Rod McGovern has moved to the top of the standings in the SEAT Supercup Ireland after a successful trip to the Bishopscourt Racing Circuit in Co. Down on Sunday (8th May). Managing only a 4th and 6th at the season opener in Mondello in April, the MM Motorsport driver would more than double his points haul with a post race victory in Round 3. Starting from 3rd on the grid, his Medical Banks backed Leon would finish 2nd on the road behind Eoin Murray, but the former SEAT Eurocup front runner was handed a 15-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. Dropping Murray back to 2nd, pole sitter Rob Butler would complete the Round 3 podium. In Race 2, a reverse grid would put McGovern at the back from where he would work his way up to fourth after a great battle with Barry English for the final podium placing. Up front the winner would again be defined by a track limits penalty with Erik Holstein first on the road ahead of Murray however with 5-seconds added to his time the Top 2 order would be reversed with Murray registering the win.
Coming away from the championship’s only visit to the high speed Bishopscourt track with a 2-point lead in the standings over Holstein, McGovern said, ‘I’m delighted the car is home in one piece and that we collected a lot of championship points’. Originally describing the day’s first encounter as ‘a great race’ when he finished 4.5-seconds behind Murray he would have even greater reason to celebrate when he was promoted to his second ever SEAT win when Murray’s time penalty was added. Finishing Race 2 on the rear bumper of English, the Dubliner declared it an ‘enjoyable battle’. Catching English, who started the fourth round from third on the grid, McGovern said ‘Barry held a good line and I waited for him to make a mistake but he didn’t and we ended up finishing nose to tail’. He added, ‘I was also conscious of keeping within track limits’.
Winner of Race 2, Murray was another to really enjoy the racing on what was his debut in the Irish SEAT Leon Supercopa based championship. Taking over the Fish Graphics backed Leon which his younger brother Niall used to dominate the season opener, he declared, ‘the cars are brilliant’. He continued, ‘Every time I drove it today I remembered more and more how good they are’ and his first time to race at Bishopscourt he added, ‘the track is really nice in these cars’. Winning Race 1 on the road, it was Race 2 that the Dublin driver enjoyed most. Battling with team-mate Holstein he said ‘I really enjoyed racing on the limit wheel to wheel with Erik. It was a good fight but then he cracked’. The Murray Motorsport team boss would allow Holstein to pass him again, saying ‘it didn’t make sense to take points’ from their lead driver however a 5-second penalty for Holstein would leave him to win by 4.66-seconds.
For a driver who looked like his day had come to a premature end following a huge off in qualifying, it was just short of a miracle that Holstein got to race. Opting for the same wet rear front slick tyre combination as Murray for qualifying on a wet but slowly drying track, the former Irish Touring Car Champion would put a wheel on the wet grass resulting in a massive impact with the tyre wall. A huge effort by reigning SEAT Supercup champions Murray Motorsport would however see the Kildare driver being strapped into the Naas Court Hotel backed Leon with just seconds to go to the start of Race 1. Cheered on from the pitlane by everyone who helped with and others who just watched the rebuild, his rather secondhand looking car showed no signs of having lost performance with him challenging for a podium finish. Unfortunately with 3-laps to go having just passed team-mate Butler for 3rd, a broken camber plate would force Holstein to slow dropping him to 6th by the chequered flag. With a reversed grid for Race 2, Holstein would started from pole and lead most of the race from Murray but like his team boss in the first race, he would fall foul of track limits.
Describing the day as ‘roller coaster ride’, commenting on his qualifying crash he said, ‘I thought the day was over’ joking ‘I went that far off I almost had to pay to get back in’. He continued, ‘Murray Motorsport and Dave O’Brien did an amazing job in getting the car back together and I’m happy with 2nd as at least we got some good points’. With a new sponsor coming onboard for the next round, which takes place on the international circuit at Mondello Park on June 12, looking at his battered car he said, ‘we were going to have to get the bodywork redone anyway’.
Getting his day off to the perfect start by taking the Yokohama Pole Award ahead of the vastly experienced Murray, Butler declared himself ‘happy with (the) podium in Race 1’. Only his second start in a Supercopa, the 24-year-old said he made a ‘horrendous start’. Dropping to fifth off the line he would take the outside line at turn 1 to move back to second behind Murray. Chasing the former SEAT Ireland brand ambassador he admitted to making ‘some mistakes’ that dropped him back adding he ‘just need(s) more testing before the next race’. Getting passed by McGovern and briefly by Holstein he would finish 3rd but such was his advantage over 4th placed English a similar penalty to Murray meant the rookie didn’t loose his second podium finish of the season. In Race 2 he was battling with Holstein for the lead but right on the rear diffuser of the No.17 car, the Navan driver ‘lost the aero pack and ran wide’ picking up grass that soon caused the car to get hot and switch to limp mode. Pulling in to remove the grass from the front of the car he would rejoin the race with the aim of trying to secure the bonus point for the fastest lap. Posting his best lap on the last lap it would be 0.119 too slow as Murray claimed his second bonus point of the day having also set the fastest lap of Race 1.
Claiming his first podium finish of the season, on exiting his Winthrop backed Leon after Race 2 English said, ‘I really enjoyed that’. Summing up the event as ‘a tough morning but a nice afternoon’, he added, ‘the last 3-laps holding off Rod was tough going. I was delighted to see the chequered flag’. A new addition to the SEAT Supercup grid at Bishopscourt, Stephen Maher would make a blistering start to Race 1 making up a number of places in the early part of the opening lap but as he put it himself ‘(he) ran out of talent’ resulting in his yellow Leon making contact with the barriers with him opting to sit out of Race 2.