Motormouth’s Mutterings- A New Beginning For Irish Rallycross?

On Sunday last at Mondello, there was a definite buzz in the air at the opening round of the partsforcars.ie Irish Rallycross Championship. The fact that the circuit was to run left hand in for the first time, was the biggest change of course, but it was also symbolic of a raft of other changes brought about by a liason between the championship organisers and Mondello Park management.  Mondello have never been shy in running their own race meetings- sometimes staffing the events almost entirely themselves. Not much more than a year ago, Rallycross was in big trouble- struggling to get 30 entries to make a meeting viable. Indeed a meeting or two did actually get the axe for this very reason. When that happens, it is very hard to recover- especially as the mindset of many casual competitors is that if the grids are full, they will then come out to race- proper chicken and egg stuff!

Mondello offered to take on the running of all the events, including the ones in Tynagh- which took much of the paperwork/entries etc away from the IRX crew. This worked smoothly immediately but for 2017, the partnership went one step further. Applying for a Motorsport Ireland permit for a Rallycross event, formerly solely the territory of the Kildare and Carlow clubs, was a big step, but obviously one that they felt was required.  Mondello then receive approval to run the circuit anticlockwise and both parties did a great job with the pre event promotion. Entries were not up as much as one would have expected with the hype evident in the weeks coming up to the event, but they were definitely up- as, crucially, were the spectator numbers. Entertain them, and they will come back is the usual motto for sporting events. Entertain them they certainly did- with none of the usual delays that we have come to expect from Rallycross event at the Kildare venue.

The concept of running two semi finals and a final for most of the classes was a popular one and certainly added to the entertainment as the finals approached.

Newcomer Sean Hession dominated proceedings in the Fiesta Zetec class- remaining unbeaten all day en route to his final win. Relative novice Denis McCrudden closed the gap as the day progressed though and kept Hession honest in the final, finishing just a second adrift. Hession’s performance was even more impressive as he was driving one of Phil Lawless’ well used rental cars (just €350 for the day!) and hopefully he will now stay on for the full series.

Newbie Hession dominated in Fiestas and was unbeaten all day. Image from James Foley

Newbie Hession dominated in Fiestas and was unbeaten all day.
Image from James Foley

Stockhatch, both 8v and 16v are now a thing of the past, both having been swallowed up by the new for 2017 Production Class, allowing cars of up to 2.0 to run. That said, the entire entry consisted of 106/Saxo 16v variants and the trusty 205 8v machines. The 16v machines are usually well clear of the older 8v cars but nobody told Damien Farrell and he went on a giant killing spree, even managing a heat win en route to an impressive third in the class final. Local man Ciaran Murphy is reigning (and double) 8v champion and he debuted a newly built 16v 106- carrying on where he left off last year with a strong win in the final. Keith Kershaawe, having finally given up the unequal struggle of battling his Citroen C2 against all the 106s, flew in the ex John Ward Uk title winning 106, and was right with Murphy at the flag!

A dab of opposite lock for Production winner Ciaran Murphy. Image from James Foley.

A dab of opposite lock for Production winner Ciaran Murphy.
Image from James Foley.

Jyles Harding took the Junior win on his Rallycross debuting, but Ben Mullins made him work for it all day, the duo splitting the heat wins earlier. Of particular interest in this one was the Wexford Motor club Youth Academy entry. It has long been established that to win in Junior Rallycross you need a Micra (a Jap import spec one to be precise) or possibly a Starlet. As a result the 106s, Swifts etc have gradually disappeared. It was no surprise therefore to see Eoin Kinsella in the beautifully prepared 106 dropping back from the trio of Micras in the early heats. What we didn’t expect, however, was for him to gradually close the gap and even get amongst them by the end of the day. Indeed he was in line for a podium before an indiscretion dropped him back in the final. With a busload of fellow Youth Academy members up from Wexford to learn about the sport and support their car, it certainly added to the paddock on the day. Hats off to the Wexford Motor Club and well done to Mobil 1, Partsforcars and Mondello Park for supporting the initiative.

Junior winner Harding catches some air at the final corner. Image from James Foley

Junior winner Harding catches some air at the final corner.
Image from James Foley

Padraig Leeson took the modified semi final 1, whilst Tommy Graham and Willie Coyne thrashed it out in what was probably the race of the day for the the second one. This set us up for a cracker of a final and Graham it was who assumed the lead. When the joker laps were done, his spectacularly driven Zakspeed style Escort was still ahead of the two screaming Novas, just, when for the second time of the day, he appeared to lock up at the end of Rallycross three and handed the places away. Willie Coyne didn’t need to be asked twice and took a strong win from Leeson with the recovering “T Bone Tommy” right on his back bumper.

Tommy Graham cocks a wheel during his epic Modified class battle with Willie Coyne Image from James Foley

Tommy Graham cocks a wheel during his epic Modified class battle with Willie Coyne
Image from James Foley

Martin McAteer was the man all day long in the Buggy class, regardless of grid position, but Padraic McHale kept his powder dry until the final, assuming the lead early on and holding McAteer at arms length for the duration. Peter McGarry was a hugely impressive third on his buggy debut, having only purchased the machine the previous week when it became apparent his modified Vauxhall VX220 would not be ready in time! John Ward debuted his Rage Buggy, which looked like a real handful early on, and he admitted he hadn’t a clue on setup. Some lunchtime tweeks, however, were enough to put him right amongst the Semog machines and he finished the final in fourth, happy to have made some initial progress with his partsforcars machine.

Danny Calnan’s beautiful Nova had the legs of all the other Rally cars all day and he predictably eased away from the hordes of 16v 205s to take a strong victory in the final.

