Since my last blog on my season, I’ve only managed to compete in one race since April due to date clashes with the dad’s races in the U.K. Fiesta Series and that race didn’t really go to plan after a poor qualifying left me back in the mid pack and was I unable to make any relevant progress.
The month’s gap to last weekends Round 6 and 7 of the series gave us a chance to further develop the little Micra and make some more setup tweaks which I was able to successfully test on the Saturday and I was well over 7 tenths quicker than my previous best in the car.
I had a plan for Qualifying all worked out and of course the one thing Ireland is famous for threw a spanner in the works- the weather! Rain was pretty visible and it became necessary to pretty much do your two quick laps right at the start. We only got about 3 laps in before a red flag was shown and the session stopped for a broken down car. When I pulled in, I was told I was P4 for the first race but my second fastest time was nowhere near good enough. I thought to myself “Grand- no problem, just one more lap needed.” But that fell apart as when we were released Mondello had taken a leaf out of Spa Francorchamps’ book and when we hit turn 3 it was still soaking wet! I came in at full pelt, locked up and parked in the gravel! Somehow, I managed to reverse the car out but the rain came down and ended the session in terms of lap times. I stayed out to get used to the new brakes on the car in the wet and they liked to lock up the second I thought about braking. About two laps later, I locked up into turn one and there was no stopping her from ploughing into the gravel and bringing an end to my session.
After pulling the car out I learned I was 4th for race one and 9th for race two and we began to remove the contents of two gravel traps out of the car (I really hope Mondello don’t send me a bill to replace all the gravel I took with me!).
Lining up 4th for race one, I got the car off to a decent start and jumped Aidan Byrne in the Chevette on the run to turn one but in the braking zone I received a hefty shove from Tommy Byrne in the Celica which pushed me back to 4th. I’d regained 3rd place two corners later when Ian Thornton spun off at turn 3. At the end of lap one I was still 3rd but Dave Hammond in his UNO pulled off a great move round the outside of me at turn one and put me back to 4th. The two of us set off to reel in Tommy Byrne and race leader Timmy Duggan but there was no need to rush as they both collided at the Esses removing Duggan from the lead. Tommy then led from Dave myself, Aidan Byrne and Ken Byrne in another Celica. For a 16 year old novice to circuit racing trust me you learn fairly quick about defending and racecraft when your battling with these lads!
After a few laps defending from Aidan I managed to get a lucky break and catch back up to Dave who was all over Tommy for the lead. I had a few stabs at overtaking Dave but he always just covered the gaps in time. Suddenly the red flag came out and that was it over. When I seen that they were directing us into parc ferme and not back to the grid I realised I had finished third and started to celebrate but stopped when I realised I didn’t know whether I broke the barrier time in my efforts to catch Dave. Luckily I hadn’t and I kept my 3rd place which I was really happy about.
I knew a decent result in race two would be near impossible because I had to start 9th and I was aiming to score some half decent points to back up race 1. The Micra had another lightning start but this time it put me right into the trouble and I got boxed in on the inside and dumped back a few places. After getting through some of the traffic I was behind Aidan and Tommy Byrne and I had the very experienced Brendan Travers right on my bootlid. These lads don’t come out for Sunday drives and I always had to keep an eye out front and an eye on the mirror at all times. Halfway through the race I got up from 9th to 6th thanks to in the space of one lap Ian Thornton taking a trip through the gravel at Southside, Richie Kearney retiring from 3rd with a loss of drive and Ken Byrne having a fairly spectacular blowup on the exit off the esses. After that lap I spent the rest of the race glued to the back bumper of the Chevette but Aidan never left a gap big enough for me to get into and on the run up to the final corner on the last lap he dived past Tommy and I went with him but the Celica had far more poke in a straight line and won the drag race to the line. That, I thought, was that but then the only major rule in Future Classics had probably its most drastic effect on the race. Unknown to me the top 7 cars, except me, had broke the time of 1.09.000 which gave me the win! I pulled into parc ferme to be told this and I just didn’t believe it was true. Suddenly the emotion of it hit and I was pretty much overcome by it and the camera footage sums it up perfectly.
This year was only supposed to be a learning year for me and a testing year for the car.
It took only 4 races to hit the podium and race number 5 gave us a win. For a 16 year old rookie racing drivers who have more years racing than I’ve been alive its easily my biggest achievement so far.
None of that would have happened without the help of my sponsors Dunshaughlin Motor Company, JH Autobody, Mr Gearbox Mr Clutch and my family especially my dad who has turned what was a 1.0 Junior rallycross car into a 1300cc giant killer.
I’m now also the third generation of Kellett to win at Mondello after my dad Alastair and my great uncle Gordon. Not many families in Ireland have that stat to there name and I’m very proud to add to that.
Heading into the Leinster Trophy in September I will be pushing to add to the massive haul of points picked up in the last two races to move as far up the championship as possible .
Thanks for reading
Image from Michael Chester