Traditionally, the October Mondello meeting has been a small non championship event, with mechanics often having a go, and a ladies race often part of the action too.
That changed a little this year when Mondello Park decided that the Procraft Tools Zetec Fiestas and the Patch Tyre Equipment Fiesta series’, both of which they run, would include this meeting as part of their championship calendar. Happily, the Micksgarage.com Future Classics and the revitalised Irish Legends did likewise, and with all of the championships bar one undecided, it added plenty of excitement to what otherwise would have been a low key meeting.
Having sealed the Zetec title a the Leinster Trophy meeting a few weeks previously, Phil Lawless elected to sit this one out and after qualifying, with a few of the usual frontrunners absent, it was Mark O’Donoghue on pole for the opener. In race one, he won as he pleased,with Mark Johnston matching him for lap times late on but unable to close the gap. Most of the attention in this one centred on Sean Woods’ recovery drive having been punted off at turn one on the opening lap. Emerging from the gravel trap stone last, the SWR team boss crossed the line seventh, the fact that the car was unmarked almost as impressive as the recovery itself. Former Veester Andy Kavanagh qualified on the front row and showed plenty of new found pace as he completed the podium in third whilst Colin Lewis was delighted with fourth, having come from tenth on the grid! In race two, O’Donoghue was once again unchallenged, whilst Kavanagh fended off the attentions of Woods for the duration, the pair completing the podium. Johnston fell back with gear selection problems but recovered to fourth ahead of Eamonn Yamamoto and Colin Lewis.
The Patch Tyre Equipment Fiesta ST championship has been a great addition to motor racing since its inception at the beginning of the year. Happily, the wins have been shared for most of the year and with the title very much still in the balance, four drivers arrived at Mondello with a chance of leaving as the classes inaugural champion. Brendan “Gas Monkey” Fitzgerald may not have been in the title chase, but rocked the contenders with a laptime of 1:06.059, the sub record lap assuring the Lucan Doors and Windows machine of the coveted pole positition. Dave Maguire’s Murray Motorsport machine joined Fitzgerald on the front row, just a few tenths back, whilst his rivals Sean Lillis, Kevin Doran and Ulick Burke lined up fourth sixth and seventh respectively. Maguire assumed the lead early on and made no mistakes to hold on for an impressive win, whilst Burke’s Tyre Brigade machine charged up to take a superb second and keep the title battle alive until the final race. Fitzgerald completed the podium with Lillis next up, having been unmercifully bundled off at turn two on the opening lap. In race two, Fitzgerald hit the front early on and this time stayed there, despite plenty of pressure from the determined Maguire. Burke, on another charge, closed down these two but with the title at stake, a move round the outside of Maguire unsurprisingly sent him grasscutting at turn one. The top three had eked out a gap to the rest but this was to be negated by a safety period and that almost caused havoc. Lillis was meanwhile embroiled in a physical battle with Mark Turley and John Denning, whilst Hugh Grennan, also a team mate of Maguire’s, sent Burke wide on a number of occasions over the final laps. None of this detracts from a superb day for Maguire, who could have done it all on his own anyway and adds to the Dublin based team’s impressive list of championship wins.
The Irish Legend series took a major step up in 2016, with plenty of new cars and drivers and some UK based drivers joining in the fun too, on occasion. Niki Meredith , Paul O’Brien and James Holman had taken the majority of the victories and with Meredith having dropped a few rounds, it was between O’Brien and Holman for the title. Holman took first blood in race one with O’Brien closing him down but not quite close enough to challenge in the closing stages. Meredith retired whilst Ian Conroy was best of the rest in third. In race two, O’Brien grabbed the lead with a cracking start but Holman closed him down and there was nothing to separate them at the line, the official result giving it to O’Brien by just seven hundredths of a second, with Meredith this time a distant third. Race three was the title decider and aptly enough the contenders once again slugged it out at the sharp end. Holman once again chased down O’Brien but Paul responded and had enough in hand to maintain a gap to the flag and become the 2016 Irish Legend Champion!
All images from Michael Chester