Time for the second Mondello meeting of the year this weekend folks- and it looks like an absolute cracker. ITCC, SEAT Supercup Ireland and the Pirelli Supercars all make their 2017 debut and all should be worth watching. The HRCA crew also dust off their machines to do battle. The Mondello Park Fiesta classes, both ST and Zetec varients are both back for more after providing great entertainment at the first race meeting of the year, a month ago. Ginetta Junior Ireland also visit Mondello for the first time this year, having kicked their 2017 campaign off at Kirkistown a few weeks back.
With Rob Butler mid Honda build for ITCC, Erik Holstein apparently hooked on long distance racing after his incredible Dubai 24 Hour win and Niall Quinn selling up, there were a few empty SEATs available over the winter break. Happily, there are a few new drivers and predictably, reigning champion Holstein has bagged a car at the last minute, for this weekend at least. Rod McGovern must start as title favourite this time round. He ran Holstein oh so close in 2016 and should be on it as soon as the cars hit the track for qualifying on Sunday morning. Sam Mansfield makes his tin top debut in the ex Holstein car with Murray Motorsport and from what I hear, makes up for this lack of experience with buckets of commitment- so should be worth watching in his Finnstown Castle backed machine. World Hotrod Champion Shane Murphy also makes his first appearance in saloon car racing and unsurprisingly, has gone well in testing. He also enjoys huge support from the oval racing community and that can only be a good thing for motor racing as a whole. Barry English also returns and, as he has previously shown us, is not afraid to lock horns with anyone, regardless of their experience. Brian Berry also returns as does Jonathan Fildes- who will ensure that McGovern won’t have it all his own way either!
Phil Lawless heads up the Zetec Fiestas, running number one as reigning champion, but the man to watch is Mark O’Donoghue. He showed race winning form at the end of last year and won last time out so he will be keen to continue this form. Barry Barrable showed very well last time out in a car he took as a trade in against his ST and it would appear not to be sold just yet, as he also appears on the entry list, running his usual number 98, a reference to his sponsorship from the Dublin radio station back in the 90s! He should go well, if the car doesn’t sell by Sunday! A former winner of the Mondello Park, “Become a Race Driver” competition, Darren Lawlor also went well at the opening meeting, winning the first, wet, race and can’t be discounted, whilst ex Veester Roy Tobin also returns and is capable of springing a surprise. Adam Johnston and brother Mark are closely matched and will be well inside the top ten too. With cars available for €2,000-€3,000 it is no wonder the class is so well supported and as ever, should provide great entertainment.
As an ex karter (ok, it wasn’t today or yesterday) I have never understood why Ginetta Junior Ireland was not more popular in Ireland. The cars are closely matched and reliable, and not expensive to buy either, and running costs are far less than that of running competitively in karting. As I have mentioned before, the class has produced some of the best drivers in the country- Niall Murray, Sean Doyle, Andrew Watson to name just a few- and all are big fans of the class. It saddens me, therefore, to see just five cars entered ahead of Sunday. Patrick Dempsey took the honours at Kirkistown once he had disposed of the fast starting Cameron Fenton, who will be aiming to redress the balance this time round. Chris Grimes, from the Autotesting dynasty, Megan Campbell and Rob Parks, in his beautifully reliveried Portumna Agri machine, will also be on the grid and fighting for the podium! There must be some budding race drivers out there who have not got a full karting budget or just fancy having a go. If you are interested, contact the Ginetta organisers HERE – they will be extremely helpful.
The HRCA also make their first appearance of the year and happily they have good numbers. Bernard Foley’s rumbling MGBGT V8 is on the list and will be hard to beat but Mondello legend Steve Griffin will no doubt be on the doorhandles in Liam Plower’s famous Modsport MG Midget as he gives pursuit as only he can! Val Thompson’s TMC Costin and Clive Brandon’s Lotus Type 47 have previously won in this class too so can’t be discounted either. amongst the “tiddlers”, expect the usual hectic battle between Liam Ruth and class chairman Wolfgang Schnittger. Ken McEvoy and sometime Vee racer Edwin Rynhart are also Midget/Sprite mounted and should join in the fun too. Eyre Massey returns to the class after a long sabattical in his Porsche 924 and should be near the pace of the Midgets, with Seamus Hobbs in there too in the original Morgan Dempsey built MD GT87, a Midget based GT car from the early 80s.
