McGovern takes first SEAT double as Mansfield continues to impress
Rod McGovern became the first driver to complete a double win this season in the SEAT Supercup Ireland with a dominant display in Rounds 5 & 6 at Mondello Park (11th June). With the third stop on the calendar of the one make SEAT Leon championship marking the completion of the first half of the season, McGovern kicked off the event by making it a hat trick of Yokohama Pole Awards as he topped qualifying ahead of Round 4 winner Jonathan Fildes. From the front of the grid, the MedicalBanks backed driver would pull clear of his rivals to give the Mick Merrigan Motorsport team their third win of the season and extend his lead in the standings. Drawing 3rd on the grid as his starting position for Race 2, McGovern would go on to complete the perfect weekend after eventually finding his way to the front for win No. 4 which puts him firmly in control at the top of the points standings.
While a great result for the SEAT Supercup Vice-Champion of the last two seasons, the standout of the event would again be rookie Sam Mansfield, his second consecutive double podium finish an equally impressive performance to that of the vastly experienced McGovern. Qualifying third, a first corner spin would drop the 22-year-old to the back of the field however despite his limited racing experience and the tricky track conditions he put in a brilliant recovery drive to finish behind team-mate Fildes to complete the Race 1 podium. With the Top 4 finishers drawing their starting positions for the day’s second encounter, Mansfield was on pole. First fending off a challenge from Fildes who started second, the Murray Motorsport driver looked on target to become the fourth different winner of the season but with two laps to go he would run wide with the momentum lost enough to allow McGovern to go by and deny him his first win. With earlier contact between McGovern and Fildes causing tyre damage to the Fish Graphics backed car, ending Fildes’ race, it was Round 2 winner Barry English who completed the podium. A huge blow for Fildes’ title hopes, it was also not the day reigning champion Erik Holstein had hoped for either as he finished fourth in both races despite a blistering start to Race 1 that allowed him to briefly challenge McGovern for the lead. After his great showing on the previous outing at Bishopscourt, in contrast to Mansfield, the other rookie of the championship Shane Murphy had a torrid weekend. Surviving a fire inFriday practice, an off in Race 1 put an end to his event despite the best efforts of the Tervas Gas Racing team to get the car repaired for Race 2, unnoticed steering rack damage preventing the Cork driver from taking the start.
Reacting to his first ever double win of the championship, which is now in its third season, McGovern said, ‘I’m delighted, it has been an absolutely brilliant weekend’. The former Irish Supercar champion continued, ‘I didn’t think I would come away with as many points as I did. It was a pity to see Fildes go off in terms of it keeping the championship battle alive’. With high praise for Mansfield, the SEAT Supercup Ireland’s most winning driver said, ‘Sam drove a super race, he was really good. I piled the pressure on him but he still held me off for a long time’.
Commenting on his own performance, Mansfield summed up what is only his third race day in the car with, ‘Absolutely the best weekend I have had, I really enjoyed it. I have started to get confident in the car’. Living up to having been tipped by Eoin Murray as a one to watch, the Finnstown Castle Hotel backed driver added, ‘It was a big challenge to keep Rod behind and I couldn’t keep him there but I hope to be on the top of the podium next time. I have to say I’m definitely happy to be up there in the championship points’. Thanks to his latest podium finishes, Mansfield has overtaken race winners Fildes and English in the standings to move up into second as the championship gets ready to enter into the second half of the season. Rounds 7 & 8 next month (July 8/9) will once again take place at Mondello Park on the National track when the SEAT Supercup expects its biggest grid of cars this season.