Jonathan Fildes finally delivered his first win in the SEAT Supercup Ireland as he took victory in the fourth round of the high profile championship at Bishopscourt over the weekend. Becoming the third different winner of the season, the multiple racing champion was joined on the podium by rookies Sam Mansfield and Shane Murphy who put in impressive performances in both races at the high speed county Down circuit. With just a single 30-minute untimed practice session in which to learn the circuit, this being the first time any of the trio had driven the circuit before, Fildes’ qualifying pace didn’t indicate an impending win as he could only manage 6th on the grid. Setting the pace at the top of the timesheets, championship leader Rod McGovern continued his season opening form to secure his second pole position of the season ahead of Round 2 winner Barry English. While Fildes would work his way up to third in Race 1 only to be handed a 15-second penalty for exceeding track limit, which demoted him back to 5th, a new lap record of 1:13.992 in the race from the County Meath driver was the first sign of what was to come in Race 2. Up front McGovern wrapped up his second win of 2017. However the Mick Merrigan Motorsport driver admitted afterwards that an impressive performance from second placed Murphy had kept him ‘honest’ throughout the 12-lap race.
With the grid for Race 2 determined by the Top 6 lining up in reverse order to how they finished the opening race, Fildes
would start on the front row alongside pole sitter English. From 4th on the grid however it was Mansfield who would get the jump on his Murray Motorsport team-mates. The championship’s youngest and least experienced driver, his Finnstown Castle Hotel backed Leon took the lead on the run into the first corner where it would stay for the majority of the race only to be denied by Fildes. After battling hard with English, he would eventually find a way by the Winthrop Engineering liveried Leon allowing him to chase down the Race 1 podium finisher. Running on the rear bumper of Mansfield, Fildes used his vast racing experience to force an error from the leader. Running wide, this was enough to let the FISH Graphics backed Leon to go to the front where, despite a comeback challenge from Mansfield that put Fildes’ skills as a Precision Driver in the movie world to the test, he would stay until the chequered flag for a popular first win. In the 26th race since the introduction of the SEAT Supercup to Ireland in 2015, McGovern would finish 4th with his combined points haul for the weekend helping the Medical Banks backed driver to extend his lead in the standings by a point. Behind him, Fildes points tally moves him up to second with English dropping to third followed by Mansfield, Murphy and Erik Holstein. For reigning champion Holstein, the trip to Bishopscourt didn’t bring the results he wanted with Race 1 ending in a DNF after contact at the start and Race 2 netting a P5.
Reacting to his first win, one that took longer to come to the highly accomplished racer than expected, Fildes said, ‘My Murray Motorsport car was on rails. It was a joy to drive and I love the track, although the track limits take away from it a bit. I have to thank Eoin (Murray) and the lads for everything. To get the win and a lap record my first time up here is great’. He added, ‘For the championship it certainly helped too that Rod (McGovern) was back down the field with two cars in between us.’
With Mansfield declaring himself ‘delighted’ with his double podium, fellow rookie Murphy was equally pleased with his performance. With the former World Hotrod Champion taking an extra point for the fastest lap of Race 2, he used ‘Ecstatic’ to sum up his impressive performance despite still getting used to the transition from rear to front wheel drive. With multiple SEAT Supercup winner Niall Quinn on hand to provide support to the Tervas Gas Racing team for the event, Murphy continued, ‘I’m really happy with the results. We learned a lot from Mondello. We tried stuff there based on our own thoughts of what would work but after getting onboard with Niall we set things back to where they should be and we found pace. I don’t know if just Bishopscourt suits me but I really enjoyed the track and especially Race 2 because I had to do a bit of defending’. With the international circuit at Mondello Park the next stop on the calendar on June 10/11, the Cork driver is looking forward to it saying, ‘It was hard try to come up to speed in just 30-minutes here, at least at Mondello you can do a test day before the race’.
Action Images from Michael Chester.
Paddock shots- SEAT Supercup Ireland