocks to hide under. Rod McGovern will be keen to claim the title this year and won’t be far away from the front in the MM Motorsport car. Niall Quinn set the early pace last year before a shunt ruled him out of title contention- the former A1 GP driver will also be keen to reassert his authority, recently citing the fact that he has had more time to prepare this year. Barry English progressed well last year and was apparently a few tenths ahead of both Murray and Holstein on Wednesday- so definitely one to watch. As Michael Cullen found out last year, reputations do not faze English! The entries are completed by John Farrelly, Brian Berry and David Kidd- all three have won saloon car races and the first two, running with SWR, were on the pace last year. Add to this the fact that the second race is reverse grid and you have the ingredients for some incredibly exciting action- I can’t wait!
The Tool Dynamics Supercar Championship also kicks off this weekend with some new drivers joining the series to add to those who competed in the successful relaunch of the former RT2000 cars in 2015. Champion Peter Barrable is back to defend his title and, having developed his setup for the first part of the season last time round, should be quick straight out of the blocks this time. Former rallycrosser Graeme Colfer also signs up for the season and having beaten all the Supercars in a T-Car last time he raced, will be confident of success with a few more bhp and a sequential box onboard this time round. Team (and championship) boss Alan Kessie finally puts down the tools and gets the race suit back on- a multiple winner, he will be keen to gain bragging rights by beating his customers. Bob Cameron is back as is John Cardoo, who progressed superbly last year on his change to RWD, having previously campaigned an historic Mini. Alan Dawson, who ran at the front in the heyday of this class, also appears on the entry list. Sean Woods has almost completed a ground up rebuild of Dawson’s old car, but this weekend he will pilot one of the ASK Racing machines. Andy O’Brien also steps up- a former Ginetta Junior Champion and sometime FF1600 driver, his talent is unquestioned and he should be able to challenge the frontrunners. Former Fiat tin topper Dan Rooney makes his first appearance in a while this weekend too- and takes a massive step up in terms of horsepower too. He comes from good stock though and, as they say in horse racing circles, could be a good outside bet. Watch out for a big announcement of the prize for the championship winner over the weekend too!
The eagerly awaited Patch Tyre Equipment Fiesta ST Championship finally rolls into town on Sunday too. There had been talk of filling grids and in excess of 30 cars, but as of today 17 appear on the entry list. Still not bad for a brand new class. Having seen some of the cars testing, they look fantastic and sound far more like a racing car than their little Zetec brothers. Let’s just hope we don’t see the blatant cheating which tainted the success of the Zetec series. Barry Barrable was very much behind the introduction of this class and he has built and entered a car. Other tin top stars from days gone by are Mark Turley, Dave Maguire and Michael Fitzgerald. Fiesta Zetec front runners John Denning and Ulick Burke also move up whilst Mondello TV ITCC hero Kevin Doran also lines up- and should be be right there too.
Mick’s Garage Future Classics once again pack the grids for this one. Hard to pick a favourite as tactics are as important as pace in this class. Timothy Duggan’s SEAT has the legs of them all in a straightline but the Puntos are more nimble and even David Hammond’s well driven 1300cc Uno runs right at the front. Others such as the ex everybody (myself included) MG Maestro and the Castrol liveried Celica add hugely to the colourful grid of cars that, were it not for this class, would have nowhere else to race. Watch out too for young William Kellett who has converted his 1.0 Junior Rallycross Micra to a twin cam 1300 and Adrian Dunne, who showed well on his debut last time out in his beautifully prepared Saxo.
The HRCA class returns to Mondello tarmac too and the entry list suggests that we won’t be short on entertainment. Jackie Cochrane brings back his rumbling Tiger ( I know I always say this but in 2001, this car was an incredible 9mph faster than the quickest BTCC competitor through the start/finish speed trap!) David Kelly’s Crossle 9S should have the legs of the Tiger on the Mondello national track but nothing is guaranteed. Should either of them slip up, living legend Stevie Griffin won’t need a written invitation to add to his impressive record of Mondello wins but first he will have to fight off Bernard Foley, who finally has his MGBGTV8 back. A year of cruising round in a near standard Porsche 924 should have the former champion chomping at the bit- and outright win would not be beyond the realms of possibility. Val Thompson also returns in the ABR run TMC Costin. Having benefited from some coaching from Jake Byrne last year, he took an impressive win and will be keen to add to it. In their wake, a horde of MGBs, Sprites and Midgets battle for the Joe Flynn Trophy.
BOSS is back too and the entry list, although not massive, boasts plenty of potential winners. Jonathan Fildes wheels out his glorious Ralt RT4 and should probably be the pace of the class, despite the car being well over 35 years old. Should he have new rubber and get to the front, don’t be surprised if he goes lap record chasing- it wouldn’t be the first time and is impressive to watch. Birthday boy Cian Carey has reliveried his latest generation Formula Renault and tested well today. He will no doubt be harassed by the older models of Barry Rabbitt, Martin Daly, Fergus Faherty and recent Kirkistown FF1600 winner Noel Robinson. Colm Hynes and Peter Dywer both have entered F3000 machines, but on the Mondello National circuit, they will have to work hard to fight of the more modern Renaults.
No sign of reigning champion Enda O’Connor on the Formula Sheane entry list so expect multiple champion Brian Hearty and Kevin Sheane to slug it out up front. Richard Kearney and Robbie Allen will be hoping to get to the front too and former pacesetter Dave Parks is also one to keep an eye on.
The newly named Irish Sports Cars (formerly Stryker) class seems to be low on entries for their opening round with entries in single numbers thus far. Alan Watkins and Des Bruton should be the ones to watch, unless Dave Griffin throws a late entry in. These cars are proper quick and great fun to drive, they are cheap to run and can be bought for handy money too- a good option for those looking to get into the sport.
Ginetta Junior Ireland looks pretty much wide open with Jordan Dempsey and James Roe having graduated to FF1600. A host of challengers line up to fill their shoes though and the class have just announced Dennings Cars as title sponsor for 2016. Darragh Denning has done a last minute deal with Morgan Dempsey’s MCP team while familiar names from last year include Cameron Fenton, Samuel and Wiliam Harron and Morgan Quinn and all should be capable of challenging for wins. Newbies include Chris Grimes, son of Rallycross and Autotest expert of the same name, and Robbie Parks Junior, the latest member of the county Clare dynasty to take to the Mondello tarmac!
All in all it looks like an excellent days entertainment. Pop down to Mondello to watch or log on to http://www.mondello.tv where Matt Feeney and I will be bringing you all the action live, all day!
As ever, you can Tweet us in the tower all day- @topofthetower