Derek Tohill had his RWD European Championship winning Fiesta ready for Sunday but when there was a chance his new engine for the supercar could arrive in time, his crew went to work, as only they can. Somehow the engine was landed in Ireland, fitted to the car and it was fired up on Saturday, relegating the 2wd machine to the sidelines. From then on, there was only going to be one Supercar winner, with the Superfinal also going the way of the partforcars,ie man, who described the day as a good test session afterwards. Noel Greene and his AMF team continue to make progress with the beautiful Mitsubishi Mirage but understandably they are still a distance from the pace of a front running European Rallycross supercar. Tohill, predictably came out with the quote of the weekend too. When asked about the high speed nature of the new layout he said “Yeah, it needs respect but we aren’t playing Tiddly Winks here- this is Rallycross!”

Tohill and Greene blast their Supercars away from the new startline in front of the grandstand. Image from James Foley

Tohill and Greene blast their Supercars away from the new startline in front of the grandstand.
Image from James Foley

At the prizegiving afterwards, many competitors were delighted with the new layout and even more so with the new realms of officialdom, and perhaps it was no surprise that there were fewer “battles” in race control either. There were a few in scrutiny of course, but that, unfortunately, is par for the course. Unless perhaps, Mondello management have that on their list too. Who knows……

SUPER FINAL:
1 Derek Tohill (Ford Fiesta Mk 7) 3m 59.34s,
2 Noel Greene (Mitsubishi Mirage) 4m 17.77s,
3 Willie Coyne (Opel Corsa) 4m 21.86s,
4 Tommy Graham (Ford Escort) 4m 27.79s,
5 Lloyd Spendlove (Lotus Exige) 4m 30.34s,
6 Brian Grealish (Honda Civic) 4m 39.17s.

SUPERCAR FINAL:
1 Derek Tohill (Ford Fiesta Mk 7) 4m 07.02s,
2 Noel Greene (Mitsubishi Mirage) 4m 26.91s.

MODIFIED FINAL:
1 Willie Coyne (Opel Corsa) 4m 21.83s,
2 Padraig Leeson (Opel Corsa) 4m 26.15s,
3 Tommy Graham (Ford Escort) 4m 27.87s,
4 Lloyd Spendlove (Lotus Exige) 4m 30.08s,
5 Brian Grealish (Honda Civic) 4m 45.68s.

MODIFIED SEMI-FINAL 1:
1 Tommy Graham (Ford Escort) 4m 23.61s,
2 Willie Coyne (Opel Corsa) 4m 23.91s,
3 Richard Burns (Citroen C2) 5m 07.51s.

MODIFIED SEMI-FINAL 2:
1 Padraig Leeson (Opel Corsa) 4m 27.97s,
2 Lloyd Spendlove (Lotus Exige) 4m 29.46s,
3 Brian Grealish (Honda Civic) 4m 40.92s.

PRODUCTION FINAL:
1 Ciaran Murphy (Peugeot 205) 4m 44.58s,
2 Keith Kerrshaawe (Peugeot 106) 4m 45.13s,
3 Damian Farrell (Peugeot 205) 4m 55.90s,
4 Adrian Farrell (Peugeot 205) 4m 56.18s,
5 Eugene Ward (Peugeot 106) 4m 56.89s,
6 Leigh Anne Sedgwick (Citroen Saxo) 4m 57.94s.

PRODUCTION SEMI-FINAL 1:
1 Ciaran Murphy (Peugeot 205) 4m 46.91s,
2 Adrian Farrell (Peugeot 205) 4m 55.47s,
3 Eugene Ward (Peugeot 106) 4m 57.42s.

PRODUCTION SEMI-FINAL 2:
1 Keith Kerrshaawe (Peugeot 106) 4m 48.02s,
2 Damian Farrell (Peugeot 205) 4m 51.30s,
3 Leigh Anne Sedgwick (Citroen Saxo) 5m 01.61s.

RALLY CARS FINAL:
1 Danny Calnan (Opel Corsa) 4m 31.63s,
2 Thomas O’Rafferty (Vauxhall Nova) 4m 44.57s,
3 Pat Murphy (Peugeot 205) 4m 48.37s,
4 Jack Deegan (Peugeot 205) 4m 50.17s,
5 Jason Keogh (Peugeot 205) 4m 50.55s,
6 P J Doyle (Peugeot 205) 4m 56.99s.

RALLY CARS SEMI-FINAL 1:
1 Danny Calnan (Opel Corsa) 4m 30.25s,
2 Jack Deegan (Peugeot 205) 4m 39.45s,
3 Jason Keogh (Peugeot 205) 4m 44.66s.

RALLY CARS SEMI-FINAL 2:
1 Pat Murphy (Peugeot 205) 4m 42.48s,
2 Thomas O’Rafferty (Vauxhall Nova) 4m 43.74s,
3 P J Doyle (Peugeot 205) 4m 58.26s.

FORD FIESTA ZETEC FINAL:
1 Sean Hession 5m 00.27s,
2 Denis McCrudden 5m 01.36s,
3 Dave Griffin 5m 19.49s,
4 Brian Matthews 5m 20.05s.

JUNIOR FINAL:
1 Jyles Harding (Nissan Micra) 5m 14.58s,
2 Ben Mullins (Nissan Micra) 5m 16.07s,
3 Shane Loftus (Nissan Micra) 5m 34.54s,
4 Eoin Kinsella (Peugeot 106) 5 laps.

BUGGY FINAL:
1 Padraic McHale 4m 13.49s,
2 Martin McAteer 4m 18.04s,
3 Peter McGarry 4m 27.97s,
4 John Ward 4m 31.70s.

until next time,

Leo

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