The Patch Tyre Equipment Fiesta ST class is back for more and it really is hard to say who will be out front this time round. Shane McFadden drove well to take race two last time out but reigning champion Dave Maguire, who loves these cars, pressurised the mercurial Kevin Doran for second all the way to the line. John Denning and Murray Motorsport team mates Michael Cullen and Mark Turley can’t be discounted either, between them they have won an incredible amount of saloon races and both are hungry for more. Rod McGovern appeared at the last round “just for a laugh” and was right at the pointy end, and he appears on the entry list again for this weekend, meaning he will have two qualifying sessions and four races during the day- wins in both classes would not be out of the question either. William Kellett showed well on his class debut at the March meeting, finishing seventh in race one and briefly climbing to fifth in race two before contact dropped him back.
The RT2000 class, when it was introduced many moons ago, has always provided massive entertainment. Alan Kessie’s dream of reviving the class became a reality last year as we were treated to battles of epic proportion between Andy O’Brien, Peter Barrable and Sam Moffett. Over the winter, Pirelli have come on board as title sponsors and a few cars have changed hands- it was always Kessie’s plan to have more owner drivers, rather than ASK owning the majority of them, and this can only be good for the class. Former Stryker and Global T champion Keith Dawson is now the proud owner of one but unfortunately will not make it out this weekend. Formula Sheane exponents Robbie Parks and Gary Corcoran have also purchased, and wile Corcoran wont be out this weekend, Parks will, and should go well. Corcoran’s cars are always superbly presented though and so his Supercar should be worth waiting for. Alan Dawson is a multiple winner in many classes and he is back in his Sean Woods Racing machine, with Bob Cameron and Barry Hallion also appearing. Hallion is a former Punto champion and Kellett Motorsport have completely rebuilt his car over the winter, so he will be worth watching. Former champion Barrable’s car underwent a complete rebuild too and is not quite ready as I type this, but no doubt ASK will find a car for him somewhere! ITCC star Rob Savage tested in Kirkistown during the week and has put in a late entry too- which will no doubt add to the action when the lights go out!
BOSS Ireland, the fastest class in the country also open their 2017 account on Sunday and Donal Griffin makes his first appearance at the venue since a heft shunt at the Leinster Trophy meeting last year. His ex Noel McIntyre Reynard should be at the sharp end if it stays dry. Eamonn Matheson also enters, in his self built machine. The new machine was not fond of corners when it appeared last year but when it came to the straights, it was staggeringly fast. It would be unlike Eamonn not to have modified the car over the winter and as Barry Rabbitt said last year “If he gets that thing to go round corners, we may all go home!” F3 cars are all the rage now though, and the latest to purchase is former class champion Fergus Faherty. Should he get to grips with his new mount, it is unlikely he will be beaten- but it will be worth watching!
ITCC is back for 2017 and with reigning champion Grzegorz Kalinecki electing to go sailing instead of racing, the title chase is literally wide open. Shane Rabbitt’s hugely popular flame spitting Mazda RX-7 has to be in with a shout, especially as he kept developing the car towards the end of 2016 and was closing the gap to the dominant Golf as he went. He has also made some further upgrades over the winter and could be a shoe in for a win, if the car doesn’t go on fire or run out of fuel again!! Fiesta ST star Ulick Burke has bought Owain Drought’s B20 Integra and strapped on a supercharger- bringing the power well above 300bhp. It looks and sounds great in testing, but many think the car will struggle to get those horses onto the Mondello tarmac- we will find out on Sunday. Martin Duffy’s immaculate Auto Remap M3 took a debut win last year and has also benefitted from some winter TLC so won’t be too far away. Keith Campbell’s Honda powered Corrado gave Kalinecki something to think about on occasion last year and returns for a full campaign this time round. Series founder Brian Sexton had planned on bringing back his Frankenstein Lexus to the series, but ran out of time and instead bought a Mazda MX-6 which raced in the class over ten years ago. Jay O’Reilly moves up from Production to Touring while Brent Hughes has purchased an unusual Corolla also for the Touring class. a mass exodus from Production means that Pa Hudson looks good for the honours there. His Phil Wright tended machine went well last year and the ex grasstrack racer drove well. Adrian Dunne moves up from Future Classics and has added a few subtle mods to his beautifully turned out Saxo. Despite a power deficiency to the Hondas, he could spring a surprise, particularly if the heavens open. The Production class also move to a road tyre for 2017, as opposed to the track day road legal tyres they were previously allowed. Expect this to slow them considerably, especially towards the end of the race. Richard Kearney is also entered in a Peugeot 306. I know nothing about this car, other than the fact that if it is competitive, the Carlow man will be a factor!!
All images from Michael Chester
Until next time,